sugar and aging

How much sugar is too much sugar?

According to the US Dept. of Agriculture, the average American consumed 114 grams or 29.8 teaspoons of sugar per day in 2005. That is nearly 96 pounds per year and, according to the American Heart Association, far exceeds the amount needed to meet our nutritional requirements and maintain a healthy weight. Examples of the AHA's suggested guidelines, which consider physical activity, gender and age include:

  • Moderately active female age 51-55: 20 grams (5 teaspoons) per day
  • Sedentary female age 71-75: 12 grams (3 teaspoons) per day
  • Active male age 21-25: 72 grams (18 teaspoons) per day
  • Sedentary male age 46-50: 36 grams (9 teaspoons) per day
Sugar facts

Since grams are an uncommon measure, consider that 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon = 1 cube.

Sugar appears in different forms on food labels, including raw, brown, granulated, powdered, tubinado, or mannitol sugar, fructose, glucose/dextrose, lactose, maltose, high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, invert sugar, malt syrup, maple syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey or sucrose (table sugar).

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Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of sugar (whether in the forms of high fructose corn syrup or sucrose) in the American diet and are a leading contributor to obesity. Compounding the problem is the fact that most soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened milk, energy drinks, sports drinks and sweetened coffee and tea products provide almost no nutrients.

The amount of sugar in common foods

Top-selling foods each year include sodas, milk products, bread, salty snacks, frozen dinners, cold cereal and juices. Here's how much sugar is in 1 suggested serving of each:

Post Raisin Bran: 19g
Coke Classic: 39g
Ocean Spray Raspberry Juice: 34g
MInute Maid Orange Juice: 24g
Stouffer's Bourbon Steak Tips: 22g
Whole Milk: 12g
Doritos Nacho Cheese Chips: 1g
Breyers Original Chocolate: 16g
Oreo Cookies: 14g
Vitamin Water Acai Blueberry: 13g

By category, leading contributors of added sugar to the American diet (in order) are sodas, fruit drinks, baked desserts (cakes, cookies, pies, crisps, granola bars, etc.), dairy desserts and candy. Cold cereals are near the top for children ages 2-8

In addition to obesity, other health conditions associated with specifically with high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages include:

  • diabetes
  • elevated triglycerides
  • cardiovascular disease
  • non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • elevated uric acid levels
  • gout
  • dental diseases
  • Crohn's disease
Strategies for reducing sugar in our diet
  • At the table, add less sugar, honey, jelly, syrup or other sweeteners to foods. Instead, add sliced fruit, fruit sauces or fresh berries

  • When baking, try to cut in half the amount of sugar called for in recipes. And using spices like allspice, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg help to bring out the natural sweetness in foods.

  • When having deserts, eat smaller portions or opt for fruit, smoothies, or plain yogurt garnished with fruit and granola

  • Beware of canned or frozen fruits with added sugar

  • Replace your normal sugar sweetened beverages with water or seltzer with a slice of lemon, 100% juices (in moderation, since pure fruit juices still contain sugar) or unsweetened teas or coffee

  • Replace sugar-sweetened gum, candies and mints with xylitol-sweetened alternatives. Xylitol is a natural, plant-derived product with the sweetening power of sugar bur fewer calories or health issues. Likewise, Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant of South America where it has been used in beverages for centuries. Since stevia tastes much sweeter than sugar, only a drop or two is needed to replace a teaspoon of sugar. And stevia does not effect blood sugar levels in the way sugar does.

Resources:
1. http://networkforahealthycalifornia.net/ChampionPress/2009-07_files/6-4-09_Sun%20-%20Metro%20Edition.pdf
2. SugarBasics Missouri Dept. of Healthy Living
3. http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/reprint/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.192627
4. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB33/
5. http://www.cdph.ca.gov/SiteCollectionDocuments/StratstoReduce_Sugar_Sweetened_Bevs.pdf
6. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/miseniors/goodnutritioneveryday_172876_7.pdf

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