Life is sweet, but were eating too much sugar (AP photo / Thinkstock)
Life is sweet, but were eating too much sugar
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New guidelines from the World Health Organization are enough to kill anyone's sugar high. The U.N. health agency says the world is eating too much sugar. It says people should slash their intake. Six six to 12 teaspoons per day is enough. It is an amount that could be exceeded with a single can of soda.

So, put down that doughnut. And while you're at it, skip the breakfast cereal and fruit juice. Even ketchup.

The guidelines are focused on the added sugars in processed food. As well as those in honey, syrups and fruit juices. The advice does not apply to naturally occurring sugars. They are found in fruit, vegetables and milk. Those sugars come with essential nutrients.

"We have solid evidence that keeping intake of (added) sugars to less than 10 percent of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay," said Francesco Branca. He is the director of WHO's nutrition department.

Experts have long spoken about the dangers of sugar. Studies suggest that people who eat large amounts of the sweet stuff are at higher risk. They could die at younger ages. They are at risk to develop heart problems, diabetes and cancer.

How could Americans meet the lower threshold set by the new guidelines? They would have to slash their average sugar intake by about two-thirds.

Americans get about 13 percent of their calories from added sugar. That is 268 calories a day. It is the equivalent of about 18 teaspoons. One teaspoon of sugar is about 15 calories. In Europe, sugar intake ranges from about 7 percent in Hungary and Norway to nearly 25 percent in Portugal. It's about 17 percent in Britain.

Some experts said the 10 percent target was more realistic for Western countries than the lower target. They said the 5 percent of daily calories figure was aimed mostly at developing countries. There, dental hygiene isn't good enough to prevent cavities. Poor teeth can lead to serious health problems.

Last month, a U.S. government advisory committee made a recommendation. It said sugar should be limited to 10 percent of daily calories. It marked the first time the U.S. has called for a limit on added sugars. The Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments will take those recommendations into account. They will write the final guidelines. Those are due by the end of the year.

WHO had previously suggested an upper limit for sugar consumption. It used 10 percent. But it issued the 5 percent guidance based on the presumed additional health benefits from cutting intake even further. It said it had no solid evidence to support that, however.

"To get down to 5 percent, you wouldn't even be allowed to have orange juice," said Tom Sanders. He is a professor of nutrition and dietetics at King's College London. He wasn't part of the WHO guidelines.

He said it shouldn't be that difficult for most Europeans, Americans and others in the developed world to get their sugar intake to 10 percent. To do it, they must limit things like sugary drinks, cereals, cookies and candy.

"Cake is lovely. But it's a treat," Sanders said.

The Sugar Association disagreed with the new recommendations. It argued the advice was based on "poor quality, weak and inconsistent data." It noted WHO itself acknowledged the evidence for the 5 percent target was "very low quality."

The International Council of Beverages Associations echoed those concerns. The council said beverage makers can help people cut back on sugar. It can be done through smaller portion sizes, as well as no- and low-calorie drinks. Providing nutritional information on labels is helpful, the council added.

Coca-Cola has been more aggressively marketing its "mini cans." The company has launched a reduced-calorie version of its namesake soda. It is called Coca-Cola Life. It's sweetened with a mix of sugar and stevia, a natural sweetener.

Companies have also been working on new technologies to reduce sugar. Senomyx makes ingredients that interact with taste receptors. They block or amplify sweetness. There is no taste or smell. They are listed as artificial flavors.

Last year, the U.S. proposed new nutrition labels. They would list any sugars added by manufacturers.

Sugar is just one of a number of ingredients that have come under attack. Two others are salt and trans fat. However, WHO pointed out that when it comes to sugar, most people don't realize how much they're eating. For example, one tablespoon of ketchup has about 4 grams (1 teaspoon) of sugar. And a single can of soda has up to 40 grams (10 teaspoons).

"If you do enough exercise, you can eat almost anything," said Kieran Clark of the University of Oxford in England. "But it's very hard to avoid large amounts of sugar unless all you're eating is fruits and vegetables."

Critical thinking challenge: What may make it difficult for the world to cut down on sugar?

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COMMENTS (14)
  • CorsonZ-Tan
    3/10/2015 - 08:36 a.m.

    I believe that there is some people out there that yes needs to stop eating so much sugar. But also we can't force them to stop eating the sugar. I mean yes I know that they will die and have problems when they get older but no one can force so many people to stop eating sugar. That is all I have to say

    • bennies-war
      3/19/2015 - 01:45 p.m.

      eating sugar is like trying to blame stealing your mothers ciggaretes for somebody and saying they were for me so you dont get in trouble.

  • BushnellD-Tan
    3/10/2015 - 08:57 a.m.

    I think that we should cut down on some of our sure intake. It would reduce the rate of obesity in America and around the world. Too much sugar is not good for you. If you don't use what you take in it stays in your body, piles up and creates unwanted fat. If children especially didn't intake so much sugar then there would be a lot more kids living longer and not dying of obesity. You can eat sugar by all means, but just don't eat so much that it sits in your body and turns to unwanted fat. Just balance out your sugar with some healthy choices like fruits and veggies.

  • EmryW-Phe
    3/11/2015 - 08:49 a.m.

    I think every one that is alive needs to cut down on sugar because sugar can give you diabetes and you could not play regular activities because you could not breath as well as others and other kids will make fun of you. SO LETS CUT DOWN ON SUGAR!!!

  • KapapaZ-Sua
    3/18/2015 - 07:02 p.m.

    Stores that sell candy and other sweets make it hard to cut down sugar. One soda can is 10 teaspoons of sugar. If your at a store and their selling sodas two for one you are tempted to get two. Eating to much sugar can cause heart problems, diabetes, and cancer at an early age. This is one one reason why it is hard to cut down sugar.

  • NorrisJ-Sua
    3/18/2015 - 11:41 p.m.

    I think it is hard for people to stop eating sugar is because it so tasty and sweet they don't know its bad for them. I think everyone know that cops and police love donuts, but they know its bad for them. Kids like me love Halloween candy and we know its bad for us, but it so good. For kids party there are candy in the goody bag even there moms and dads eat there candy if they don't like chocolate. I really don't why people can't go one day with no sugar.

  • bennies-war
    3/19/2015 - 01:43 p.m.

    I don't always eat sugary foods, but when I do I prefer two cakes and a side of diabetes.

  • devanburritt-war
    3/19/2015 - 01:48 p.m.

    I think that fatty foods taste so good but I really should start worrying about eating so much of that stuff and start eating the healthy stuff and not so much the bad unhealthy stuff because someday it will catch up to me. Its hard to eat better because all of the advertisements that are out there and the bright billboards that have pictures of food on them. Also because there are so much sugar in foods that no one looks at or thinks about.

  • yasemine-war
    3/19/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    I would never be able to cut my sugar intake to something that low. I have a very big sweet tooth and I like having my little snacks throughout the day. many companies make it hard to cut down on sugar because it is probably a way that they preserve things.

  • Tiffany0307-yyca
    4/07/2015 - 07:19 p.m.

    I think that this is very true because everyday when I try to eat sweet and sugary things, for example, something like... Candy! When I try to eat lollipops, donuts, chocolate, and other things, my mom tells me to throw it away because she is very worried that I'm going to get cavities and then have to go to the dentist to get an appointment. Now that I read this article, I think that it is unfair that the food-making companies sometimes put added sugar in our food and we don't notice any of it. I think that they are a little "sneaky" because they are not writing on the nutrition labels that they put added sugar. So, overall, I think that everyone (which includes me too) should probably cut down the level of sugar.
    Critical Thinking: What may make it difficult for the world to cut down on sugar?
    Answer: It might be hard for the world because we eat sugar everyday and most people don't like to eat fruits or mostly vegetables.

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