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 foods. 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, and 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 railed about the dangers of sugar. Studies suggest that people who eat large amounts of the sweet stuff are at higher risk of dying prematurely. They are at risk to develop heart problems, diabetes and cancer, among other conditions.

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 17 percent in Britain to nearly 25 percent in Portugal.

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 recommended that sugar 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. They are due by the end of the year.

WHO had previously suggested an upper limit for sugar consumption of around 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 slammed 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. They have 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, such as salt and trans fat. However, WHO pointed out that when it comes to sugar, most people don't realize how much they're eating because it's often hidden in processed foods not considered sweet. 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 (208)
  • dc2000blue
    3/10/2015 - 08:44 a.m.

    This article is about people eat to much sugar. Another thing is that you should only have 12 teaspoon of sugar per day. Last thing it is about is eating healthy and eat the right foods.

  • s.s2001sing
    3/10/2015 - 08:47 a.m.

    Yess this is a great idea...but to think that the U.S. just thought of telling us this last month when we should have been getting less amounts of sugar ever since diabetes came into play. Getting less intakes on sugar is a good idea because what i think is that are country should stop OVERLOADING our foods that we like with sugar so we can continue to eat the right way, but unless they start now we aren't going to get any healthier!

  • JJ01blue
    3/10/2015 - 08:47 a.m.

    This article is about we as a world eating to much sugar a day. 12 teaspoons of sugar per day is enough for anyone. The sugars are in our milk or a just fruit itself. The people who eat large amount of sugar a day is a risk of dying easily. They cant get diabetes and cancer.

  • awesome2341
    3/10/2015 - 08:54 a.m.

    do we really eat that much sugar ? I mean we eat sugar of course . but so much as to reduce it in food . I'm just surprised

  • awesome2341
    3/10/2015 - 08:55 a.m.

    do we really eat that much sugar ? I mean we eat sugar of course . but so much as to reduce it in food . I'm just surprised

  • kennedyw-And
    3/10/2015 - 09:46 a.m.

    I learned from the selection above that the U.N. health agency is putting up new guidelines for sugar intake and that six to twelve teaspoons of sugar is enough for the day.

  • bc117-Sch
    3/10/2015 - 10:19 a.m.

    In response to "Life is Sweet, But Were Eating Too Much Sugar," I agree that eating certain foods with sugar can cause many health problems during your lifetime . One reason I agree is that by just eating a small snack every day may source sickness's. It seems to make sense by having an occasional sports drink to gain energy, but having one regularly can cause you to gain weight and have diseases including cancer,diebetes, and heart problems. Another reason why eating sugary foods often may cause health problems is you don't know how much sugar is in the meal. On one hand, some produce packages may say that it is organic,though It says in the article ____________________ (more details). A third reason ____________________. ____________________ (more details). Even though ______, I think
    _______________________.

  • daylenm-Gon
    3/10/2015 - 11:25 a.m.

    Its crazy that 1-third of the population is overweight. More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese, more than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese, more than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity, about one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese, more than 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be obese.

  • BFinn-Kut
    3/10/2015 - 11:38 a.m.

    I totally agree with this article even I catch myself eating way to much sugar. The world needs to get a wake up call some how because its the truth humans are just not being very healthy theses days. I bet you nine times out of ten if I asked someone if they wanted grapes or a candy bar they would pick the candy bar nine times out of ten.

  • kyrap-boo
    3/10/2015 - 11:38 a.m.

    I feel like it will definitely be difficult for the average American. Just because temptation takes over when in the grocery store surrounded by all of the delicious sweets. Fast food, desserts, and common household foods would all have to be cut down, and i think its quite ridiculous. People should be able to eat whatever they want, and anything that has to do with what another person eats should not be monitored. If people want to eat too much sugar and have troubles with their health, then that should be their choice. I think that everyone should stay out of everyone's business and stop worrying about what we have every right to eat.

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