Guidelines put a limit on added sugars

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON – Americans now have a recommended specific limit on how much added sugar they should consume. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released Jan. 7 recommend a limit of 10 percent of total daily caloric intake. The previous Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 said people should reduce their intake of added sugars but did not give a specific amount.

The Sugar Association, Washington, opposes the limit on added sugars.

“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are too important not to get them right,” the association said in a statement. “It was our hope the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture would maintain the scientific integrity of the Dietary Guidelines process and reject the ‘added sugars’ recommendations in the controversial 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report that were based on weak science of low evidentiary value.

“We maintain these ‘added sugars’ recommendations will not withstand the scrutiny of a quality, impartial evaluation of the full body of scientific evidence. As with past examples of dietary guidance not based on strong scientific evidence, such as eggs, the ‘added sugars’ guidance will eventually be reversed. The lack of scientific rigor in this process has and will continue to result in consumer apathy, distrust and confusion,” said the Sugar Association.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans said consumption of added sugars may make it difficult to achieve a healthy eating pattern.

“Although the evidence for added sugars and health outcomes is still developing, the recommendation to limit calories from added sugars is consistent with research examining eating patterns and health,” the Dietary Guidelines said. “Strong evidence from mostly prospective cohort studies but also randomized controlled trials has shown that eating patterns that include lower intake of sources of added sugars are associated with reduced risk of (cardiovascular disease) in adults, and moderate evidence indicates that these eating patterns are associated with reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer in adults.”

Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit or milk, are not added sugars. The Dietary Guidelines gave examples of added sugars that may be listed as ingredients: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, trehalose and turbinado sugar.

On average, added sugars account for 13 percent of calories, or 270 calories per person per day, in the US population, according to the guidelines. More than 60 percent of Americans exceed the recommendations of 10 percent for added sugars. Intakes are particularly high among children, adolescents and young adults.

Beverages, including soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, and flavored waters, account for 47 percent of all added sugars consumed by Americans. Other major sources are snacks and sweets like grain-based desserts, dairy desserts, candies, sugars, jams, syrups and sweet toppings.

To limit intake of added sugars, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend choosing beverages with no added sugars, such as water, in place of sugar-sweetened beverages as well as selecting beverages low in added sugars. Americans also may choose low-fat or fat-free milk or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice. Other strategies are limiting or decreasing portion sizes of grain-based and dairy desserts and choosing unsweetened or no-sugar-added versions of canned fruit, fruit sauces and yogurt.

The recommended limit intake of added sugars falls in line with a July 24, 2015, proposal from the Food and Drug Administration that a per cent daily value (% DV) declaration for added sugars appear on the Nutrition Facts Panel of packaged foods. The proposal is a supplement to the FDA’s March 3, 2014, proposed rule on updating the Nutrition Facts label.

The US Dept. of Health and Human Services and the US Dept. of Agriculture jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. Each edition reflects the body of nutrition science. The Dietary Guidelines provides evidence-based food and beverage recommendations for Americans ages 2 and older. The recommendations aim to promote health, prevent chronic disease and help people reach and maintain a healthy weight.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans also addressed high-intensity sweeteners used in zero-calorie and reduced-calorie products.

“It should be noted that replacing added sugars with high-intensity sweeteners may reduce calorie intake in the short term,” the Dietary Guidelines said. “Yet questions remain about their effectiveness as a long-term weight management strategy.”

The guidelines pointed out the US Food and Drug Administration has approved such high-intensity sweeteners as saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) and sucralose.

“Low- and no-calorie beverages offer consumers great-tasting options with fewer or no calories,” the Washington-based American Beverage Association said. “The Dietary Guidelines reaffirm the safety of high-intensity — or low- and no-calorie — sweeteners approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, as well as their usefulness in reducing calorie intake.

“As recently as last year, a review of the body of science, which was published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that these ingredients, as well as the beverages that contain them, can be an effective part of an overall weight loss and/or weight management program, and are an effective tool to replace both sugar intake and caloric intake.”

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