The body doesn’t need added sugar in the diet, so aiming to eliminate added sugar on a daily basis and saving it for rare occasions is ideal. Added sugar does not refer to natural sugars found in whole foods and unprocessed whole fruit, vegetables, and dairy. Unfortunately, food labels do not currently identify whether the grams of sugar are from naturally occurring or added sugars, nor do they indicate the percent daily value (%DV). Recently, in 2014 and 2015, the FDA proposed label changes to more accurately reflect the source of sugar and the contribution to daily caloric intake.
As for teenagers, the amount of added sugar consumed daily is staggering. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of 2,157 teenagers (ages 12 to 18) found the average daily consumption of added sugars was 119 grams (or 28.3 teaspoons), accounting for 21.4% of their total calories. Sweetened beverages have been identified as the main culprit to this shocking finding.
While the obvious prevalence of childhood obesity in our country has many contributing factors, easy access to and high consumption of sweetened beverages by kids and teens is one of the most significant. Daily caloric intake in children and teens is dependent on individual needs and physical activity level.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that Americans have significantly increased their soda intake in the last 30 years. In the past, soda bottles were much smaller and not consumed on a regular basis due to access and cost. Now, soda comes in super sizes and with free refills. With vending machines everywhere, it is easy to create a society of soda drinkers.
In the last few decades, there have been numerous animal research studies observing the relationship of artificial sweeteners and cancer. The results from these studies have not prompted the FDA to recommend reducing or avoiding these sweeteners in the diet. However, many health professionals are convinced that they should not be included in a healthy diet.