Now is the time to say no to your sweet tooth and curb your sugar intake, the American Heart Association (AHA) said in a recommendation likely to rile food and beverage companies.
The AHA suggests women consume a maximum of 100 calories of added sugar daily, or six teaspoons; while most men should stay below 150 calories or nine teaspoons. The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, according to a 2004 government survey.
In the short term, consumers may be shocked by the new guidelines. While in the long term, Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo. may be encouraged to focus on developing healthier beverage options.
According to Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo, both companies are developing lower-calorie drinks, such as those made with natural, no-calorie sweetener derived from the stevia plant.
“As we continue to morph into more health and wellness issues, this will be a recurring focus. The quicker these companies adapt, the better.”
Diet sodas make up for about 30 percent of all carbonated soft drink sales, while full-calorie sodas account for 70 percent, according to Beverage Digest.
Still, high health costs linked with obesity and the AHA’s findings may help to renew interest in the soft drink tax, a policy supported by Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.
Dr. Frieden supports taxing soft drinks as a way to help curb consumption. Obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are responsible for nearly 10 percent of all medical spending in the US or an estimated $147 billion yearly, according to a CDC-sponsored study released last month.
A startling 26 percent of Americans are considered obese, a percentage that continues to climb. An adult who has a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight and an adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
Curbing Sugar Intake: Where to Start
The AHA suggests starting by cutting sugary sodas from your diet. Just one 12-ounce can of cola has about 130 calories, or eight teaspoons of sugar, which is likely to push most women past the recommended limit.
The main sources of added sugar include soft drinks, candy, desserts such as cakes and cookies, fruit drinks and sweetened dairy products, including ice cream and yogurt. Alcoholic beverages also count as a sugary beverage.
Added sugars “offer no nutritional value other than adding calories to your diet,” said Dr. Rachel Johnson, associate provost and professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington and lead author of the statement. “The majority of Americans could lessen their risk of heart disease by achieving healthy weight and evidence suggests reducing the amount of sugars can help do just that.”
The Sugar Association’s Statement of Response to the American Heart Association: “The Sugar Association is very disappointed that a premier health organization such as the American Heart Association (AHA) would issue a scientific statement titled “Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health” without a higher standard of evidence to support its contentions and therefore mislead the average consumer...” Read the entire response. #