You say you’re trying to watch your intake of sugar. You’re not trying to lose weight, although that’s always nice, but you mainly want to be healthier. You’ve cut out candy and desserts, and you’re reading labels and you’re hoping your diet is now fairly free from sugar, right? Well, considering how much sugar Americans consume, and the myriad places it’s hidden, avoiding sugar may not be as easy as it seems.
So many processed and packaged foods have sugars that go by other names, it takes incredible vigilance to try and remember all of sugar’s aliases. Humans eat an incredible amount of sugar each day, but that’s a recent development in human history.
As pointed out in Healthline, all this sugar comes from added sugars, not naturally occurring sugars. The relatively small amount of sugars in fruits and vegetables are counterbalanced with vital substances like water, fiber, and various nutrients. Added sugars, like sucrose and fructose, are not only empty calories, they radically spike blood sugar and affect the liver, insulin levels, and the body’s metabolic processes causing obesity and diabetes.
According to LinkedIn, in 1700, Americans consumed an average of four pounds of sugar per year. By 1800, that amount rose to about 22 pounds per year. One-hundred years later, in 1900, the average was 90 pounds per person per year. In a report from 2000, the Center for Science in the Public Interest says that in 1999, sugar usage reached a staggering 158 pounds of sugar per person. We were practically eating our body weight in sugar. Happily, that was a historic peak, and—while still extremely high—sugar consumption has been in a slow but steady decline ever since, as this chart from Smithsonian illustrates:
If our daily or annual sugar consumption sounds like a lot, start multiplying that by decades. Forbes says that the average American will consume 3,550 pounds of sugar in their lifetime, which they point out is about 1,767,900 Skittles, or enough sugar to fill an industrialized dumpster.
While many countries eat an unhealthy amount of sugar, America is number one, with each of us ingesting over one-quarter pound (126.4 grams) of sugar each day. And to show how geographically specific that number is, cross the Canadian border, and things are different. Canada ranks number ten in sugar consumption, with the average Canadian ingesting only three ounces (89.1 grams) of sugar each day, 25% less than we do.
If it’s difficult to visualize how much sugar we as Americans are eating, Rachael Ray has a shocking video.
If you feel like these statistics are all about you and that donut you ate for breakfast, there’s no need for any guilt. It’s not just about you … or me … or your next-door neighbor. The Diabetes Council says that 90 percent of Americans eat more than the government’s healthy guideline, which says that no more than 10 percent of calories should come from sugar. Here are some other statistics The Diabetes Council provides:
- The number of fast food restaurants has doubled between 1970 and 2010. (US Department of Agriculture)
- According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2014, more than 2 in 3 American adults were overweight, and 1 in 13 was obese. (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
- It is estimated that $190.2 billion of the United States annual healthcare expenditure is related to obesity-related illnesses. (Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation”)
- Survey studies have found out that obese individuals have an average 42% higher medical expense than individuals with normal weight. It works out to roughly $1,429 more person per year. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Although the average consumption of soft drinks has decreased to a new low (40.7 gallons per person annually), many people have increased their consumption of energy drinks which now make up more than 10% of the American soft drink industry. (Harvard School of Public Health)
- A 15-year longitudinal study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that individuals had more than twice the risk of dying from heart disease if they consumed 25% or more of their total daily calorie intake from sugar. (JAMA Internal Medicine)
- Sugar is known to suppress the immune system. Consuming just 100 grams of sugar (similar to the amount found in a medium soft drink) can suppress white blood cell function by 40% for at least 5 hours. (Daily Mail)
- High intake of fructose is linked to significant increased risk of developing certain type of cancer such as brain cancer, pancreatic cancer (up to 53% increased risk), oral cancer (10 to 15% increased risk), and prostate cancer (33% increased risk). (Journal of the National Cancer Institute) (Oral Oncology) (Cancer Research)
Don’t despair! Quitting sugar isn’t impossible. It takes time, thought, desire and persistence. AARP has a strategy that involves cutting down gradually and staring down your cravings. And if you grab that morning donut, it isn’t the end of the world. Everyone slips up once in a while.
To help make the transition from sugars to a better-for-you sweetener, check out SweetLeaf®. SweetLeaf products have a non-glycemic response and are gluten free with zero calories and no artificial sweeteners. Try SweetLeaf Stevia Sweetener or Organic SweetLeaf Stevia Sweetener in packets or shaker jar, Liquid Stevia Sweet Drops®, in 2-ounce or convenient 50ml bottles, or SweetLeaf Water Drops® water enhancer in six delicious fruit blends.
Whether you use SweetLeaf in foods, beverages, or recipes, switching from sugars to SweetLeaf couldn’t be easier. Use our Stevia Conversion Chart or our interactive Stevia Conversion Calculator to know exactly how much SweetLeaf to use to replace sugar in all your favorite foods.
If you still need some prodding to quit sugars, watch this video courtesy of the CBS show, 60 Minutes