Sugar is one of the most commonly used food additives in America, improving the taste of foods and beverages and prolonging the shelf-life of processed food products. With the exception of salt, Americans consume 10 times more added sugar than any other food additive, according to an infographic published by Forbes.com. Sure, sugar tastes sweet -- but what the sweetener is doing to your health is far from it.
Added sugar has no nutritional value. The sweetener provides extra calories but none of the vital nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. In fact, consuming too much added sugar has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, depression, headaches, fatigue, low blood sugar, diabetes and acne. Sugar may cause irritability and nervous tension, according to the Forbes.com infographic, which also reports that sugar has addictive properties that can keep you wanting more.
The average American consumes 3 pounds of sugar a week and 130 pounds a year, reports Forbes.com. This is equal to about 3,550 pounds of sugar in a lifetime. The consumption of added sugar accounts for an intake of 500 calories per day, which can cause a weight gain of 1 pound per week.
American Heart Association Recommendations
The recommendations for added sugar are provided by the American Heart Association as an upper limit. This means that there is no minimum amount you need to take in each day, but there is a maximum. These recommendations are based on gender. Women should limit sugar intake to no more than 6 teaspoons per day, which provides about 100 calories. Men should limit sugar intake to no more than 9 teaspoons, or about 150 calories. In contrast, the average adult consumes 22 teaspoons per day.
The Institute of Medicine, a charter of the National Academy of Sciences, provides sugar recommendations different from those of the American Heart Association. The IOM states that added sugars should account for no more than 25 percent of the calories you eat. If you are on a standard 2,000-calorie diet, this means that you should be eating no more than 500 calories from sugar, or 125 grams. Like all carbohydrates, sugar contains 4 calories per gram.
The USDA recommendations are lower than the IOM's. They state that the combination of added sugars and solid fats -- which include butter, lard and margarine -- should provide no more than 5 to 15 percent of daily calories.