A.H.A. statement recommends sugar intake guidelines

by Keith Nunes
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DALLAS — Citing an association between excess sugar intake and health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure and other health conditions associated with heart disease, the American Heart Association issued a scientific statement that recommends women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars per day. Most men should consume no more than 150 calories each day. That is about six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and nine for men, according to the A.H.A. The statement appeared in the Aug. 24 on-line edition of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The association cited a report from the 2001–04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that showed the average intake of added sugars for all Americans was 355 calories per day (22.2 teaspoons) to illustrate the amount of sugar Americans consume. The statement specifically addresses "added sugars" and not naturally occurring sugars contained in fruits and other foodstuffs.

"This new statement expands on earlier recommendations and gives consumers more detailed guidance by recommending a specific upper limit on added-sugars intake," said the statement’s lead author Rachel K. Johnson, associate provost and professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

The statement recommends that no more than half of a person’s daily discretionary calorie allowance should come from added sugars. Discretionary calories refer to the number of calories "left over" after a person eats the recommended types and amounts of foods to meet nutrient requirements, such as fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, high-fiber whole grains, lean meat, poultry and fish. The A.H.A. recommends a dietary pattern that is rich in fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, high-fiber whole grains, lean meat, poultry and fish.

Added sugars, alcoholic beverages and solid fats — including saturated fat and trans fat — are considered discretionary calories that are to be included after individual daily nutrient requirements are met.

"It is important to remember that people’s discretionary calorie ‘budgets’ can vary, depending on their activity level and energy needs," Dr. Johnson said. "So, if you can’t live with the recommended limits on your added sugars, you’ll have to move more."
In response to the A.H.A.’s statement, Maureen Storey, senior vice-president of science policy for the American Beverage Association, said "Like many foods, soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are a source of calories, but in and of themselves, they are not a unique risk factor for obesity or other negative health outcomes — including heart disease. Obesity, a serious, but complex problem, is about calorie balance. According to the National Institutes of Health, risk factors for obesity are fueled not by any single food or beverage, but rather a complex interplay of environmental, social, economic and behavioral factors acting on a background of genetic susceptibility. A recent systematic review published in Nutrition Research Reviews concludes that there is little evidence from epidemiological studies sugar-sweetened drinks are more likely than any other source of energy to lead to obesity."

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