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New sugar rule: Less than one soda a day

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By Jacque Wilson

The World Health Organization wants you to stop eating so much sugar. Seriously.

In draft guidelines proposed this week, WHO is encouraging people to consume less than 5% of their total daily calories from sugars. The organization's current guidelines, published in 2002, recommend eating less than 10% of your total daily calories from sugars.

Most Americans still consume much more.

Our sweet tooth increased 39% between 1950 and 2000, according to the USDA. The average American now consumes about three pounds of sugar each week.

"There is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars, particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, may result in ... an increase in total caloric intake, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of noncommunicable diseases," WHO said in a statement.

Of particular concern, WHO said, is the role sugar plays in causing dental diseases worldwide.

For an adult at a normal body mass index, or BMI, eating 5% would be around 25 grams of sugar -- or six teaspoons. That's less than is typically found in a single can of regular soda, which contains about 40 grams of sugar.

To find the amount of calories from sugar in a product, multiply the grams by 4. For example, a product containing 15 grams of sugar has 60 calories from sugar per serving, according to the American Heart Association. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, that's 3%.

WHO's proposed guidelines apply to sugars added to foods by manufacturers, as well as those found naturally in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates. They do not apply to those found in fresh produce.

"Much of the sugars consumed today are 'hidden' in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets," the WHO website states.

Did you know sugar is often added to your frozen pizza? How about your bread, soup, yogurt and mayonnaise? As consumers became more concerned about the amount of fat in their food, manufacturers went out of their way to make low-fat items -- often substituting sugar to preserve the taste.

Choosing foods with fewer added sugars at the grocery story may soon get a little easier. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed several changes to the nutrition labels you see on packaged foods and beverages.

The proposed labels would also note how much added sugar is in a product. Right now, it's hard to know what is naturally occurring sugar and what has been added by the manufacturer.

The WHO guidelines will be open for public comment until March 31. Then WHO will finalize and publish its recommendations.

 

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