The Sugar Blues

By: Callie Pillsbury on Sep 28, 2018

The Dietary Guidelines of Advisory Committee (DGAC) identified added sugars as a “cross-cutting topic” of public health importance. In the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), the recommendation was to solely to limit the intake of added sugars. For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines are putting a number on the amount of added sugars recommended for consumption. In the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, the recommendation is to consume a maximum of 10% of daily calories as added sugars. Americans ideally should be limiting this to 4-6% of calorie intake for optimal health.

The DGA state that adults are eating and drinking 13% of calories from added sugar per day. Younger children are munching on even more added sugar! The DGA wants to lower this to 10%. This 10% of added sugars is equivalent to 200 calories, 50 grams, or 12 teaspoons of sugar in a 2,000 calorie diet. What does that look like? 200 calories of sugar equates to one 16 oz. soda or to four glazed doughnuts for the entire day.  

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The Beverage Backlash

Beverages are the number one source of added sugar intake. 47% of added sugar intake comes from beverages. Specifically, sugar sweetened beverages take the lead representing 39% of all added sugar intake. Sugar sweetened beverages are any beverage that contains added caloric sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, or fruit sugar. Examples of sugar sweetened beverages are soft drinks, fruits drinks, or sports and energy drinks. Soft drinks are the most common type of sugar sweetened beverages.   

The DGA exclaims that it is important to limit added sugar consumption because with added sugar comes additional calories without nutrients, which are also known as empty calories. If empty calories are consumed in excess, they will cause people to gain weight and lead to chronic disease. There is a strong correlation between added sugar intake and chronic health diseases (1).       

5 Ways to Decrease Added Sugar Intake 

  • Drink water. Water should be the preferred drink of Americans. To greatly reduce added sugar intake, drink water instead of those sugar sweetened beverages. Water is an overall better health choice.
  • Drink Milk! Adolescents are the targeted population for sugar sweetened beverages. Sodas and other sugar sweetened beverages have replaced the milk intake among young kids. This means the children are not consuming the correct amount of calcium and vitamin D for strong bones and growth. Encourage your child to have a glass of milk at meals instead of a sugar sweetened beverage!
  • Cut up some strawberries, grapefruit, raspberries or other fruits to make your water more flavorful!
  • Read labels. Check the food label for your most commonly consumed products. Search for items that contain less sugar
  • Drink lower calorie options. Next time you go to your favorite coffee bar, and want a large, cinnamon sugar flavored latte which contains 40 grams of sugar, try a non-nutritive sweetened, lower calorie vanilla latte with only 16 grams of sugar. Or simply choose a diet cola instead of a regular soda. This can decrease your added sugar intake by 39 grams!

Are Sodas Losing Their Sparkle?  

The DGA have made an impact on soft drinks because the sale and shares of carbonated beverages are declining. Soda consumption is now at an all-time low. This is because consumer’s perception of carbonated beverages has been altered since there is a strong connection between sugary drinks and disease. The city of Berkeley, CA was the first to create the nation’s first soda tax in 2014.  On June 16, 2016, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania passed a 1.5 cent per ounce soda tax. Despite a fight by the American Beverage Association, the tax has passed. This will have a huge impact on the soda industry because Philadelphia is the fifth most populated city in the United States.  Soda industries are going to be further impacted in the future and more cities could rally to pass this soda tax.  However, the soda tax is not the only component that is defeating the soda industry. In grocery stores today, there are more caffeinated beverages from which to choose from. Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages that are lower in calories and added sugar are being purchased at stores as a substitute for sugary sodas (2). Overall, the industry is reacting to the consumer demand by providing more beverage options that are low in sugar.



  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at
  1. Heneghan, Carolyn. “Soda Sales Still Beleaguered, Impacting Company Share Prices.” Food Dive, June 20, 2016.