Chew on This

Sugar intake leads to major health issues

I am not a member of the FBI, which is my acronym for Food Bullies Incorporated. I do not recommend absolutes to clients since years of practice have repeatedly demonstrated that they do not work for the majority of people. We live in the real world and making the healthiest food choices can be challenging. I am not here to heap guilt.

That said it is time for me, a non-bully, to look at sugar.

Sugar in its many forms has invaded our food supply. The average adult eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The American Heart Association recommends 9 teaspoons or 150 calories a day for men and 6 teaspoons or 100 calories for women. For perspective, the average soda has 9 teaspoons.

The reason for reduction is not only cavities and calories. Two studies published this year associate sugar intake with chronic health issues. A January 2014 JAMA: Internal Medicine study showed people who ate 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent high risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared with those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar. The risk was more than double for those who consumed 21 percent or more of their calories from added sugar.

The second study was from New Zealand. Researchers reviewed several randomized controlled trials that looked at sugar’s effect on blood pressure, and concluded that even when taking out weight gain, sugar independently affects blood pressure.

I would encourage everyone to look at his or her sugar intake and see if it can be reduced. Eating an occasional desert while dining out or an indulgence at a party is not the problem. Daily and regular intake is the concern. And it is the hidden sugar in yogurt, sauces, salad dressing and coffee drinks that might be thwarting the best of intentions. For a primer on sugar go to and search on sugar.

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.