The Wise Guide to Aging

How Much Sugar Is Too Much?

A new analysis from England puts the recommended sugar limit at five percent or less of your total daily intake of calories. Be aware that total includes all the “free sugar” in your diet – the sugar you put in your coffee or tea, and the amounts added to foods in cooking - in addition to the sugar contained in processed foods such as honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates. According to the report from Newcastle University, limiting intake to five percent (about five teaspoons for most people) can help protect your teeth from decay and minimize the risk of cavities for life. Previous estimates of sugar limits were based on the average risks of developing decay in three or fewer teeth in 12-year-olds, the Newcastle researchers noted, adding that by looking at patterns of tooth decay in populations over time “we now know that children with less than three cavities at age 12 go on to develop a high number of cavities in adulthood.” The new estimate is based on looking at data on dental caries and sugar intake gathered from studies across several decades. The researchers said that sugary foods that used to be an occasional treat are now staples in many people’s diet, and that while fluoride protects against tooth decay, it does not eliminate the cause – dietary sugars.

My take? Virtually all Americans consume too much sugar. In addition to being bad for the teeth, sugar may predispose some women to yeast infections, may aggravate some kinds of arthritis and asthma, and may raise triglyceride levels. In people genetically susceptible to developing insulin resistance, high-sugar diets may drive obesity and high blood pressure and increase risks of type 2 diabetes. Although conventional medical studies haven't shown that sugar causes hyperactivity in children, in many cases limiting sugar intake improves kids' behavior and attention. Recent research also indicates that sugar, rather than saturated fat, is the primary culprit in America's high rates of cardiovascular disease. It is important to bear in mind that sugar's negative impact on health can slowly, insidiously accumulate over the years. The best way to satisfy a sweet tooth is with foods that contain sugar as part of a whole food, such as fresh or dried fruit, because the sugars are bound in a matrix of fiber that slows digestion and limits rapid increases in blood glucose.

Paula J. Moynihan and Sarah A. M. Kelly. “Effect on Caries of Restricting Sugars Intake: Systematic Review to Inform WHO Guidelines”. Journal of Dental Research, 2013; 93 (1): 8 DOI: 10.1177/0022034513508954

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