How much sugar is too much?

How much sugar is too much?

It can be tempting to binge on snacks right now.

But added sugar – sugars and syrups that are removed from their original sources and added to food and beverages when they are processed – can have a negative impact on your health. It can lead to a range of chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and tooth decay, and can impair cognitive brain function.

Sugar operates in similar ways to a drug. When you crave sugar, your brain activates the reward pathway, excreting dopamine. Acting on your craving by eating sugar generates feelings of pleasure, producing a “sugar high.” This reaction makes kicking the sugar habit difficult once you start, since most people start consuming sugar in childhood. Positive memories of sugary treats are another trigger, potentially creating a cycle of addiction.

How much sugar is too much? Dr. Cassandra Edwards, internal medicine physician at Aurora Health Center in Waukesha, says that some sugar in your diet is acceptable if consumed in moderation.

“The AHA recommends no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons (38 grams) for men,” Dr. Edwards says. “Limits for children vary depending on their age and caloric needs but should range between three to six teaspoons (12 – 25 grams) per day. No more than 10% of an adult’s calories should come from added sugar or natural sugars (honey, syrups or fruit juice).”

Dr. Edwards recommends these tips to help manage your sugar intake:

  1. Eat a healthy diet. Include more fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean meats, nuts and whole grains in your diet. These are the best sources of nutrition for your body, along with low-glycemic foods, which raise your blood sugar more slowly. When you choose these foods, your craving for sugar will decrease. Don’t try to give up sugar all at once, simply integrate more healthy food into your diet.
  2. Avoid keeping sugary treats in the house. Don’t stock candy, cookies, and other high-sugar foods in your cupboards and fridge. Keep fruit available as a substitute.
  3. Choose substitutes. Sugar substitutes can be added to food to provide sweetness without calories. Some substitutes are stevia sweeteners, or sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol.
  4. Change the way you consume sugar. Don’t drink your sugar. Eliminate or cut down on intake of soda and juices, switching to water. Instead of juices, eat a piece of fruit. This will also add to your fiber intake.

Want to learn more about your risk for diabetes? Take a free online quiz here. 

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  1. Good article. Didn’t know that added sugars can affect cog. brain function and cancer risk. But you left out a couple of things I think are important for us to be aware of. Added sugar also weakens the immune system. American’s need to understand this in the middle of this Covid-19 threat. They need strengthened immune systems. This knowledge will motivate. But, you didn’t write any of this.
    You could have also written that high sugar intake is an American problem. Other cultures don’t consume sugar the way we do. It’s ingrained in American culture. Europeans, Asians and Latin Americans don’t consume sugar like we do. But, you didn’t write that either.

  2. Americans do have a sugar problem, not just because of easy availability of sugary snacks, but because high fructose corn syrup is in EVERYTHING in America, even things that aren’t supposed to be sweet. White bread is a big culprit. How hard is it to stop a drug habit when the drugs are hidden in your food?

  3. R.B., I agree. I spend more time reading labels for the high fructose syrup content and “added” sugar. I don’t understand (maybe I do) why manufacturers are still supporting the sugar industry and making foods with high fructose syrup. Too bad we can’t sue the food manufacturers for causing our diseases.

  4. I look for food labels that read “no sugar added”.

  5. I agree, I spend time just reading the ingredients in every manufactured food I buy. It is also inconvenient to seek the ingredients that restaurants add to the food we eat. Sometimes ingredients are not available, reason I seldom eat at restaurants. I know what I am eat when I cook my own food.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.