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Added Sugar Guidelines continued...

The experts who wrote the new guidelines aren't against sugars. They write that sugars are found naturally in many healthy foods, and that adding sugars to foods makes them tastier. Their point is about overdoing it.

"Deleterious health effects may occur when sugars are consumed in large amounts," write the AHA panelists, who included Rachel Johnson, PhD, MPH, RD, of the University of Vermont.

Johnson's team is talking about extra weight and its health risks, effects on metabolism, and missing out on nutrients that may be lacking in sugary fare.

Cutting Back on Added Sugars

Added sugars may be more common than you think, notes Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, WebMD's director of nutrition.

"Most people are aware of the sugar they add to their coffee and when they eat sweet treats, but beyond sweetened drinks and treats, it is used extensively in our food supply in foods like bread and ketchup," Zelman writes in an email. "Become a label reader and check out the list of ingredients in search of foods with added sugars."

Drinks are another source of added sugar. "One of the easiest ways to cut back on added sugars is to curtail your consumption of sweetened beverages like soft drinks, sweet tea, alcoholic mixers, and juice drinks," says Zelman, noting that other drink choices include water, diet drinks, 100% fruit juice, and nonfat milk.

Zelman notes that limiting added sugars to 100-150 calories is roughly equal to "one soft drink, a small candy bar, a few plain cookies, or a small portion of light ice cream or frozen yogurt."

Industry Responds

In a statement emailed to WebMD, the Sugar Association says it is "very disappointed that a premier health organization such as the [AHA] would issue a scientific statement titled 'Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health' without a higher standard of evidence to support its contentions and therefore mislead the average consumer."

The Sugar Association notes that "simply reducing sugars in the diet, as this paper contends, is counterproductive if a reduction in total caloric intake is not achieved. ... If one consumes more calories -- no matter the source -- than one burns, weight gain is inevitable."

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