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Heart Group: Limit Added Sugars in Diet

American Heart Association Issues Guidelines on How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much

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."

The Sugar Association also states that "every major systematic review of the body of scientific evidence exonerates sugar as the cause of any lifestyle disease, including heart disease and obesity." And the association argues that other organizations -- including the European Food Safety Authority and an expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine in 2002 -- declined to set an upper limit for total or added sugars.

The Corn Refiners Association -- the national trade group for the U.S. corn refining industry, which makes corn sweeteners including high-fructose corn syrup -- also issued a response to the AHA's guidelines.

In a statement emailed to WebMD, the Corn Refiners Association states that "sweeteners are found in many foods, and when consumed in moderation, often serve a useful role in making nutrient-rich foods, like yogurt and flavored milk, palatable. Like all sugars, high fructose corn syrup should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet."

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