Diabetes Forecast

For Health, Hold the Sugar

By Tracey Neithercott ,

It's time to silence that sweet tooth, says the American Heart Association. Americans eat about 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily on average, an amount the AHA says is a health hazard. That's why the organization is recommending limits on daily sugar consumption.

In a report in the August issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers for the organization say that diets high in added sugars are linked to obesity, high blood pressure and triglycerides, and cardiovascular disease. To lower those risks, the study's authors recommend limiting sugar intake based on general calorie allowances: no more than 25 grams (5 teaspoons) of added sugar a day for women and no more than 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons) for men.

Added sugars, including high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, and table sugar, are included in foods during processing or preparation—unlike the sugars found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and dairy. According to the study, most of the added sugar that Americans eat is from sodas and sweetened drinks.

While the recommendations are for Americans in general, the advice can be applied to people with diabetes in particular: A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, with few processed foods, helps weight loss or maintenance and has been suggested to prevent cardiovascular problems.

"In terms of blood glucose control, added sugars are no different than natural sugars, or carbs," says Sue Kirkman, MD, vice president of clinical affairs for the American Diabetes Association. "But obviously a piece of fruit has fiber and vitamins while a soda has nothing but the carbs."

Cutting out empty carbs from sugary foods and drinks allows people with diabetes to eat healthier sources of carbohydrates, like apples and sweet potatoes. Other, less obvious sources of sugar are:

  • Juice drinks not made with 100 percent fruit juice
  • Yogurt
  • Canned tomato soup
  • Instant oatmeal packets
  • Jams and jellies
  • Ketchup
  • Crackers
  • Salad dressings


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