September 2011

Meaningful 10-Year Decline in Added Sugars Intake Documented

The term “added sugars” has been coined to depict caloric sweeteners included in food or beverage recipes. While dietary advice about reducing consumption of added sugars continued to increase over the past decade, reliable information on actual intake levels during this time was lacking. However, a recent analysis addressed this gap by examining the change in added sugars intake in the United States between 1999 and 2008.

Data collected in the last five nationwide diet surveys, each conducted over a 2-year period, reveal actual intakes of added sugars declined by 23.4% between 1999 and 2008. During the same time, the percentage added sugars contribute to total caloric intake dropped from 18.1% to 14.6%. Meaningful declines in added sugars intake occurred in all age, ethnic and income groups. For example, added sugars decreased in what are customarily the highest-consuming age groups – 22% in adolescents (12 to 17 years of age) and 16% in young adults (18 to 34 years of age).

Sources of added sugars changed between 1999 and 2008. In the grains category, added sugars from breads and muffins increased while those in cakes and cookies decreased. Similarly, yogurt consumption grew while dairy desserts declined. The analysis also showed that fat and protein provided higher percentages of total caloric intake over the same period.

Cane and beet sugar represented approximately 48% of the added sugars grouping in 2008. This translates to sugar (sucrose) contributing about 7% of Americans’ calories in 2008.

Significance: This study expands upon the evidence that sugar intake has declined over the past decade. The study authors point out that rate of childhood obesity began to fall at the time added sugars intake began to decline. The authors’ acknowledgement that obesity has many interactive factors recognizes that successful weight management is more complex than simplistic advice to singularly reduce a dietary component like added sugars.

Citation: “Consumption of added sugars is decreasing in the United States.” JA Welsh, AJ Sharma, L Grellinger and MB Vos. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 2011

See the abstract