Sweet Sacrifice

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Alexandra Sifferlin,

from TIME Magazine,

New guidelines could significantly curb our sugar intake. Are they too harsh?

No need to sugarcoat it: according to new guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), only 5% of a person’s total daily calories should come from added sugar (about 26 g per day for a 2,000-calorie diet). Their experts made the recommendation after studying the increasing rates of obesity, tooth decay and heart disease, all of which are linked to sugar consumption.

But is it too extreme? In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control estimates that a full 13% of U.S. adults’ total caloric intake came from sugar in 2010. The main culprit isn’t even sweets–it’s processed foods. A tablespoon of ketchup has 4 g of sugar; a frozen pizza may contain as much as 26 g. Expecting people to sacrifice all that “is unrealistic,” says Keri Gans, a registered dietitian and the author of The Small Change Diet. “We should focus on what we should be eating and not what we shouldn’t be.”

To that end, WHO’s original 10% restriction (about 52 g of added sugar per day for a 2,000-calorie diet) may be “more realistic” in the U.S., according to Francesco Branca, WHO’s director for nutrition. That would be slightly more than the amount recommended in the controversial guidelines the American Heart Association released in 2009, which suggested from 30 g to 45 g per day.

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