We're About To Know Just How Much Sugar We've Been Eating

Brace yourselves.
Uwe Hermann/Flickr

Big changes are coming to nutrition labels, if last week's proposal from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is turned into law.

The agency is proposing that added sugar be included on labels. And what's more, they want the added sugar contextualized with a daily reference value of 50 grams. This is big news, considering that current nutrition labels only contain the total grams of sugar per serving, which includes naturally occurring and added sugar, and gives no daily value percentage.

In fact, this marks the first time the U.S. government has suggested a guideline for sugar or added sugar. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee came up with the value of 50 grams -- or 10 percent of a person's diet if they are eating 2,000 calories per day -- this year, noting that a diet with more than that amount is considered harmful to health. A previous commonly accepted guideline from the World Health Organization recommended half of that, 5 percent, for the additional health benefits of a lower-sugar diet. The American Heart Association, meanwhile, stated in 2009 that women should eat no more than 20 grams per day and men shouldn't exceed 36 grams.

While all sugar has the same effect on the body, added sugar is particularly insidious. It pops up in unexpected places, like bread, salad dressing and canned beans, and makes dietary sugar difficult to estimate and easy to overdo. Too much dietary sugar has been linked with obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The sooner new labels happen the better, but it's good to know that the FDA is thinking about our sugar intake and what we can do to reduce it.

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