Too Much Sugar is Killing Us

Why It’s a Problem and How to Decrease Consumption

By Stephen Roberts, PhD

Most of us eat too much sugar. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that women should consume no more than 100 calories a day, and men no more than 150 calories a day, from added sugar. This equals six teaspoons for women and nine for men.

Many of us have problems in maintaining this limit. For instance, one 12-ounce can of pop has about 10 teaspoons of sugar or 160 calories.

Sugar can be problematic. A 2014 study published by Quanhe Yang, PhD, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, stated that excess sugar increased the risk of fatal heart disease. People in the study who ate more than 21 percent of their calories in the form of sugar had more than a 200 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death than those who ate 8 percent of their calories in the form of sugar.

According to James DiNicolantonio in the journal Open Heart, the reasons sugar causes cardiovascular problems is that it may increase blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen demand and add to inflammation and insulin resistance. Too much sugar is also linked to higher triglycerides. Excess sugar has also been implicated as a cause for diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

Although we know that excess sugar is not good for us, we love it – it’s everywhere, and in many prepared foods. Marisa Moore, RDN, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says that added sugar is often found in foods we do not consider sweet, such as breads, pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, fruit cups, some granola bars, sports drinks and fat-free salad dressings.

To learn more about sugar content in various foods, visit

Decreasing Consumption

Nathan Drendel, a ProMedica Wellness dietitian, offers tips to help decrease your sugar consumption:

• Assess your present behaviors and figure out which foods add the most sugar to your diet. If you are like the average American who consumes in excess of 24 teaspoons a day (almost 400 calories), begin to decrease your sugar by the equivalent of four  teaspoons at first, gradually decreasing by small amounts to allow your body and tastebuds to adjust.

Decrease sweet drinks including pop, large glasses of fruit juice, and sport drinks.

  Check your breakfast cereals, many have too much sugar (aim for cereals that have less than 8 grams of sugar per serving in them).

  Look for added sugar on food labels, by watching for the  many different names for sugar–corn syrup, fructose, caramel, glucose solids, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar.

  When baking, decrease the recipe suggestion for sugar by one-third or one-half.

  Add more spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, instead of sugar.

  Consider drinking diet pop rather than regular pop.

• At the grocery store, shop around the periphery of the store where the healthier items–such as fruits and vegetables–are often located.

• Take the sugar bowl off the table so that it’s not readily available.


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