A global health problem caused by sugar

Americans typically get 15 percent of their calories from sugar, at least triple the amount that is considered healthy. Research shows that more than 90 percent of U.S. citizens have suffered from a medical problem linked to our excessive sugar consumption.

According to research from the University College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, only about 3 percent of our calories should be from sugar, one-fifth of what we take in now per capita.

Aside from its link to obesity, heart problems and cancer, all that sugar is rotting our teeth and leading to dental caries (cavities).

The so-called “free” sugars we should cut back on are defined by the World Health Organization as including: “monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.”

The sugar habit has led to a worldwide epidemic of tooth decay, a condition afflicting up to 90 percent of children. In the United States, it is estimated that 92 percent of people ages 20 to 64 have suffered some degree of tooth decay in their permanent teeth.

“Tooth decay is a serious problem worldwide and reducing sugars intake makes a huge difference.” says researcher Aubrey Sheiham, a professor of dental public health at University College London. “Data from Japan were particularly revealing, as the population had no access to sugar during or shortly after the Second World War. We found that decay was hugely reduced during this time, but then increased as they began to import sugar again.”

According to Philip James, a past president of the World Obesity Federation, the dire health situation caused by sugar calls for strong measures: “A sugars tax should be developed to increase the cost of sugar-rich food and drinks… The retail price of sugary drinks and sugar rich foods needs to increase by at least 20 percent to have a reasonable effect on consumer demand so this means a major tax on sugars as a commodity. The level will depend on expert analyses but my guess is that a 100 percent tax might be required.”

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.