Heart disease and diabetes have become major health problems in the United States in the last two decades. But what is causing the increase in these specific health problems?

It’s a sweet little thing called sugar.

Americans are consuming twice if not triple the amount of sugar their grandparents were consuming and it is taking a toll on their health.

Do you have a sweet tooth? If you do then beware.

Time magazine reports on why sugar is double trouble. Studies show that Americans are eating or drinking obscene amounts of sugar all day every day and have no idea. This is causing an increase in diabetes and obesity, which in turn causes heart problems.

What is a normal amount of sugar to have every day? A new study shows that if you have just one can of soda, that accounts for the amount of sugar you should be consuming in an entire day. Experts are warning people to immediately cut their average sugar intake by fifty percent.

How much sugar is the right amount?

“The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition said that in order to curb obesity, people should reduce their sugar intake so that it only accounts for five percent of their daily energy intake, down from the current recommended level of 10 percent. The group also said people should minimize consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages because of their association with type 2 diabetes, as well as increase their fiber intake,” according to Time magazine.

There are numerous health benefits to making this change. Dr. Prentice, head of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition said, “There is strong evidence in the report to show that if people were to have less free sugars and more fiber in their diet they would lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.”

The United States is not alone in this weight gain epidemic. Great Britain is facing the same issue, especially among the country’s younger generation. Time explains, “England, like the United States, is facing a severe weight problem. One third of the country’s 10 and 11-year-olds are overweight or obese, with the majority of those children living in the most deprived communities, according to Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at the government agency Public Health England. Public Health England issued a report detailing how it would respond to the new recommendations. Initiatives mentioned in the report included local public health funding and working with businesses to reduce calories in food and drink products.”

The BBC explains how difficult it is to meet these new recommended guidelines, especially when people cannot even meet the old guidelines which are more lenient than the new ones.

“A draft report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) says sugar added to food or naturally present in fruit juice and honey should account for 5% of energy intake. Many fail to meet the old 10% target. One 330ml can of fizzy pop would take a typical adult up to the proposed 5% daily allowance, without factoring in sugar from any other source. The target of 5% of energy intake from free sugars amounts to 25g for women (five to six teaspoons) and 35g (seven to eight teaspoons) for men, based on the average diet,” according to the BBC. 

England’s health officials are also planning on issuing new guidelines for how many fruit juices and smoothies people should consume based on the new sugar guidelines. For now, one juice drink accounts for a person’s entire allotted recommended sugar intake for a whole day. A smoothie actually accounts for more than one portion of allotted sugar a day. They are also surprisingly planning on regulating food advertising to children online to protect them from the now ‘demonized’ sugar. The BBC reports, “Professor Ian MacDonald, chairman of the SACN working group on carbohydrates, said: ‘The evidence that we have analyzed shows quite clearly that high free sugars intake in adults is associated with increased energy intake and obesity. There is also an association between sugar-sweetened beverages and type-2 diabetes. In children there is clear demonstration that sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with obesity. By reducing it to 5% you would reduce the risk of all of those things, the challenge will be to get there’.”

The British government is considering posing a tax on sugar to deter teenagers from sugar consumption. British teenagers are getting around fifteen percent of their daily food intake from sugar right now.

But such attempts to curb sugar intake in New York have failed. CBS news reports,

“Soda guzzlers prevailed Thursday as New York's highest court refused to reinstate New York City's ban on the sale of sugary drinks. The court ruled that the city's health department overstepped its bounds when it approved the 16-ounce cap on these high calorie beverages.”

Overconsumption of sugar has become a serious problem in New York according to New York health officials. They claim that soda is one of the leading causes of this issue. “Soda has been under fire for years, with health advocates saying the sugary beverages are unique in their harmfulness because people don’t realize how much high-fructose corn syrup they’re guzzling. The bad publicity has helped lead to a steady decline in U.S. soda sales for nearly a decade. But sales of other sugary beverages, such as sports drinks and energy drinks, have been growing,” according to CBS.

Why didn’t the regulation pass in New York? Is this a good thing?

CBS reports on the opinions of the court and beverage advocacy groups,

“The Board of Health ‘engaged in law-making beyond its regulatory authority, the court opinion reads.... It is clear that the Board of Health wrote the Portion Cap Rule without benefit of legislative guidance.’ The city had hoped Thursday's ruling would overturn a lower court's decision that blocked the restrictions after restaurants, theater owners, beverage companies and small stores sued. ‘We are pleased that the lower courts' decisions were upheld,’ the American Beverage Association said in a statement after the decision was handed down. The restrictions, if reinstated, ‘would have created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers' freedom of choice.’ City Health Commission Mary T. Bassett said the administration of current Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to look for ways ‘to limit the pernicious effects of aggressive and predatory marketing of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods’.”

Apparently New Yorkers need to try to be their own best advocate in trying to maintain healthy sugar intake levels. The court finds that it is not up to the government to do this for you in NY.

While regulators in New York were unsuccessful in imposing regulations against the sale of large sugary drinks, they are not alone. Many jurisdictions have started trying to impose such regulations over the last few years to no avail. Even California recently struck down such a regulation.

Why is it so hard for people to curb their sugar intake?

The problem is not confined to those who have a sweet tooth. Everyone is affected by it, because numerous foods that we would not think have sugar in them actually do contain sugar. People do not realize that foods such as ketchup, barbeque sauce, marinara sauce etc. all contain plenty of sugar as well.

Time reports, “Some countries, such as Mexico, have tried implementing a sugar tax.” The United States has not come to that level yet. But the United Kingdom is considering imposing such a regulation. The BBC reports, “Public Health Minister for England, Jane Ellison, said: ‘We know eating too much sugar can have a significant impact on health, and this draft advice confirms that. We want to help people make healthier choices and get the nation into healthy habits for life. This report will inform the important debate taking place about sugar’.”

For now, New Yorkers will not face any sugar curbing regulations. But the study and related research makes it clear that people need to curb their sugar intake if they want to prevent obesity, diabetes and various other medical problems. 

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer