Just how much sugar do Americans consume? It’s complicated
Sugar has become the nutritional villain du jour, but just how bad is our addiction? The answer is tricky.
Philadelphia recently passed a tax on sugary drinks, several other places have proposed them, and the government this year recommended we limit our intake of added sugars to 10 percent of daily calories, underscoring how significant elected officials believe the problem is. But while determining exactly how much sugar we’re consuming is a complicated business — government figures are estimates— the data and industry trends indicate we’ve actually made progress in cutting back.
On average, Americans’ total consumption of caloric sweeteners like refined cane sugar and highfructose corn syrup is down 15 percent from its peak in 1999, according to government data. That’s when we consumed an average of 111 grams of sugar a day (423 calories).
After plateauing in recent years, consumption was down to 94 grams a day (358 calories) last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which calculates the figures by estimating how much of the caloric sweeteners produced are never eaten. But that level is still higher than the 87 grams Americans consumed on average in 1970.
A major factor for the drop appears to be the decline in soda consumption, as the high-fructose corn syrup used to sweeten drinks like Sprite and Mountain Dew has been