You might not think the occasional margarita with friends or sipping a cola as an afternoon pick me up harms your health too much. However, the average American ingests more than 150 pounds of sugar each year -- that's about 3 pounds per week -- according to the New Hampshire Department of Public Health, and every margarita, soda or dessert contributes to that intake. Excess consumption of added sugar comes with a variety of health consequences, including obesity, disease and tooth decay.
All sugars are a type of carbohydrate, but not all sugars are created equally. Some sugars are found naturally, such as fructose in fruit and lactose in milk. The real problem comes into play when you're talking about added sugars, or the type that doesn't occur naturally in food. The major sources of added sugar include beverages such as soft drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks, along with candy and other desserts, including ice cream, cookies and cakes.
In early 2013, the "British Medical Journal" published an analysis of 68 studies that focused on the relation of sugar intake to body fat. Researchers determined that adults who regularly ate sugary foods or drank sugar-sweetened beverages gained approximately 1.6 pounds a year. Those who cut back on sugar lost the same number of pounds. The World Health Organization also attributes obesity, at least in part, to excessive consumption of added sugars, and recommends keeping consumption to less than 10 percent of calories per day.
Risk of Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association officially recommends limiting consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, including regular soda, sweet tea, sports drinks and fruit drinks, to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. While the ADA links diabetes to body weight rather than specifically to the consumption of sugar, a 2013 study in "PLoS One" states that every 150-calorie increase in sugar consumption per day -- approximately one can of regular soda -- is associated with an increase in diabetes prevalence of 1.1 percent.
Regular consumption of sugar is linked to tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association. Each time the bacteria in your mouth comes into contact with sugar, acids are produced that ravage the teeth for 20 minutes or more. The association calls out regular soda as a specific culprit; in addition to sugar, it also contains phosphoric and citric acids that erode the surface of the teeth.
- American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Myths
- British Medical Journal: Science Souring on Sugar
- American Dental Association: Diet and Tooth Decay
- USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Are Added Sugars?
- NPR: Cutting Sugar Consumption Helps Keep Extra Weight Off
- World Health Organization: Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases
- New Hampshire Department of Public Health: How Much Sugar Do You Eat? You May Be Surprised!
- Plos One: The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.