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The Big Number: Americans consume 17 teaspoons of added sugar daily. That’s way too much.

Every day, American adults consume on average 17 teaspoons of sugar that have been added to their food and drinks, say health scientists at the University of California at San Francisco, who focus their work on the impact of sugar on health. Although the body requires sugar for energy, health experts say the amount of added sugar most people eat is far more than needed. The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 teaspoons for men. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans say that daily intake of added sugars should account for no more than 10 percent of a person’s daily calories. For most adults today, however, 15 percent of their daily calories come from added sugars, according to the National Institutes of Health. Added sugars — defined as sweeteners added to foods or beverages when they are being produced or when being prepped to be eaten or drunk at home — include white or brown sugar, honey, molasses, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, lactose, sucrose and more. The UCSF researchers have found at least 61 different names for sugar on food labels. Top dietary sources of added sugars, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are soft drinks, cakes, cookies, candy and ice cream. Health experts note that added sugars are often present in foods not thought of as sweetened: soups, bread, cured meats and ketchup. The bottom line for health is that too much sugar can lead to weight gain, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

— Linda Searing

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