Is sugar to blame for obesity?
Much of the fuss about sugar comes because of questions about its role in a nation that has become way too heavy.
Overall, calorie intake has gone up since 1970, and about 16% to 17% of people's total daily calories come from added sugars, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.
Sugar is just one reason for obesity, but for many people, it's the big reason, says Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University. "Some overweight kids drink 1,000 to 2,000 calories a day from sodas alone, and sweet desserts are a major source of calories in American diets."
The most important health concern about sugar intake is that it adds calories, agrees Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
"The calories we consume in beverages that contain sugar do not make us feel as full as when we eat the same amount of calories in solid food, so consuming large amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages or fruit juices can pack on the pounds," he says.
But cardiologist James Rippe says, "Americans are eating about 425 calories a day more than they were in 1970, according to the government statistics, but only 9% of those increased calories come from added sugars."
Sugar Association president Andy Briscoe adds that most foods and drinks add calories and can lead to weight gain and obesity if overconsumed, "so we do not feel sugar should be singled out. We need to look at total caloric intake in the fight against obesity."
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