Americans should limit the amount of added sugar they consume to no more than 10 percent of their daily calories, or about 200 calories a day for most people, say new recommendations from a government-appointed panel of nutrition experts.
If upcoming federal diet guidelines adopt this recommendation, it would be the first time those guidelines set a strict limit on the amount of added sugar that Americans are advised to consume.
U.S. dietary guidelines are revised every five years, and the latest revisions are due out later this year. Previous versions of the guidelines have advised Americans to cut down on added sugar, but have not set a specific limit.
Consuming too much added sugar has been linked with negative health outcomes, such as obesity and death from heart disease. The recommended limit of 10 percent of daily calories from added sugars is equivalent to about 12 teaspoons of sugar, or about 55 grams, the amount in one 16-ounce bottle of a sugary beverage.
The panel also said that added sugars should not be replaced with low-calorie sweeteners, but instead, with healthy options, such as water. [5 Diets That Fight Diseases]
In addition, the panel said that it had examined evidence on the safety of the sugar substitute aspartame. The group concluded that "at the level that the U.S. population consumes aspartame, it appears to be safe," but there is a need for more research on the effect that aspartame may have on the risk of blood cancer in men.
Overall, the panel recommended that "the U.S. population should be encouraged and guided to consume dietary patterns that are rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products and alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains."
Specifically, the panel said that people in the general population should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, and less than 10 percent of their total daily calories should be from saturated fat.
Although moderate alcohol consumption can be a part of a healthy diet, the panel clarified that people should not start drinking, or drink more often "on the basis of potential health benefits, because moderate alcohol intake also is associated with increased risk of violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes."
The panel also backed away from previous recommendations to limit cholesterol intake, because studies have found that dietary cholesterol does not considerably affect the amount of cholesterol in the blood. "Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption," the panel said.
The panel's recommendations are now available online for public comment. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will consider the report, along with other input, as it develops the 2015 dietary guidelines, which will be released later this year, the agency said.
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Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.