Nutrition Panel Cracks Down on Sugar

RENO, NV - The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which meets every 5 years, has recently released new recommendations and place new, sharp limits on the amount of sugar Americans should consume.

"There's sugar in everything. pretty much any refined carbohydrate which people eat the most of," Sarah Metcalf, a nutritionist with Nutrient Foods, said.

The panel suggests the average adult should only consume about 12 teaspoons of sugar a day. That's a significant decrease from the 22 to 30 teaspoons the panels estimates more people consume daily.

"The biggest thing is the sugary drinks," Metcalf said. "People do drink too much soda and fruit drinks."

This is the first time the panel is recommending these strict cuts to sugar. They recommend removing sugary drinks from schools and endorsed a rule proposed by the Food and Drug Administration that would require a distinct line for added sugars on food nutrition labels.

Metcalf says she encourages people to turn to tea or water for drinks, and get their daily sugar from fruits, vegetables and other nutritious food. But she also sends out a warning.

"It's still sugar," she said. "If your body doesn't burn it off or you're eating too many calories that sugar is still converted into fat and cholesterol in your body. You still need sugar. Your body needs the sugar. You can't eliminate all of it. Just people are eating way too much."

The panel is also easing up on restrictions that limit total fat intake to 35 percent of their daily calories. The panel looked to studies that indicate replacing fat with refined carbohydrates like bread, rice, and sugar can actually worsen cardiovascular health. The panel says Americans should not focus on the amount of fat they are eating, but rather the type.

"People should add more unsaturated fat, like fish, nuts, and olive oil," Metcalf said.

Another change, the panel is dropping a longstanding recommendation that Americans restrict their dietary cholesterol from foods like eggs and shrimp since research has shown that dietary cholesterol has little to no effect on blood cholesterol in most people.

The advisory panel does not issue official guidelines, but the Department of Health and Human Services along with the Department of Agriculture which do publish dietary guidelines, usually follow the recommendation of the panel.