Adding Added Sugar on Nutrition Labels

In 2014, the FDA proposed a plan to better highlight information on added sugars by including it on the nutrition facts label. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggested that reduction of added sugars was a primary target for optimal health, which most likely guided this change. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics on added sugars shows that intake for adults can range from 15-21 teaspoons of added sugars and 18-23 teaspoons for children and adolescents, which is way above the current recommendations. The World Health Organization recently published guidelines in 2014 proposing added sugars should make up less than 10 percent of total daily energy for the average adult, approximately 12.5 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Reduction below five percent of total calories is further recommended for additional health benefits. In the U.S., top sources of added sugar include soda, sports and energy drinks, grain-based desserts (cookies and cakes,) fruit drinks, ice cream, pudding, and candy.

Currently, the nutrition facts label does not clarify the difference between natural and added sugar. Most people are not aware that added and natural sugar are added together under the total carbohydrates section on the label and listed as sugar. One way to estimate added sugars is by reading the ingredients list and looking for added sweeteners, such as evaporated cane juice or corn syrup and checking their position on the list. Ingredients are listed in order by quantity with the first ingredient being the largest. For example, if evaporated cane juice is listed second on the ingredients list, you can bet the product contains added sugars. Keep in mind that added sugars are the target and natural sugars; such as from whole fruit are healthy. The recommended changes from the FDA would separate added sugars from naturally occurring sugars making it a lot easier to find on the food label. Unfortunately, these changes can take time and may not even be seen on the shelves until 2017.