In this Daily Mail article, it says:

A spoonful of sugar may have helped the medicine go down for Mary Poppins but research claims that it is actually a toxin.

Sugar in all its disguises, whether the refined stuff, honey or fructose syrup, is responsible for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer, according to Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor at the University of California.

The American Heart Association recommends up to 100 calories (25 grams) per day of added sugar for women and only slightly more for men - 150 calories (about 38 grams).

So, is more than 38 grams per day of sugar for men or 25 grams of sugar per day for women that harmful? (How did they derived those figures?)

  • There is a closely related question here: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/370/… - I am temped to close this as a duplicate. Can you please explain how it is different to that question?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 1:45
  • @Oddthinking the focus on the question you mentioned is on fructose, this one on glucose (IMHO) there is a different behavior in Insulin en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fructose more differences can be found e.g. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23280226
    – bummi
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 10:42
  • You can actually have an almost sugar free(not carb free) diet and still get all the mentioned problems.
    – Stefan
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 17:28
  • 2
    @Stefan: That's not a very strong argument. You can break your arm even if you don't go skateboarding, but that doesn't make skateboarding safe.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 2:14
  • @Oddthinking Its an argument that its probably not the sugar causing it, but carbs in general. There is nothing especially dangerous about sugar (other than dental caries) that makes it worse than most other carbs we eat.
    – Stefan
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 13:31

1 Answer 1


This is what the American Heart Association recommends, straight from the horse's mouth:

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. The AHA recommendations focus on all added sugars, without singling out any particular types such as high-fructose corn syrup. For more detailed information and guidance on sugar intake limits, see the scientific statement in the August 2009 issue of Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association.

So 100 calories and 150 calories are half the "daily discretionary calories" recommended for most American women and men respectively.

The linked paper gives a lot of relevant information. First of all, here's the definition for added sugar:

Added sugars are defined as sugars and syrups that are added to foods during processing or preparation, including sugars and syrups added at the table.

There are several reasons the article gives for wanting Americans to reduce the amount of added sugars they consume:

  • Cross-sectional studies in humans link soft drink consumption with higher energy intake, greater body weight, and poor nutrition and suggest that excessive fructose consumption is playing a role in the epidemics of insulin resistance, obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and type 2 diabetes mellitus in humans.

  • An emerging but inconclusive body of evidence suggests that increased intake of added sugars might raise blood pressure.

  • Although the trends were not consistent for all age groups, reduced intakes of calcium, vitamin A, iron, and zinc were observed with increasing intake of added sugars, particularly at intake levels that exceeded 25% of energy.

  • Over the past 30 years, total calorie intake has increased by an average of 150 to 300 calories per day, and approximately 50% of this increase comes from liquid calories (primarily sugar-sweetened beverages). At the same time, there has been no apparent change in physical activity. Hence, it is likely that weight gain over the same period must be related in part to increased intake of added sugars, even though research tools thus far have been insufficient to confirm a direct link. This likely results both from the fact that obesity is a multifactorial condition and because it is extremely difficult to identify, much less quantify, the relative contributions of each factor in epidemiological studies.

The article also cites this article by the World Health Organization, which makes a similar recommendation:

In 2003, the World Health Organization stated that excessive consumption of energy-rich foods can encourage weight gain and subsequently recommended limiting the consumption of added sugars to 10% of total energy intake.

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