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FDA May Change Food Labels To Cut Added Sugar Intake

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The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may soon decide to alter food labels and include the amount of added or extra sugar that products contain, in hopes that people cut down their sugar intake. The new proposal is still under review.

Previous FDA guidelines define "added sugar" as a sugar-containing ingredient that is added to the product during processing. Diets with high amounts of sugar have been linked to all kinds of negative health effects such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, experts said.

Current food labels only include information about the total amount of sugar in a product. This includes natural sugar extracted from fruits and other foods.

The FDA now recommends individuals to regulate their added sugar intake to no more than 10 percent of daily calories. Children who are three years old and above should eat food with no more than 50 grams or 12.5 teaspoons of sugar a day. This number is the same amount of sugar found in cans of Coke.

For some people, just giving up on soft drinks will not be sufficient to meet the agency's recommendations.

Sweeteners like honey, high-fructose corn syrup and sugar can also be found in food such as low-fat yogurt, wholegrain and granola bread, ketchup, canned fruit, prepared soups, pasta sauce, marinades and salad dressings.

"There is a lot of hidden sugar in our food supply," said Dr. Frank Hu, a professor at Harvard and a member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

The agency's new proposal will help consumers distinguish the amount of added sugar and the amount of naturally-occurring sugar.

The World Health Organization also suggests the same amount of daily intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent, and that the sugar intake reduction to 5 percent (6 teaspoons or 25 grams a day) would give extra health benefits.

However, several critics disagree with the FDA's guidelines. A recent study issued in the The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics revealed that consumers overestimated the amount of sugar in products that indicated added sugars, and were less likely to buy these products.

Sollid, a dietitian and the Director of Nutrients Communications for the International Food Information Council, said that bodies do not differentiate between natural and added sugars, in terms of metabolism. Sollid was involved in the study.

"If you want to try and prevent obesity, or want to create policy that is going to help people, simply addressing the availability of junk foods and sodas isn't going to do it," added David Just, Sollid's co-author.

Photo : Melissa Wiese | Flickr

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