Sugar Chicken

How Much Added Sugar Is a Lot?

Consumers already have a pretty good idea that too much added sugar in the food they eat is not good. But they’re not so sure how much is a lot. A new study published in Obesity adds to the evidence that proposed changes in the Nutrition Facts label will make things a bit clearer regarding added sugar. And it’s just in time for the deadline to comment on those changes by October 13.

Lana Vanderlee and colleagues conducted online studies with more than 2,000 young (aged 16-24 years) Canadians to assess their knowledge of recommendations for sugar consumption and the effects of labels with different formats for disclosing added sugar. They found that adding a percent daily value (%DV) for added sugar had a big effect on helping these young people identify products with “a lot” of added sugar. They concluded:

Few young people know recommended limits for sugar intake and many are unable to identify the presence of added sugars using the current food labels in Canada. The addition of added sugar amounts and the use of a %DV significantly improved awareness and understanding of sugar amounts in pre-packaged food products.

In a companion commentary, Ted Kyle and Diana Thomas acknowledged scientific uncertainty about added sugars, but focused on consumer needs for better information:

Consumer preference for avoiding products with significant amounts of added sugar is becoming increasingly clear. The data published here by Vanderlee et al. suggest that the FDA proposal to include added sugar and a %DV on Nutrition Facts labeling will likely be helpful.

So if consumers want this, you might wonder, who’s opposed? That would be people who are selling products with a reputation for being healthy, but loading them up with way too much added sugar. Yogurt makers and cranberry producers are at the top of this list.

They are going to have to get over it. Marketers seldom thrive when they ignore what their customers want.

Click here for the study by Vanderlee et al and here for the commentary by Kyle and Thomas. For more perspective, click here and here. And finally, if you have a point of view on the proposed new format for Nutrition Facts that you want to share with FDA, you have until October 13 to do it here.

Sugar Chicken, photograph © fs999 / flickr

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September 7, 2015