How Much Sugar Is Recommended Per Day?

By now, American exceptionalism is a universally-accepted truism. Like dogs over cats and Star Wars over Star Trek, it’s simple fact that America is qualitatively different than other nations. Some would say “superior,” but I think modesty is more becoming of a nation of our stature, providence, and history. Why else would extraterrestrials decide to land on the White House lawn, as they do in every culturally relevant piece of sci-fi, if we weren’t exceptional? Would American parents everywhere claim their kids were special if they actually were not?

But perhaps the most conclusive evidence of our exceptionalism lies in how our nutritional labels relay information about sugar. If you go to a place like Germany or the UK and flip over a package of Haribo Goldbären (gummy bears), it’ll tell you how many percentage points the sugar in the candy counts toward your daily limit. Point being: everyone else has an upper limit for sugar consumption.

But the US? We have no upper limit on sugar. And when it comes to added sugar, it’s a total free for all. It’s not even listed.

Researchers are still uncovering the mechanisms, but it appears that Americans benefit from an epigenetic resistance to the negative effects other nations experience from excessive sugar consumption. My pet theory? The confluence of high-fructose corn syrup subsidies, kids filling up Super Big Gulp cups with Slurpee when the clerk’s not looking, and Wilford Brimley diabetes commercials have converged to create a morphogenetic field of extreme sugar tolerance. Whether it’s a developing fetus or a South Asian migrant, the morphogenetic field envelops and affects everyone within the US. borders. In fact, there’s no such thing as “excessive sugar consumption” in the United States. It’s quite literally impossible to ever reach or even approach the recommended daily limit for added sugar intake because the limit doesn’t exist, physiologically, for Americans. Just flip over that package of Oreos and look at the nutritional label for yourself. American exceptionalism, indeed.

I’m kidding, of course, about the resistance to the damaging effects of excess sugar consumption, but not about the most salient point: there’s no official limit for sugar consumption in the U.S. and in a way, that is exceptional. What’s going on? Well, since sugar’s not an essential nutrient, the Institute of Medicine hasn’t issued a recommended daily allowance (RDA) for it like they have for calcium, total carbs, fat, selenium and all other essential nutrients. They have, however, suggested people get no more than 25% of their calories from added sugar. Yes: 25%. You’d hope the premier health organization in a first-world nation of 300+ million people would have higher expectations for its subjects, but nope. They’re apparently happy as long as you “only” eat about a quarter of your calories as pure white sugar.

It wasn’t always like this. For all its inadequacies, the 1992 US Food Pyramid (remember that?) did suggest no more than 12 teaspoons of sugar for a 2200 calorie diet, or about 10% of calories (PDF). That sounds fairly high to most of you eating Primally, but hey: at least they recommended a limit (and at least it was less than 25%).

Most other governments and health agencies (even the ones in the US) recommend saner limits. In 2002, the World Health Organization polled European countries (PDF) with dietary guidelines:

  • Many countries had 10% of calories as their limit for sugar, including Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Macedonia, Denmark, and Malta.
  • In Portugal, official dietary recommendations suggested limiting added sugar to 20-30 grams per day.
  • Turkish officials suggested 30 grams for women and 40 for men, or 10% of total calories.
  • Georgia wanted its citizens eating between 50-100 grams of sugar per day.
  • Armenia was very precise, recommending that no more than 8.2% of calories come from sugar, and not a tenth of a percent more!
  • Ukraine said 40 grams a day.
  • The Czech Republic’s 15 grams per day was the strictest.
  • The German government suggests no more than 90 grams of sugar, both naturally occurring and added, per day.

Other countries have similar recommendations. India suggests 10% of calories.

Things are moving in the right direction. Just as the people have become more aware of the potential dangers of added sugar, bureaucrats are following suit:

The World Health Organization recommends people obtain no more than 5% of daily calories from added sugar. That’s about 6 teaspoons or 25 grams on a typical diet, and it’s half of what they previously recommended a year or two ago. They’re urging countries to follow suit with national dietary guidelines.

UK’s National Health Service recommends a max of 10% of calories from added sugar and fruit juice. A group of health researchers, though, has recently called on the NHS to halve that.

Even in the US, the recent nutritional panel that recommended the USDA drop the warnings on dietary cholesterol also suggested they implement a suggested limit of 10% of calories as added sugar. As of now, the USDA hasn’t made any changes, choosing to lump added sugar in with “solid fats” (which is as weird a combination as I’ve ever seen) and suggesting we obtain no more than 5-15% of our diet from them.

The American Heart Association gets it, suggesting that men eat no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar a day. For women, it’s 6 teaspoons. The American Diabetes Association still doesn’t give any concrete sugar intake numbers but recommends against drinking sugary beverages, that most pernicious source of added sugar.

As I see it, the most prevalent recommendation across government agencies and health organizations is “no more than 10% of calories from added sugar.” In the typical 2000-ish calorie diet, that’s 12 teaspoons of sugar, or 55 grams of added sugar per day. That includes:

  • Any sugar used to make baked goods, candy, chocolate, desserts.
  • Any sugar used to make sauces, dressings, and condiments.
  • Honey, HFCS, molasses, agave nectar, white sugar, brown sugar, and any other isolated sugar (I’d say foods like honey and molasses have different metabolic effects than other sugars, but they are added sugars).
  • Any sugar found in sweetened beverages, including the naturally occurring sugar in fruit juices (most countries consider fruit juice sugar to be added since it’s divorced from its fiber; I tend to agree).

So, 55 grams of added sugar per day. 27.5 grams of fructose. And that’s only if you stick to a 2000 calorie diet.

Few people are actually eating 2000 calories a day. They’re overeating. They’re sitting around. They aren’t using glycogen. They’re walking around (sub-2000 steps a day) with fully replete liver glycogen. And added sugar has very different metabolic effects in a hypercaloric sedentary person with overstocked glycogen — both muscle and liver — stores.

That’s why I much prefer an absolute limit. A liver’s a liver’s a liver. Simply eating more calories doesn’t mean you can safely handle more sugar, nor does it mean your liver suddenly has more metabolic machinery to process and store the fructose as glycogen. If anything, eating higher calorie diets makes you more susceptible to the ravages of sugar, because it then becomes excess sugar. Even the most diehard “anti-fructose alarmist” skeptics will say that the only reason sugar becomes dangerous is when its in excess.

Well, folks: sugar is often in excess of calories. I hate to say it, but it’s true. Just look at the global numbers.

America sits atop the pack with 126.4 grams per day. Way to go, guys! Looks like we’re taking the IOM’s recommendations to heart.

Germany’s next with 102.9 grams a day.

The Netherlands does 102.5 grams.

Ireland follows with 96.7 grams.

The bottom five are Ukraine, China, Indonesia, Israel, and India with 17.1, 15.7, 15.2, 14.5, and 5.1 grams of added sugar per day, respectively. Judging from this study of sugar intake, diabetes, and obesity in India, I’m not sure how reliable any of these figures are, though.

If we take the numbers at face value, just 27 countries attain the 55 grams per day (again, assuming an approximately 2000 calorie diet) recommendation.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts, everyone. Sugar has experienced a bit of a renaissance of sorts in the health community’s consciousness. While I agree that freaking out over a little sugar in your coffee is crazy, and fruit and even honey and other unrefined sources of sugar can be healthy parts of a reasonable diet, I worry about the unrestricted and flagrant use of sugar.

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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239 thoughts on “How Much Sugar Is Recommended Per Day?”

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  1. Yes, great post! But I’m still trying to get past the incendiary Star Trek vs. Star Wars comment. Are you alienating us for no sweet reason?

    1. Shots have been fired!

      …But are they blaster shots, or phaser beams?

      1. If your hand touches metal, I swear by my pretty, floral bonnet…

      1. Firefly show – Mal (a man) is dressed as a woman: Now, you can luxuriate in a nice jail cell… But if your hand touches metal, I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end you.”

    2. Yeah I nearly stopped reading right there after I saw that!! Hmmm Live long and prosper.

  2. I’m pretty good about sticking to under 50g a day (I eat about 2000 cals a day pregnant now and still workout 5x a week.) It’s been harder this week with my husbands strawberry fanta in the house.

  3. Has anyone else noticed the change in standard clothig sizes? I have been the same height and weight my entire adult life, yet I have gone from being a size Medium to a Small. I believe this is yet another way to mask the symptoms of what is happening on a nutritional level in the U.S. And not only. There is a similar problem here in Europe.

    1. I’ve definitely noticed this. I wore a size large shirt when I graduated from College. I now wear a small/medium depending on the brand. A size large now almost has room for someone else in there with me.

    2. Yes! Vanity sizing is real.
      In high school, I wore a size 8.
      I’ve filled out since then and now wear a 6 (sometimes 4).
      Trust me, I’m not the incredibly shrinking woman!

    3. Yes. That’s why there are all those double and triple zero sizes for lean women in many brands now. They just would have worn a size 4 or 6 thirty years ago.

    4. I just noticed that there seems to be no standard at all. I literally wear everything (well fitting) from medium to XXL, depending on brand and cut.

      1. That’s my experience with it. I have to try on everything when I go clothes shopping, ’cause the sizes mean nothing.

    5. I have absolutely noticed the change in men’s clothing. ..most noticeably shirts. At 6′ 1″ and 200 lb I formerly wore large. Now it is always medium as large are too “blousey” with excess material around the middle. Now that I am down to 185 lb it is even more noticeable…and I like a trim fit. I’d like to find an economical source for fitted or athletic cut “off the rack” menswear..Any suggestions out there?

      1. For dress shirts, try TJ Maxx, and sometimes JCPenneys will have sales – I have to look for my neck size and a label that says “Athletic fit” or “Fitted,” otherwise I feel like there’s a tent billowing around my midsection.

        I also used to wear large. Now I wear medium, unless I get creative….

        …for REALLY frugal, I successfully altered a couple of shirts (beginners luck?!) Cut out each side seam out (the one that runs from armpit to bottom of shirt) cut a wedge about 2″ wide at the bottom and stop just shy of the armpit. Join the edges of the fresh-cut shirt together on the inside, and sew from pit to bottom about 1/2″ from the edge. Sew it twice, so it doesn’t tear.

      2. I’ve noticed just the opposite. Some clothing brands (esp. those found at Target) have gone toward the super-snug fit that seems to be all in vogue among the cool kids these days. Dress shirts that look like spandex. Men’s shirts fitting like women’s shirts.

        And it’s not just me rationalizing the few extra pounds I’m carrying right now – a superfit guy at work has said the exact same thing.

        In the past, if I wanted a loose, comfy t-shirt, I’d wear a Medium or sometimes Large. Now, it’s XL most of the time.

        1. I’ve noticed the same.
          I used to wear a Medium, sometimes Large in the Junior section.

          I gained 10 lbs and finally decided to get new clothes …. I had to buy an XL in ladies and even grabbed a 2XL.
          10 lbs and THIS happens????

          I’m depressed.

      3. Check out Hugh and Crye — Athletic fit. After you subscribe to their newsletter, you’ll get 3-4 opportunities per year at 20% off —

    6. I too have noticed this but my “numbers” are all over the place! When I started my primal journey and lost all the excess weight, my sizing ended up between 8-10. Since then I’ve started to lift some weights and I’ve put on a little size and filled out nicely. Obviously, I have also gained on the scale due to the increase in muscle. Strangely, there are still some size 8 items that fit (albeit its a squeeze on others depending on brand and cut), some other items I wear are size 14-16 and fit well. Sometimes a 12 is the best fit, and on and on it goes. It was upsetting me at one point, but now I’ve just come to realize that it really isn’t me, its the industry.

      1. I noticed the same thing. Doubled my weight workout reps and noticed that my bra is now fitting tighter around my chest. Finally realized I probably have a bit more muscle around that area now. Duh. Am I correct on this do you think?

        1. For sure. The muscle mass has certainly made my clothes fit differently than they used to. I guess that’s why I can’t really say I’m a size 8 anymore. Honestly, I don’t think I can say I truly know what size I am but it doesn’t matter because I’m not going to let my pants/shirt/shoe size determine how I feel about myself! 🙂

    7. hey guys, im just excited that I get to wear a size 4 again =D, with no extra work on my part! Who doesn’t love that?

      1. I’m with you Lauren! Sometimes a 2, but that makes me nervous!

    8. Yup. 20 years ago I was a petite size 4 or 6 – I’m now a 0. My weight had not changed drastically. It’s gotten annoying – many stores don’t even carry my size.

    9. It hasn’t affected my shoe size. At my age (older than Mark), I don’t manage change well.

    10. yes,
      however, it’s funny my friends that are my age have amnesia on this subject. So glad you brought it up.
      Unlike you I have varied up to 40 lbs over the last 40 years. Seems every 7 yrs or so my body rebels against whatever good we’ve done together, but that’s another story.

      Cloths sizes have been noted by me over this same time period.
      In High School I was considered “fat”, then I was 5’9″ and weighed 140-150 lbs – moderately active and at the low end wore a 10 and the high end 12.
      I still have 3 very special outfits that I saved because they were for momentous occasions.

      Today, at 140 these clothes fit nicely – one a bit big the other fine.

      Yet I go to buy women’s clothing and yes a 6 is normal. 8 is too big. And sometimes a 4 fits.
      What do the little gals wear? I have a friend that wears a double 0 –
      This is probably equal to a 3 or 5 back in the day.
      She can shop in the jr areas but won’t due to the styles I guess.

      On the other hand, Bras have size inflation….. I kept my wedding bra and it is a 34-A
      and still fits. When I buy a bra now it is a 34 – C or D – ha ha!

      The only thing that hasn’t changed is woman’s underwear size….yep it’s the same.

      I don’t think this holds for men’s attire…..anyone know?

    11. Yes, I have noticed the change in standard sizes for women! I am 5’7″ tall and weigh between 135 and 140. When I was in high school (in the 1970s), I wore a size 12. Today, I wear a size 6. In recent years, I have read that the average American woman is now about a size 14. In yesteryear’s sizes, that would be about a size 18 or 20! So I have concluded that the clothing industry changed the sizing charts to “help” American women feel better about themselves. Hmmmm…

      It is interesting to note that the sizing of clothing has not changed in some places. In recent years while shopping in bridal shops for Mother of the Bride/Groom dresses, I still must purchase a size 10 or 12 to get a dress that fits me. Why? Because many of the garments in high-end bridal shops are still following the European sizing. Whatever… why worry about the numbers so much as getting something that fits well.

      Meanwhile, I am nearly 60 years old and still workout 6 days a week and follow a conscientious nutrition plan. For life and well-being, not just to look good or wear a smaller size!

      1. I collect vintage women’s clothing from the 40’s thru 70’s (yes, that is considered vintage!) the sizes on these garments bear no resemblance to current sizing. When I put on a show, I have to have models try on everything. My models are just friends and gals I know so I have gotten a good look at the vanity sizing going on. Not only the sizes are changed but the fit in bust area, torso (short waisted, etc) the hips. “Petite” now is what a normal size was back in my day. (I am 66 yo). petite in the fifties was tiny.

      2. I think women had thinner waists compared to their hips in the past too because I’ve bought some vintage dresses and not only did I have to get a much bigger size, the waist seemed really tiny.

        1. Remember that women routinely wore corsets back then – sometimes called girdles.

  4. If you’ve ever watched TV shows like “My 600 LB Life” then you will have noticed the direct impact that eating too much carbohydrate has on the liver. It turns yellow and expands so large the doctors have trouble doing the bariatric surgery.

      1. I love that show for the same reasons I love Hoarders. It never ceases to amaze me how the human brain can override every horrific thing happening to a person and be in complete and total denial including near-death experiences. I only wish that show would include a psych evaluation at the start for every patient. It’s always a psych issue triggering the food addiction.

    1. That is the effect of too much fructose, and it is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

  5. I understand this is added sugar but you can eat too much just in the way of fruit right? All fruits are different i.e. blueberries versus bananas but if you are eating 3-4 fruits a day and then add some sugar on top of that it really adds up.

    If you are trying to lose fat how many should you eat in a day? I’m having a hard time losing that last 4-5% of BF.

    1. But Freelee the Banana Girl says you can eat 30 bananas a day and be completely and totally healthy!

      1. I can’t stand Freelee. She has a right to eat however she wants to, and if she feels a high-carb, high-sugar, high-calorie (2500-3000 calories a day from fruit alone) works for her, that’s fine.

        But it’s her incredibly forceful promotion that that kind of diet makes you “skinny” that irks me so much. She is painfully thin and in all her videos, she dances around in singlets and underwear gleefully noting that because her diet keeps her skinny, it’s the best one to be on. (Never mind that she discussed how she exercises 2-3 hours a day.)

        She obviously metabolises carbs excellently. But with so many Instagram and YouTube followers, I get so worried for the young girls that listen to her and comment things like “I’m eating like this but have put on weight and feel awful, why?” and she replies “because you’ve put on water weight and it’s your body adjusting to your new fabulous diet”. I hope all those people end up finding their way.

        1. I think this woman (Freely) is so full of it (and extremely arrogant). She should not be giving nutritional advises. There are plenty of women out there that will tell you how following her crappy advises made them sick. Nothing beats the old “eat well and exercice” recommendations. Thirty bananas a day. Come on.

    2. Fruit isn’t in the same ballpark as sugar. Sure, it’s sweet and contains natural fructose, but it doesn’t have the same effect on the body as man-made sweets. Fruit is nature’s dessert and is actually quite good for you. Just be sure to eat whole fresh fruit instead of canned fruit in syrup or fruit juices.

      That said, it’s a good idea to eat fruit in moderation if one is sensitive to its effects or trying to lose weight. Too much fruit can give me diarrhea. That has been the case with me all my life, so I seldom eat it every day. In fact I can go for weeks without eating any fruit and never miss it. It’s better to pay attention to what your body tells you rather than go by someone else’s guidelines.

      1. The “Grok sniff test” suggests fruit is good, but maybe not in large, 7 days a week 365 days a year quantities- after all, most fruit is seasonal. We’re just “lucky” we can have bushels of grapes shipped from Chile in January if we want 🙂

        1. I wondered about that too, but which plants constantly bloom and bear fruit year round? I’d think that most fruiting plants still have a “mating season” so to speak (though this is just a guess). And there’s also the idea that our fruit now has been cultivated over time for maximum sugar content vs. wild fruit which is lower sugar and higher cellulose.

        2. I read that vitamin D is part of processing fructose, which is why people in tropical countries tend to be able to cope with higher fruit consumption.

      2. unfortunately, fruit nowadays is mostly not nature’s dessert, but nature’s-barely-edible-fruits turned into sugar-bombs over thousands of years of genetic manipulation by humans (selective breeding).

        Regarding bananas, these are actually quite low in sugar (high in starches) compared to eg apples. Apples have about twice as much fructose even though they have less than half the carbs of bananas.

        1. and apples were not always the sweet fruit that it is today. Apples used to be sour and used for cider–not for eating the way we do now. They, like so many things, have been bred to be sweeter.

      3. I don’t believe fruit is any different than sugar and I think your body processes fruit the same as sugar. I could have a muffin OR a spoonful of pure sugar OR a piece of fruit for breakfast and within an hour I’ll have a sugar crash.

        People who aren’t sensitive to sugar now, may become sensitive to it if they continue to consume large amounts of it, including through the consumption of fruit and juices.

        For your health, Dr Mercola recommends no more than 15 grams of sugar a day including from fruit. That’s the right amount for me.

        1. Interesting, I am a diabetic for 36 years (type 1) and went on detox for 10 days. I ate fruits and vegetables and expected high blood sugars but my blood sugars were the best they have been in a long time. I ate lots of fruit.

          Carbs are not my friend, that is for sure.

        2. Kristina, fruit and vegetables ARE carbs. You must be referring to grain products, particularly wheat. Not everyone is sensitive to the effects of fruit. It should, however, be eaten in moderation. As a dessert, it’s far healthier than man-made sweets, whether “genetically manipulated for (arguably) thousands of years” or not.

          Dr. Mercola’s recommendations have, shall we say, “evolved” over the years, based on the frequently half-baked advice he receives from his advisors. Just now fruit is on his hit list. That will likely change, as have other recommendations on that website–hopefully becoming less extreme.

          It’s pretty easy to make a case against virtually all foods if one buys into everything one reads and hears.

      4. Oh man, I’ve never gotten sick from fruit, but I do tend to take long breaks from it. xD
        I have to remind m’self to eat fruit sometimes for the nutrition.

    3. As far as eating too much fruit, some people are fructose intolerant. I remember if I ate too much apples or strawberries, it would affect my stomach and I would break out in hives when I was young.

    4. Think carbohydrates, which sugar is. As Mark suggests, no more than 150 grams per day, below 100 grams if you can. If you are trying to be ketogenic, 50 grams or less. An average sized banana will give you about 25 grams.

    5. I agree; too much fruit is very bad for anyone monitoring their blood sugar in order to prevent T2Diabetes or even prediabetes. But I’ve talked to some people who eat several large servings of fruit each day including the higher carb ones and think they’re getting healthier by doing so.

  6. Oh ye gods, please don’t be down on yourselves Americans – most of the highest quality websites I’ve found about nutrition are American, including this one. I’m English and damned proud of it but you guys have a lot of good stuff going on and that deserves credit.

    The British NHS is doing a campaign right now, “Sugar Swaps” that’s actively promoting the use of sugar-free and – specifically – artificially sweetened drinks (“Diet drinks”) and to swap what they call “sugary foods” for what we’d call simple starches.

    And by mentioning “No added sugar drinks” as a positive replacement for sugary colas etc., they’re giving the big thumbs-up to fruit juices as a desirable and healthy thing. The guidelines are dire, and designed to coddle a sweet-tooth and promote high carb & cereal intake.

    Don’t take my word for it, check the list:

    These guidelines are aimed at adults, kids, and parents alike, so according to the NHS giving your toddler aspartame laden sugar-free cola is premium good parenting, which is worrying since doctors will hand this advice out in surgeries and many people will take it as gospel.

  7. Damn, it’s not just the sugar we need to worry about. It’s the refined flour that generally accompanies it, effectively making it a double whammy of white sugar and white flour that turns to sugar. That’s why I love eating primally because I don’t have to worry about those label decisions anymore.

  8. So I just looked at a label and besides sugar, there’s no RDA limit for Trans Fat either !!!??? I thought for a minute that we all know trans fats are bad so maybe the limit is none!! So it is for sugar too – none !!! But then I re-read the label and there’s no recommendation for protein either so that just blew my theory.

  9. When I first saw today’s heading, I thought, “is this a trick question? Who would ‘recommend’ anyone eat sugar?”
    It is both alarming and sad how much sugar we consume as a nation.
    As a former sugar addict, I know how to rationalize away the candies, “but they’re low fat, so at least they’re not ‘bad’ for me.” Oh, the lies we tell ourselves.
    I’m so glad to have come across MDA when I did. I wish I’d found it sooner, but I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer to implement changes to my diet. I’ve already changed my health for the better, and I’m hoping that I’ve spared myself years of health issues for the long term.
    Gotta stay healthy to keep up with my (sometimes crazy) family! ????

  10. America’s battle cry regarding anything it doesn’t want to hear about food: “All things in moderation!”

    We seriously have no idea what moderation is!

    1. Yes, I’ve heard that ‘moderation’ argument so many times now, but the people saying it don’t define what moderate is.

      1. TeeDee, “moderation” isn’t carved in stone. It’s defined by the individual, the issues they are dealing with, and what they hope to accomplish. It can and does vary considerably from one person to another. Unfortunately, people often want someone else to define those things for them. That’s why we end up with idiotic “guidelines” from establishments like the IOM.

        In a nutshell, “moderation” is what your body decides is moderate, based on it’s own individual requirements for optimal health–not what someone else thinks it should be.

    2. “Moderation” is not quantifiable and therefore meaningless. For the purposes of nutritional recommendations, it is a totally useless concept. Because the yardstick of “moderation” will always shift. Nutritional needs are individual? Then say that.

      1. When I politely decline a 10 pound chocolate bunny gift on behalf of my kids, someone inevitably makes note that “All things are fine in moderation.” I’ll just get them a bottle of hard liquor to wash it down, and maybe a cigarette.

  11. Yesterday: Association of Maternal Diabetes With Autism in Offspring

    It appears to be strictly a consequence of blood glucose. Pre-existing T2D didn’t correlate. T2D meds didn’t help. GDM is clearly a hazard, and the solution is to reduce consumption of carbs which promptly become BG, which obviously includes all simple/added sugars.

  12. I hate that sugar is in everything! I recently went to purchase some canned crab meat and couldn’t find any without sugar. Why is sugar in crab?!

        1. Make your own pickles. Homemade pickles are probiotic and better than anything sold in a store.

      1. My husband can’t find his unsweetened relish anymore, “everyone” wants the sugar!

    1. Beef jerkey is the most annoying one for me. I’m trying to buy a high protein, paleo snack, but they’re all loaded with sugar!

      1. I completely agree! Finally gave up & made my own. It was worth it.

      2. Look for Epic products. Like jerky, but not as dry and designed to be paleo. Comes in Bison, Beef, Lamb, and Turkey and they taste great. All the stores around here seem to carry them, but some places are more expensive than others. Not affiliated, just a happy customer, YMMVYYY.

  13. Sugar is the opiate of the masses here, and guess who wants us all doped up so we can be more easily manipulated? I’ll give you 3 guesses.

    1. I found it quite easy to be addicted to sugar throughout my life and lately i was surprised about the natural sugar content even of products like fresh milk and “natural” yoghurt.

      In Spain, one can see the percentage of sugars on most of the food labels.

      most of the packaged bread here has added sugar.

      small bakeries do not label their bread.

      There had been years of my life in which i thought i am not ingesting great amounts (i ate few grains and starchy foods) but i had a lot of milk. I guess that is because of its milk sugar content. Made me happy…

      Refined sugars makes one feel happy even faster, until that feeling eventually gets replaced with some sort of hangover.

      Here the recommendations from
      “Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2015.”

      • WHO recommends a reduced intake of free sugars throughout the lifecourse (strong recommendation1).
      • In both adults and children, WHO recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake2 (strong recommendation).
      • WHO suggests a further reduction of the intake of free sugars to below 5% of total energy intake (conditional recommendation3).

      the numbers refer to the strength of evidence found between sugar intake and diseases. 1-stronger evidence, 3-weaker evidence,
      weak evidence partially means that the experiments sometimes could be incomplete, which can be because of a lack of funding, lack of time, little research done, a lack of interest from science to focus on the subject and investigate it thoroughly.

      however the general idea i get is that there is a strong connection between overall health and overall sugar intake.

      In my opinion, to be able to have a control of sugar intake in ones own nutrition, one cannot really eat any processed food, no fruit yoghurts, prepared meals, croissants, cookies, pizzas, readymade doughs , whatever etc.
      It is just too hard to know how much added sugars exactly are in there.

      I am working in a homeless shelter that offers three meals a day.
      The lunches and dinners really are ok considering the circumstances, but breakfast and desserts just make it impossible for anybody using that service to have a reasonable sugar intake, unless you just cut out on that part of foods:
      hot chocolate, cookies, doughnuts, puddings, a couple of spoons of white sugar added to your coffee, fruit yoghurt, you name it.

      Imagine living in a stressful environment, having a problem with addiction, no work, health issues, relationship issues, no financial resources,

      it makes it so easy to soothe yourself with available sweets, does´t it?

  14. For reference, that strict 10g recommendation equates to half of a medium apple per day.

    1. But that wouldn’t be “added” sugar, would it? It seems added sugar is that which is added to foods to enhance their sweetness. The need for sweet should be monitored, but it seems to me that 10 grams from a piece of candy and 10 grams from half an apple should not be considered equivalent.
      My question all along as I read the article was, “How is added sugar defined?”

      1. Thank you, that’s right. Added sugar is the teaspoon of sugar I put in my tea? Or the 4 tablespoons that is in the milk that I put in my tea? Not sure about this.

        1. Added sugar is sugar not found naturally in a food. So in your case it’s the tsp you put in your tea/coffee. The milk sugars (lactose) are naturally occurring and a part of the milk.

    2. I thought I read 10%…I guess 10grms would be 2 1/2 tsp. of sugar or as you say, half an apple (on the smallish side).

  15. If you eliminate sugar for a period of time you will really get a sense of how sweet many things really are. They become literally unbearable to eat.

    You will also notice the impact of too much sugar by the following day. I find headaches and lethargy are common responses.

    Elimination is a great way to gain perspective on how much sugar one might actually tolerate and need.

    1. When do sweet things become unbearable to eat?

      I have cut out all added sugar, including splenda, wheat, corn, potatoes. I only occasionally eat fruit, but not bananas.

      Its been two and a half months. I can go longer between meals without getting shaky and can tell when something has sugar in it but nothing tastes too sweet yet.

    2. You’re right about the unbearable sweetness. When I keep sweet tastes at a very low level, I find myself cringing even at the sight of sweets, let alone the taste.

      1. I hadn’t had a soft drink in 7 years until I took a sip the other day…and I spit it out about 5 feet onto the grass. It was god awfully sweet. I imagined it would have been easier to take a deep drag on a cigarette.

  16. I wouldn’t take anything recommended by the IOM very seriously. They are frequently all wet.

  17. Not to be all Ron Swanson on y’all, or anything, but precisely why do I care if my government sets an upper limit on sugar consumption or not? I already ignore their hype about “wholesome” whole grains, and I will likely ignore any upper limit they set anyway, because the odds are that it will be too high for me. Self determination, baby!

    1. I think the masses who don’t frequent pages like MDA need to at least be aware of an upper limit, whether they follow it or not. I’m totally with you that some of us who’ve looked for the truth about nutrition no longer care one whit about so-called ‘conventional wisdom’ from those who misled us for decades…

      1. The problem is though, that even with an upper limit, the “masses who don’t frequent MDA” will still think they are being healthy while they are eating below that limit but then supplementing the rest of their diet with whole grains while avoiding the dangers of red meat and butter.

        That said, I would love for companies to be required to list added sugars, so that I know if the dairy or whatever product I’m eating naturally has X carbs or if half those carbs are being added in.

        Also, as a random aside, I would highly recommend John Oliver’s segment on Sugar:

        I particularly love the obese Sugar advocate arguing that sugar has never been truly linked to obesity and diabetes.

    2. THANK YOU for pointing out the lunacy of going by government recommendations! I grew up with the “4 food groups” which later changed to the “food pyramid” and now I think we have some colorful plates from Michelle Obama. Government recommendations follow cultural trends, conventional wisdom, and questionable research. My employer’s “wellness” programs also promote lots of “healthy whole grains” etc. Having a good dose of Ron Swanson skepticism is the healthiest approach there is!

      1. Yeah my employer’s wellness program promotes whole grains almost exclusively. We even have “healthy” snack stations in our offices which are all fruits, whole grain granola bars, etc. No proteins or fats to be seen. We also have a diabetes support network as part of our wellness program. It’s not hard to see why so many people use it since our wellness program is promoting the development of diabetes anyway. *sigh*

  18. I’m not going to demonize sugar too much. Inherently I wouldn’t say it’s not that dangerous but can be a real time bomb for some people. I was eating my fair share of sugar. Pure white sugar and other refined sugars. Yum!! But when I stopped, the fat literally started to melt off of me. I cut carbs to about 100g a day and like others have mentioned here, my clothes didn’t fit anymore. The same didn’t happen when I cut out fat years ago. Now that I’m eating mostly primal I can say that I’ve never felt or looked better. So it goes without saying that sugar can be a really really bad guy, more so that many people are willing or want to believe.

  19. The size change is ridiculous – even I see it and I’m not even out of my teens. When I was a slim age 12, a 14/16 girls shirt was too small. Several years later, I can fit into most 14/16 girls shirts with room to spare.

    It’s nuts! And that sugar addiction is awful. Don’t get me near the self-rationalizing self. “Well since the maple sugar candy is made out of 100% pure maple sugar, its technically paleo,”

    just no. stick with mandarin oranges, 🙂

      1. Thanks! It’s been a long, hard, road, but I’m getting there! 😀

    1. Totally agree Anna. Maple syrup, coconut sugar, honey etc, still all sugar, and after avoiding sugar for 2 1/2 years, something with any of those sweeteners tastes horribly sickly to me. To me, 3 or 4 fresh raspberries every now and then is the best dessert.

      1. You are so right, Debbie!

        I just made some great Paleo Dinner Rolls :

        And I was thanking God because it (deep breath) actually looked like food! It also tasted great too! So, thinking I was over sugar, I put some of my old, Farmers’ market bought Strawberry Rhubarb jam on one, and it’s amazing what that can do. I had, literally, a *teaspoon*, and the fridge beckons with the call of SUGAR!!

        Ahh, the wonders of brain fog while completing AP US History homework. Y’all adults have it easy! 🙂

        It’s amazing what we do to our bodies and pass it off as normal. (especially us teenagers.) A fourth of the girls @ my school have french fries and ranch dressing for lunch. :O

        I’m just glad I found Paleo as soon as I did! Good luck and kudos to you!

        1. I find sugar so addictive, that if I even have some 90% cocoa chocolate in the house, I constantly crave it! So my house is sugar free; the sweetest thing in it is a couple of punnets of berries.

  20. Since I found out I was allergic to cane sugar I really watch the labels. I can now tolerate a little found in ham and bacon – but I don’t eat any other sugar, no juices, and a little maple syrup and honey. It would be interesting to see my triglycerides number.
    Hubby and I are much healthier without grains or sugar.

  21. What about comparing “sugar” to thinks like grain carbohydrates? Since a lot of those have an equal effect on blood glucose after eating them. The general population seems to think only if something is “sweet” to the taste is it “sugar” – e.g. a bagel can convert into as much sugar as a donut.

    1. agreed, starches, grains, and sugars are all broken down into simple sugar molecules. the problem with the added sugars is they are frequently from fructose, which is metabolized differently in the body than glucose. fructose goes straight to the liver, and can have serious health consequences. NAFLD. diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc. if this is a subject that you are interested in learning about I would suggest looking into some work by Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist who explains the difference brilliantly in his speeches, and videos online.

      1. There are so many studies that show that fructose is uniquely damaging to the body. I think our liver can only cope with about 15g of fructose per day, then the risk of NAFLD and metabolic derangement increases.

  22. I don’t know what to make of sucrose. The glycemic load is not as high as a white potato although it is empty calories that is not needed. I think in general the focus should be on refined carbs rather than just demonizing sucrose. Plus, it totally depends on the person’s body. An athlete would need more carbs and a quick glucose fix to replenish glycogen levels.

    1. sugars are not an essential nutrient, can we say gluconeogenisis, if our body needs glycogen, it can make it.

        1. While evolving sweet meant good for you and not dangerous. Where as bitter was generally poisonous. And the foods that where sweet had no where the amounts of sugar that they have now. They get all thier sweetness from selective breeding and also all the GMO’s.

        2. Though we may be hardwired to like it because of evolution, we’ve also gained knowledge about what our super sweet fruits and processed foods of today can do to our blood sugar and insulin response. No one is doomed to have a sweet tooth as long as they use the rational, reasoning part of the brain to control our intake of it. Not easy at times if one has been a stress eater or had mothers who quieted them with corn syrup on their soothers (thanks, mom), but we can do it. Many have…

  23. I think freaking out over a few grams of sugar in a cup of coffee is real, for me. I’m trying to beat cancer ( and beating it). Going into Keto was a key.
    So, if one looks at the rate of heart disease and cancer and compare it to the amount of sugar consumed in this country, one will see a correlation.

    1. All the best in your battle with cancer. I would give up virtually all carbs if I ever developed cancer, as well.

  24. The “government” can make all the edicts, decrees, fiat proposals it wants. Experts can line up as they do…and change their minds…as they do. I do not really care what the other countries are doing. What we need is information, reliable knowledge, not politicized pablum ( a sugar?). This is more difficult than commonly thought. However, that aside, what makes America exceptional is that we value individual freedom with rights established in Constitution and not fads established by politicians into laws that ultimately make us all potential crooks, somehow..sometime at the whim of unelected bureaucrats.

    Mark…keep up the good work in giving us Americans who care a knowledge base that we can use…..if we wish.

  25. Points for using the concept of a morphogenetic field in the satirical section! 🙂

    1. lol, that satirical section actually stressed me out! I thought that either Mark or myself had lost it. I was so relieved when he ‘finally’ said he was kidding.

  26. “Like … Star Wars over Star Trek…”

    I don’t know if I can read this blog anymore. Mark is now saying things that are blatantly wrong…

  27. Sugar-what is sugar ?I ask that seriously Why because i workout For energy and glycogen replacement we have a selection of supplements , glucose, malto dextrin , cyclic dextrin , waxy maize starch , vitargo all designed to break down in the body and give energy-.Doses can be quite high easily in excess of 50 gms which surround the workout , then you have additional sources throughout the day. So should i be consuming this amount around workout or at all ?


    1. You don’t need sugar to fuel your workouts-use coconut oil and become fat adapted so that your body becomes an efficient fat burning machine….using fat as the sole source of fuel. I do an intense, early morning workout 3X/week with weights and HIIT on an empty stomach with only a tablespoon of coconut oil pre-workout. No problem. recent months I’ve lost 15 lbs from 200+ to 185, retained my strength, and have boundless energy. BTW #2–I am 62 years old.

      1. thanks for the reply.Nnot sure i want to loose weight though =more interested in gaining muscle mass , currently weigh 69kg and would like to gain approx 6kg slowly.
        i understand coconut oil is more solid rather than oil, can you disguise the taste with anything ? Im just a bit younger than you , not much and want to be the best i can be .Training is nothing new for me but im trying to move it up a notch and look better than ever by manipulating diet.

        1. I have never thought much about disguising the flavor as coconut oil is pretty benign in terms of flavor. It is solid up until around 76 degrees F then it starts to liquefy. You can add it to smoothies and other foods as well. It is my “go to” oil for frying eggs, etc as it can withstand high cooking temperatures without breaking down into harmful by-products. I made some Paleo muffins yesterday and coconut oil and coconut flour were among the ingredients. FYI..the weight I lost was almost entirely fat as I retained all my muscle mass–I believe I look better now than when I competed in a couple amateur bodybuilding contests several years ago in my mid fifties. And also all my main blood markers were improved at my recent physical: HDL increased, BP decreased, triglycerides smack in the middle of the acceptable range, and HDL/LDL ratio improved. I feel like I’ve stumbled upon the Holy Grail in terms of “dieting” without deprivation, retained strength and physique, all the while improving health and vitality!

        2. Thankyou for all your replies but where do you stand on starches providing energy. As mentioned previously starches are available to fuel workouts and replenish glycogen , examples being waxy maize starch and Vitargo and maltodextrin thanks

  28. So honey and molasses have different metabolic properties. Fructose by way of whole fruits is a bit different. What about pure cane sugar pre processing. While it would complicate things more than most would pay attention to, from a health perspective should the recommendations be broken down to refined vs. naturally occurring sugars ?

  29. Since I’ve reached a healthy weight, and I am trying to maintain that weight, I have been keeping a close eye on what I eat and logging my food intake on MyFItnessPal. MFP lists my daily sugar goal at 86 grams/day. My average sugar intake over the past week is 30.2 grams/day, and I am very happy with that. I can’t imaging reaching the 86 grams/day goal. I don’t know where MFP comes up with the sugar goal, but it is way high.

    Now roasted beets are like dessert to me, very sweet and very delicious 🙂

    1. You know that you can change those goals in MFP? You can also change the goals individually to reflect high fat/low carb goals 🙂

      1. Thanks Jeff;

        I did change my Macro goals to reflect the PB. The sugar goal is not one I really look at often as I very rarely eat anything with added sugar.

        1. Turns out MFP sets the total sugars goal at 15% total calories.

  30. I live in the UK. Suggest you all read Pure White & Deadly – How sugar is killing us and what we can do to stop it by by John Yudkin. This was first published in 1972, revised in 1986 and reissued in 2013 with a new introduction. Professor John Yudkin did his research in the Department of Nutrition at Queen Elizabeth College. He was vilified by the sugar lobby. Its interesting reading.

    1. I also suggest anything by Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF. There are various Youtube videos, including ‘Sugar – The Bitter Truth’ (slightly technical) and a book entitled ‘Fat Chance’ (quite readable). He seems to be on a crusade to cut sugar consumption, because he sees the deleterious effects it has on people.

  31. Mark, you keep going back and forth between sugar and ‘added’ sugar. My diet is very strict, all I eat are vegetables and fruits… add in yogurt (plain) and I have over 50 grams of sugars… none of it added. I find articles like this VERY frustrating!

  32. The India numbers are absurdly inaccurate. They probably come from an official Indian government source. There’s more than 5.6g of sugar in each cup of chai. The average Indian probably consumes 3-4 cups of chai a day. Each cup will be accompanied by one or two “biscuits” (in American English: cookies). They regularly consume soft drinks and fruit juice (with added sugar of course). Then there’s the ubiquitous mithai, or sweets. THEN one can start talking about mangoes and papaya and such.

    India, furthermore, is the only culture I’m aware of that speaks of snacking as “time pass”, literally just munching fried flour and candy to pass the time. Elsewhere it usually involves at least a faint peckishness, if I’m not mistaken.

    Obviously there are exceptions to all of this.

    1. I thought that number sounded way too low as well–thanks for the specifics..

  33. If my glycogen stores (fat cells , spleen , big toe) is full from eating a “healthy diet” of cereal and pasta how much sugar is excessive?

  34. I have a simple policy. Added sugar is absolutely unnecessary and has zero upside. Every gram of sugar contributes nothing and slowly chips away at our health. So we all should strive to achieve zero added sugar – knowing full well we will fail and that’s ok. It’s an impossible goal, but shooting for that goal keeps us in the safe range. As soon as you pick any number, be it 10 grams or 50 grams, you set yourself up for a slow drift into the danger zone. It human nature.

    1. I agree. Zero is my goal, too. I often fail, but I more than often succeed on a daily basis.

      1. Sugar is the camel that is constantly trying to get its nose under the tent…into my diet, that is. Whether in the guise of “healthy” fruit or fruit derivatives (juice, jam, etc.) or poured relentlessly into almost every processed food, I aim for the goal of near zero every day. Same for powdered grain products (i.e. made of flour) though the goal of 0% every day is much easier since we’re gluten free.

  35. I love the United States. I always try to buy American-made products, which is hard to do. To the extent that I take an interest in events like the Olympics and the World Cup, I root for us.

    But the examples keep piling up of areas where we are NOT the greatest country in the world. Far from it, as in this case of sugar. Nearly everyone in this country is seriously addicted to sugar and/or something else, or addicted to many things. It is not like “I’m a chocoholic, Heehee.” Like it is time for an intervention. America, YOU ARE AN ADDICT! YOU NEED TO STOP! NOW!

    1. How does the average person stop when the US government provides subsidies to farmers encouraging them to raise GMO corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar beets, etc. What else will the USDA promote as a major part of the preferred diet than these products?? They have to market them somehow. And it is comforting to know that as we (not me) consume all those grains and sugars that we are also receiving our daily dose of Roundup herbicide (glyphosate).

  36. I eat NO refined sugar, no sweetener, no flour, very, very few grains, sometimes I pass months without them. No gluten, no wheat, so no carbs no sweet no cake and not even diet or light foods no sugar at all I follow PALEObut I do not worry about fruits. I eat them) apples bananas, avocados concounuts pears, I avoid mango and grapes but apples I love. I follow PALEO diet and my blood tests are ok! And I am not afraid of fat! So do not turn the easy things into the hard ones. Come on! I cut all the junk foods and no one is goona tell me that fruits are not healthy.

    1. If you were diabetic, your glucose monitor would inform you that many fruits are, indeed, not good for your health. Personally, I also stay away from things like raw carrots, which send my blood sugar sky high and keep it there way too long. A glucose monitor takes away a lot of the guesswork.

      1. Did you have more luck with cinnamon mixed with it? I read somewhere that it helps with blood sugar. If you have the monitor you could probably tell me if it’s true or not.

        1. I did take cinnamon tablets for a while. I didn’t notice any difference. I have no trouble keeping my blood sugar in range, though, if I stay away from carbs and don’t eat too late at night. It stays between 85 and 105 all day. Any carb sends it up and it takes too long to come down. Eating cinnamon with an apple doesn’t change that. The best thing I’ve found is to cut up the apple and only have a slice at a time and don’t eat more than half an apple in a day’s time. If you’re not insulin impaired, you’d just eat the apple, your blood sugar would go up, and then right back down. It doesn’t work that way for me. My blood sugar wouldn’t go any higher than yours because of the apple, but it’s going to stay high for a long time. A glucose monitor is a great investment. Walmart has cheap ones that work just fine. The main problem with most of the others is the strips are so expensive ($1 each), Walmart’s are much cheaper. In a week of experimenting you can learn a lot about which foods aren’t good for YOU specifically, and about which time of day it’s best to eat them. It also gives you power over your body, which you do not have if you simply take pills and follow the recommended diabetic diet (which will kill you eventually).

  37. Sugar is everywhere and IN everything!
    Even in medicine, supplements (!), etc.

    The only way to try to get a handle on the “hidden sugar” is basically cook/prepare everything you eat so YOU control
    what is in your food.

    Eat on the most basic of levels: your own gathering and eating raw OR gathering your ingredients and cooking/preparing from scratch. 🙂

    Not an easy task for many that have relied on prepackaged, prepared, or restaurant foods.

  38. I know dried fruit is a no-no but I do love prunes and that’s what I snack on.

  39. I was a boy in the 1950’s, every food was not super sweet. You usually had to add sugar, cane sugar or beet sugar, if you wanted extra sugar. Adults usually monitored children’s diets, not allowing them to have just sugar everything.

    There were binge times of course, and exceptions, but in the main, sugar use was not excessive everyday. Home gardens, standard grass fed beef fattened with corn for a few weeks before slaughter, fresh fruit in season, no High Fructose Syrup. You had to sneak candy. Chocolate was a treat.

    Now our normal is to expect all foods to be sweet. I was tired of being tired and overweight and just by going back to basically a 1950’s diet have lost twenty pounds in six weeks. No processed foods, No extra sugar. I am amazed at the difference.
    Now when I try to eat something of the processed foods I used to eat, I gag on how sweet it is.

    This is just my own experience and observation. Thanks.

  40. I think sugar has become way too insidious in our foods and it has changed our palate. I buy organic tomato sauce for my husband and daughter, in part, because it has half the sugar of any regular commercial brand. Overall, the whole article makes me feel even better about moving to primal, I’m still eating fruit with every meal but just one clementine with breakfast, 6 grapes with lunch and less than a quarter cup of raspberries or blueberries with dinner. Yes, I still have two dark chocolate covered almonds every night but even with that I’d say I’m well below the recommended.

  41. I was raised eating a lot of sugar. I love it. I’ve gone low carb a few times and lost my craving for it, but I have never gone back to eating sugar afterward and found it too sweet to eat. The first bite may be overwhelming, but subsequent bites start to taste really, really good again. I’m an addict I guess.

    I have 3 or 4 pints of Ben & Jerry’s every week, have for many years now, couple of decades, probably. (But not other sugars.) Love that ice cream, and feel great while eating it, and, if I’ve had a proper meal before, feel great after eating it too. Am I taking years off my life? Probably. Will I have regret if I die “before my time”? Probably not. ; )

    1. My quess is that this site is for people who dont want to die before thier time and they do not want to be on meds when they do die of old age. ????

        1. Shrug. So do the guys who produce all the other foods, many of them “primal” which I also eat.
          : )

    2. That seems like an awful lot of ice cream, but hey, if you feel great doing it, and your blood work is good, and you stay active – so be it. We’re all different. My Mom’s a hyper responder to fructose. She shaved 300 points off her triglycerides in two months just dropping all fruit but berries. Crazy response!

      1. Excellent point re your mom, and I can believe it. While fruit has fiber to help mitigate the impact of its sugar, ice cream has fat, and that really slows absorption (and stomach emptying) a lot more. When I substitute fruit for the ice cream, I’ll start gaining weight within 24 hours.

  42. Hi, Mark! Great article–except for the fact that cats are clearly superior to dogs! 😉

    You say you greatly prefer absolute limits on sugar rather than a percentage of calories. What absolute limit do you recommend, personally? How many teaspoons or grams?


  43. I think part of the issue with the India numbers have to do with carbs intake which are effectively sugars. I know this article is about added sugar but consider the fact that you could have ZERO added sugar and still be consuming hundred of grams per day of sugar in the form of starchy grains and vegetables…which leads to the exact same effect as tons of sugar.

  44. Once again, thanks are in order for you Mark on bringing up an important subject that we all need to hear! There are many ways Americans are exceptional both good and bad. Wouldn’t it be great if we could lead the revolution on stamping out excess sugar? Easier said than done. I have struggled with sugar over the years on my health journey. It is the one ingredient that has killed my attempts at being truly healthy. I have reached my weight goals but sugar is always lurking around the corner all too eager to take me back to the hourly indulgences!
    This article has given me a new challenge to track my sugar grams per day – at the very least to become knowledgeable about the quantities of sugar in the foods I eat. There is something really helpful about knowing the numbers – especially in context of the daily limit – that makes me stop and ask myself if I really need to be eating this? It worked for me with calories, carbs etc. This can only give me more help in my quest to take care of myself. Thanks Again! SE

  45. I do not think we can blame the change in sizing of clothes all on poor nutritional choices. We overall have access to more nutritional foods year round and are eating healthier which is producing taller kids with body size balanced to the height (not fat) so adjustments to clothing sizing had to be made. My son who just turned 14, over 6 feet tall wears a size 14 shoe and he not the tallest one of the group of friends he runs around with. When I was his age it was hard to find a guy close to 6 feet tall. All things change with time……

    1. I agree! Kids today are much bigger. I think it may be the growth hormones (or whatever makes a steer reach harvest size in 18 months instead of 26 months like it used to) in the industrial food supply.

  46. I get the sugar thing, eat very little of it, and feel better because of it. But someone PLEASE tell me how to deal with the issue with my children! Candy is not just given on holidays anymore, but literally every day from teachers, Sunday school helpers, well-meaning neighbors, banks, store clerks etc. Then I’m the bad guy who limits it (and throws it away when I can). They SNEAK it all the time now! How do I win this battle against society?

    1. You’re not just battling society, sugar tastes good and the brain likes it. It’s an instinct that requires mainly willpower to overcome. Sadly. But read up on the concept of sugar blocking, and ask your kids to never eat their candy, snuck or otherwise, on an empty stomach. At least they’ll keep the damaging blood glucose/insulin spikes down.
      : )

    2. In my home we have a one treat a day policy. That’s it. I think a child knowing they are guaranteed a treat of their choosing every day takes some of the pressure off to sneak around. But I sympathize. Sugar is no longer a treat in our society, it’s a staple, and we are paying a terrible price for it. What society creates conditions that give 1/3 of our children type II diabetes? It’s pure evil. There’s no other way to describe it.

    3. That can be managed. I live with a spouse that thinks everyday should be Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. She can’t pass a checkout stand without the impulse purchase of goodies for her little angels. She considers it punishment to deny a child their demands for sugar. My son complains of migraines my daughter has cavities. I’m the villain for pointing out the obvious.

  47. I can’t put my hands on the source, but recently read that 24 grams per day for women, and 36 grams for men per day was the suggested recommendation. I get that…and with each teaspoon of sugar equaling about 5 grams, it’s trackable.

  48. I’ve tried to find out something online, but am having a hard time: Does anyone here know if there is anything in fruit that we can’t get in vegetables? Any nutrient at all? I’m thinking that there isn’t. I believe I can get all the nutrition I need from vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, eggs and healthy fats. I’d appreciate any evidence to the contrary as I have maybe a few strawberries and blueberries in early summer and that’s about it. Thanks.

    1. I went to see a dietician at Kaiser to ask this very question. She had no clue, the only thing she kept saying, over and over, was that my 20g of carb a day diet was too low, I need 140g. I pointed out my 4.9 A1C (I’m a T2 diabetic) and the fact that I had lost considerable weight on a low carb diet, but she just didn’t have the knowledge to answer my questions. Stopped at a vitamin store on the way home and the 20-something person at the counter knew exactly what I was asking and why.

  49. 2 years ago after watching Robert Lustig’s lecture ‘sugar: the bitter truth’ I decided to quit added sugar just to see what would happen. What happened was that I lost 12kg in 6 months. And that was just from changing one thing. After that I did more ‘research’ and adopted a primal lifestyle and my health has continued to improve. Before quitting sugar I had attempted ‘mindful eating’ a few times to no avail. After quitting sugar my eating automatically became much more mindful – it’s as if sugar had somehow hijacked my appetite and once I let go the sugar I could actually tune in to that full feeling and know when to stop eating.

  50. What about the sugar content in water kefir?

    I make water kefir with 4 tablespoons of raw brown sugar in one quart of purified water and add the kefir “grains.” I let this sit and ferment for two days. I then strain out the “grains” and add a small amount of organic lemon juice. I then drink this over the next 2 days while the next batch is fermenting.

    Does the kefir “grains” and fermentation reduce the amount of sugar I’m consuming? Does the fermentation products (probiotics) change the sugar that I started with into something that is more beneficial than sugar is harmful?

  51. STAR TREK! There should be no question. Star Wars has been irritating ever since they renumbered and called SW Chapter IV, A New Hope. WTF? I just don’t believe that Lucas had it all mapped out BEFORE he wrote his first film. I’m over it.

    Some researchers believe that sugar is the devil and that the fructose content of sugars are what make us gain weight. This does not include fructose from fruit unless you juice it.

    Sugar certainly is primal. I’m certain that Grok would have gnawed on cane sugar, stevia leaves, or honey at a moments notice.

    1. I’m sure you’re right, Grok would have eaten sweet he got a chance to eat. But so far as we know, Grok didn’t get many chances at sweets. Add in the fact that most Groks were dead by 40 and we can see why sugar has become such a big deal for us.

      1. “Add in the fact that most Groks were dead by 40”

        What was the cause of death for all these Groks? Was it the food? the sabr-tooth tiger attacks, the infections,.. what?

        And why do generations of hunter-gatherers of the Brazilian rainforest and other places of today, live longer than 40?

        1. All kinds of causes of early death. The point is, Grok didn’t get the chance at a long life of sugar abuse like we do, so the effects we commonly see amongst our long-lived selves would have been largely unnoticed even if sugar had been constantly available.

    2. I’m sure you’re right, Grok would have eaten any sweet he got a chance to eat. But so far as we know, Grok didn’t get many chances at sweets. Add in the fact that most Groks were dead by 40 and we can see why sugar has become such a big deal for us.

    3. They never “renumbered” anything, “A New Hope” was always Episode IV. There’s also a very big difference between gnawing on “cane sugar”, and gnawing on sugarcane.

      1. Sorry, I failed to read your post carefully enough RE Star Wars. Lucas has however always said that the first film was meant to be the fourth episode, and this was corroborated by others including Spielberg.

  52. Comment/Question:
    Recent awareness of the MANY varied health problems with lack of Magnesium …. but there is a huge correlation between Sugar and Magnesium. It takes something like 50 times the Magnesium for the body/liver to digest Sugar, something like 1 gram of Sugar needs 50+ grams of Magnesium!! …. we can begin to see where all the problems are showing up with regards to lack of Magnesium!!

    I would appreciate any factual response to clarify and add information to this topic as we have just had a friend with major health issues finding out they are all related to this – over consumption of sugar and a severe lack of magnesium.

    1. That can’t possible be true. We don’t have 50 grams of magnesium in our entire body, let alone blood stream.

    2. There’s something wrong with the figure of 50g of magnesium. 50g is almost 2 ounces. That’s a huge amount of magnesium, probably enough to be toxic.

  53. Apples, berries, carrots, and yams add up to plenty of sugar for me, caloriecount warns me constantly my diet is high in sugar even when my total carbs stays <80g.

  54. I have recently seen an Aussie movie called That Sugar Film well worth a viewing if you can get. Sugar is hidden everywhere in al our healthy “Diet” foods.

    1. I believe that the movie will be released in the US soon. There is a great Facebook page “That Sugar Film”. There is also a book called That Sugar Book. Wonderful movie for the whole family.

  55. So Mark, how much sugar would you recommend? Do you think the WHO 5% is a good guide? I’m also just curious how much sugar you consume? I’m asking this as someone who has to much, but trying to get down to, at most 10%… Ahhh, with varying levels of success when there are no Easter eggs around!!

  56. I thought I was reading the Onion for the first two paragraphs. A bit too long of a gag.

    1. Oh no, not another member of the fun police ! If mark’s humour is not to your taste, why not just ignore it and keep reading? ‘PLAYING’ ( which includes playing with words IMHO )is part of the primal manifesto and gets your endorphins circulating ( healthier than a sugar hit 😉

    2. My only complaint was saying “only kidding” at the end which is always a bummer way to end a good piece of satire. But appropriate on a site that rarely jokes around.

  57. Aw c’mon chilli, chill out ! Maybe you should have a gram or two of sugar to sweeten your disposition. Mark makes his writing not only educational but fun as well – what’s not to like ?

  58. Sugar consumption in this country is way, way too high, and most people have no idea they are consuming as much as they are. Sugar is a hidden ingredient in most processed foods, to the point where people consuming those foods think that the way they taste is “normal”, and not sweet at all. If you don’t believe me, give someone who has been eating ketchup their whole life some ketchup without added sugar………they will hate it! Also, it drives me nuts that all of our celebrations (birthdays, etc) are centered around consumption of ultra-sweet foods (cake, candy, sweet drinks, etc). And if you go to a birthday party and decline to have a piece of frosted cake, you are looked at as some kind of health freak! The whole mentality in this country about food needs to change, before we can even begin to chart a healthier path……..

    1. Fortunately, in Santa Cruz California, it’s not uncommon to turn down cake for various reasons. So I’m rarely alone.

  59. I don’t keep track of how much sugar I consume, but I do know it is very low. My taste buds have improved so much that carrots actually taste sweet to me, which makes sense as they are high on the GI.

  60. It looks like, from where I’m sitting, is that every one has different metabolisms and or different goals. On one end of the spectrum some can eat 150g of carbs a day, some people, like myself, do 20g for a goal of starving out cancer. ( I really hate the use of such a loaded word).
    However, a good bench mark is to get an a1c test and see how much glucose is stuck to your hemoglobin. Good is 5.2, my last test was 5.7, threshold diabetes is, I think, 6.5. Don’t quote me though.

  61. Mark: I think you should rename your blog “MarksDailyAppleskin”. Those huge grocery store apples have all the nutrition in the skin and all the fructose inside. For the past several years I have peeled an apple, composted that big white ball of fructose, then chopped up the peeling to throw in my daily salad. Lots of crunch, flavor, and nutrition and no fruit bomb. Oh yes, you must wash off the pesticides before peeling.

  62. So 55grams overall but aren’t carbs essentially broken down into sugar? You could eat 0 grams sugar but eat 10 pieces of bread giving the same affect no?

  63. @luiz, we do the same, and both my husband and I are dropping several pounds each week. We’ve never felt better! No sugar or flour, and only limited low sugar fruits, very few grains, and no wheat at all. Now we are comfortable with refusing to eat any foods which contain these things, even when offered by family or friends. It seems that as soon as they find out, you will be singled out and let the persuasion begin…

  64. I have started making probiotic water kefir and kombucha – and both require sugar to feed the scoby/grains. I worry about how much sugar I am consuming. But I am seeking a beverage other than water or alcohol. I want the alcohol and can’t force myself to drink enough water.

    I don’t drink fruit juices or sodas. Hard cider is my downfall.

    Does anyone have any idea how much sugar is left in homemade Kombucha or water kefir? I start with roughly 1/4 cup of sugar to quart of water or tea.

    1. I don’t know about kombucha but have you tried the light china teas, maybe starting off with a teaspoonful of heavy cream if they’re too bitter on their own? Just a suggestion for a different beverage, hope you get answers on the kombucha issue. 🙂

      1. Thank you, MrsRathbone. I’m afraid I don’t understand what you are referring to with the china teas? Do you mean teas like black or green or do you mean something other?
        Thank you for your input. I am always seeking something other.

        1. Lapsang souchong and Darjeeling are both good without any additions, and Earl Grey is fragranced and has a sweetish flavour (scent-based, not due to sugars) that’s really noticeable once you get freed of a sweet tooth.

          Tip – let the water boil, then give a 20-second count before you pour it on, otherwise the tea comes out too bitter. I find teabags (1 in each mug) are as good as loose and more convenient, some purists don’t agree though!

          I love Darjeeling and you can start off making them fairly pale so they’re not too tannic, or with that spoonful of cream, then ease into taking them a little stronger, and black. They all have Wikipedia entries explaining how they’re made (and how they differ from regular black tea) and should be reasonably easy to track down. 🙂

  65. The sugary foods easily scare – but they will soon be back, and in greater numbers…

  66. Hey Mark
    I’m Australian and I noticed on the report you’re referring to, Australians are the 5th most exceptional people in the world for eating sugar. I eat well. I eat foods you can still recognize – fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, natural yogurt, lean meats …

    Ok, I’ll fess up …

    I love chocolate! Some reports tell you dark chocolate is actually good for you. I love dark chocolate! Sweet! The problem is I’m addicted. Like an alcoholic I can’t stop at one. I eat chocolate every night of the week. Chocolate comes loaded with fat and processed sugars. My addiction is starting to keep me from a good night’s sleep. Enough!

    Drum roll please … I’ve been chocolate free for 13 weeks!

    Here’s how I stopped the processed sugar cravings – I went cold turkey. I had to wait until I was away from home for a week, away from my regular routine.
    I discovered …
    1. If it wasn’t in the cupboard I couldn’t eat it.
    2. I craved the joules because I was tired. Bingo!

    Are you a recovered sugar junkie too? How did you break the habit?


  67. 10% on paper seems like a lot! Until I come across some dark chocolate covered fruit or nuts…
    DNAFit results recommend 8% max refined sugar and processed carbs.

  68. IIRC, Yudkin of “Pure, White, and Deadly” fame found massive health issues when consumption hit 70 pounds a year. Ya think? And that was a long time ago when “diabetes” wasn’t on everyone’s lips.

    So, just to keep the math simple and to err on the side of caution, let’s call it 52 pounds, one per week. That’s 455 or 456 grams, I can’t recall. Rounding down again for caution’s sake, let’s take 420 grams, divide by 7, and you have 60 grams per day.

    Oh, dear. Houston, we have a sugar intake problem. A 2:1 problem, as evidence almost a century ago.

    What is often not factored into the sugar equation, is that sucrose is 50-50 glucose and fructose. If glucose was bad for you, then all the high in starch eating cultures would be dead. Starch being, of course, long chain glucose.

    Once again fructose rears its ugly head. Not an apple a day kind of fructose, but massive already dissolved and liquified fructose. HFCS has, by design, more fructose that glucose. (Gram for gram, fructose is sweeter to us than glucose.) Perhaps this is one of those contributors towards obesity since fructose does not tell the brain it’s eating food, stop now.

    Note that old fashioned corn syrup is liquid glucose, no fructose with. A better option in some cases, mandatory for pecan pie. Karo, the dominant brand started adulterating it with HFCS and then withdrew, realizing that – DOH! – being able to say “No HFCS” was more important than saving a few pennies a bottle.

    I laugh at all those people in Whole Foods eschewing white sugar and HFCS and then selecting which brand of Aguave “Nectar” they want. Pure fructose made by the same process that HFCS is!

    I don’t shun the occasional piece of candy, and I don’t each much fruit (having learned how it packs my pounds on.) All things in somewhat less than moderation when it comes to fructose.

  69. Sugar makes me stupid. And I keep eating it. Screw that, I’m going primal for the fifth time in two years. The first four times didn’t work because I thought I could cheat a little and nothing would happen. I see the results, some months later, and I’m no closer to having more energy or feeling more relaxed. So yes, this time I’m through with sugar (except on my coffee).

    1. Remember if you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it, good luck. 🙂

  70. Are there any trackers that can split out added sugar so you can follow this easily? I limit ‘sugar’ to 50 g per day. I don’t worry about where it comes from. But it might be interesting to unveil that with a food tracker that ‘knows’ how to do that.

  71. Hmm… perhaps my IQ is insufficient to understand this, but how can they do an upper limit for carbohydrates, which excludes sugar?!

  72. I don’t have added sugar here in the UK. I typically though might have 2 pieces of fruit a day – today a grapefruit and about 100 cals of bluberries. (I am never ill so it obviously works to eat like this)as well as lots of vegetables.

  73. Thank you for your article. So true. I went shopping in Dallas and was extremely surprised to fit into extra small clothes while I’m a slightly overweight. I wear medium or large in my home country, Canada. I have a hard time to fit in European cuts these days. I used to be really slim and only then could I wear extra small. It felt good to see x-small on the label but I also know it’s somewhat a lie.

    I’m working on loosing weight to be in my healthy weight zone again and cutting added sugar helped me loose 6 pounds in 21 days. There’s definitely something there.

  74. i believe the easiest way to eliminate extra sugar is to only eat real food. Remove processed foods. Remove fruit juice and of course soda. No more than 1-3 servings of fruit a day but not bananas. Cut back on sugar in coffee or hot tea until you find the minimum needed to enjoy. Your taste for sugar will adjust itself if you start choosing to use less. I remember growing up and only having desert 4 or 5 times a year. My birthday and some holidays. It was not 4-5 days a week.

  75. Being Primal for the past five years, sugar is my biggest “cheat” but I think compared to most people I don’t eat much. Just some dark chocolate and occasional baked stuff, which I always make with honey or maple syrup anyway. And ice cream. In my defense I’ve been pregnant and/or breastfeeding the entire time I’ve been primal and those cravings are no joke!

    Some othe people mentioned the vanity sizing and it is so ridiculous. At 5’7″ and 140lbs right now I can wear a size 0 or 2. That just makes no sense. I always wonder what very thin, petite women wear, if I’m already in a 0…maybe they have to buy negative sizes? It’s all silly!!

  76. So much good information in this article. It really is hard to keep everything straight when one organization is saying one thing and another is saying something else. Stick to moderation and leave out the extra spoonful of sugar in the coffee and don’t break off an extra piece of that kit kat bar.

  77. Sugar is (at least to myself) complicated. I went sugar free 100% (except fruit) for over a year, then started letting some in a little bit at a time. If I am training hard, I need small doses of sugar for brain energy. By and large I steer clear of sweeteners, some of which I consider to be toxic and would never ingest. It takes an open mind to understand sugar. I only want to use it for “special” occasions. The education continues.

  78. I agree with most of the article. However, it is worth noting that some of us who are physically active do require more calories to maintain body weight. For instance, I’m a 5’8″ 125 lb male but need 2500-2600 calories since I’m getting a lot more than the 150 minutes of recommended exercise a week. So in my case, I think it is justifiable from the USDA’s recommendations that my sugar tolerance can be higher since I’m barely maintaining my weight, plus my diet is also filled with nutrient dense food.

  79. I’m from Ukraine, and those numbers might be a bit off, but people are definitely using much less added sugar there. I was considered having quite a sweet tooth, and I can’t eat or drink most of American desserts and drinks because they are way too sweet for me.

  80. Good post about added sugar. What about excess carbs that convert to sugar does that also count towards the six teaspoons of sugar? also I was searching for normal sugar amounts for dogs and it brought me here.

  81. In my personal experience people should not eat more than 6 to 12 tea spoons of sugar a day. Here is the break down:
    1. If you are under 26 years old and have an active life such as in third world countries or travel by bus or train daily or participate in sports then your total sugar intake should be 6 to 14 tea spoons a day. But, the total of 14 tea spoons does include sugars that we get from drinks and food. So lets say directly added sugar should not be more than 8 tea spoons a day.

    2. If you are between 26 to 42 and have an active life such as daily travel by bus or train, or participate in sports then you total sugar intake should be 10 to less than 10 tea spoons a day. Meaning, directly added sugar other than from food and drinks should be not more than 6 tea spoons a day.

    3. If you are over 42 and you have an active life style such as daily travel by bus or train or participate in regular exercises and or sports then your sugar intake should not be more than 6 tea spoons a day. The direct intake of added sugar should not be more than 3 tea spoons a day, unless you exercise rigorously in addition to your work.

    4. If you are over 50 and you do not have an active life style or are not travelling by bus or train, and not exercising rigorously please cut down your direct intake of sugar to less than 2 tea spoons a day and cut down your sweet sugary drinks (other than tea or coffee).

  82. I totally agree. Soda aside, I think that the increasing popularity of new-aged “health foods” has a lot of people assuming that items that are “gluten free” and “organic” automatically qualify them as healthy. I work in a “Health Food” store and see this all the time with fellow employees. Our daily deliveries of gluten-free muffins (essentially cupcakes) are eaten up by lunchtime. I feel that many of my coworkers don’t understand that they literally just exceeded any sane RDA for sugar, in a single snack.

    If you contrast this with the popularity of breakfast-style baked goods in places like starbucks (or Tim Horton’s in my homeland of Canada), it’s no wonder that we’re exceeding daily limits. A Canadian double-double (two creams, two sugars) and a Tim Horton’s muffin for breakfast and you’re already at 66g… At one point and time this was a very normal snack for me.

  83. I go to gym 5 days a week and i am constantly on the move does this mean my sugar intake would be acceptable at a higher rate

  84. I was listening to Mark on the Aubrey Marcus podcast. I heard something that confused me a bit. Mark said that fiber does not convert to glucose. Now was he talking about supplemental fiber or fiber in veggies? I should still be factoring the carbs I get from vegetables into my macro count for the day correct? Forgive my ignorance and thank you to anyone who can school me on this!