The World Health Organization is proposing that we eat less sugar, making it less than 5 percent of our daily caloric intake. That is the equivalent of about 25 grams of sugar, or six teaspoons.

(Ingram Publishing, ThinkStock)
(Ingram Publishing, ThinkStock)

The organization's current guidelines, published in 2002, recommend eating less than 10 percent of our total daily calories from sugars. But, most of us consume much more.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes about three pounds of sugar each week and our desire for sweet foods increased 39 percent between 1950 and 2000.  In draft guidelines proposed last week, WHO said there is increasing concern that the consumption of sugars, especially in sugar-sweetened drinks, can result in an increase in total caloric intake which can lead to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of diseases.  Dental troubles are a concern as well.

The proposed guidelines apply mostly to sugars that are added to foods by manufacturers and those found in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.  They do not apply to sugars found in fresh fruits and vegetables.

"I think what it comes down to is that all foods can fit in moderation," said Dr. Felicia Stoler, registered dietitian and exercise physiologist. "When people are very challenged with their food choices, it's really about what their relationship is with food. It's about taking personal responsibility. There certainly are guidelines and suggestions, but at the end of the day, it's really just forcing people to look at their own intake of foods

Stoler said "very processed" foods, like soft drinks, candy bars and other sweets, have the highest percentages of added sugars.

"It's really about paying attention to extra calories and the things that we can do with a little less of in our diets," Stoler said. "The flip side is not to turn around and add in non-nutritive sweeteners. Those are not necessarily any better."

The proposed guidelines are open for public comment until March 31.

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