ADA Says Sugar Consumption Levels Can Be Linked to Race, Family Income and Education

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A study of the sugar consumption habits of 30,000 Americans by the American Dietetic Association concludes that race/ethnicity, family income and education levels are important factors in how much sugar a person eats.

As a result, it says that programs designed to counter high levels of added sugar consumption need to take those factors into account. (Added sugar is defined as refined sugar added to foods as opposed to food that contain natural sugars, such as fruits and vegetables. Overall, the U.S. department of

Agriculture estimates that sugar constitutes 17 percent of all the calories Americans consume daily.)

The study, published in the August 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, said that while each factor is independently associated with higher sugar consumption, groups with low income and educational levels are particularly likely to eat high-sugar diets. 

In both men and women, regardless of race or ethnicity, persons with higher income and education were likely to consume less sugar than their less-affluent, less-educated peers.

Among men, African Americans had the highest sugar intake. White, American Indian and Alaskan Native men also had high intakes. Among women, African Americans and American Indian/Alaskan Natives, respectively, had the highest intake.  
Among racial and ethnic groups, Asian Americans had the lowest sugar intake, followed by Hispanics.

The ADA’s conclusions were based on the 2005 US National Health Interview Survey’s  Cancer Control Supplement, where investigators asked questions about sugar intake. The National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts the cross-sectional study each year to ask people to questions about their behaviors and health. Occasionally questions about cancer are added to help researchers spot environmental factors that might play a role in the disease.

In the 2005 version, questions covered diet, exercise, smoking, sun exposure, cancer screening, genetic testing, and family history of cancer. Questions about diet, including four that specifically addressed foods with added sugars, allowed researchers to match ethnic and racial groups’ sugar consumption in terms of servings of fruits and vegetables, teaspoons of sugar, grams of fiber, dairy servings, and calcium intake. This allowed them to determine each group and sex’s average added sugar intake.

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