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Americans Eating More Processed Sugar, Study Finds


Americans are getting more than 10 percent of their daily calories from fructose, used mainly in sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods, a new study finds.

The study, analyzing the amount and sources of dietary fructose consumption among U.S. children and adults from 1988 to 1994, was published in the July 9, 2008 issue of The Medscape Journal of Medicine.

Fructose occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, however, it is added to many processed foods as table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup.

“Measurement of fructose consumption is important because growing evidence suggests that it may play a role in health outcomes,” says lead study author Miriam Vos, MD, MSPH, assistant professor of pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine.

Vos and colleagues examined fructose consumption patterns by sex, age group, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and body mass index for 21,483 U.S. children and adults. They used a single 24-hour dietary recall administered in the third National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES), the only nationally representative survey in the past 20 years to include fructose content as a reported variable.

The study found that U.S. children and adults consumed 54.7 grams of fructose per day, an almost 50 percent increase from a national study sample conducted in 1977-1978, which estimated mean consumption of fructose at 37 grams per day.

Fructose consumption was highest among adolescents ages 12 to18 at 72.8 grams per day. Among racial and ethnic groups, non-Hispanic blacks consumed the most fructose at 57.7 grams per day, or 11 percent of total calories. Normal-weight participants (56.2 grams) consumed more fructose than obese persons (51.1 grams). And those in the highest-income category consumed less of their total calories from fructose than those in the lowest-income category.

The largest source of fructose was sugar-sweetened beverages (30.1 percent), followed by grains, which include processed foods such as cakes, pies and snacks, breads and cereals (21.5 percent), and fruit or fruit juices (19.4 percent).

“Short-term studies have shown that fructose can elevate plasma triglycerides,” says Vos. “Further surveillance and research are needed to assess trends in fructose consumption and to develop a better understanding of the health impact of this common additive in the food supply.”


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