Sweet Idols-Part 1: Are you eating more sugar than required?
Dr AR Shenoy 01 July 2013

Much of our food-related advertising panders to our sugar addiction that results in fuelling our desire to consume even more of sugar. This is the first part of a two-part series

Sweet is a taste that we cherish; we are genetically predisposed like many of our fellow creatures to love sweetness.  During pre-history, sweetness was luxury; man consumed sugar through the medium of plucked fruits or occasionally through freshly extracted honey. With the advent of agriculture and later the industrial age, mass production of cane sugar and beet sugar came into being and sugar transitioned from a once luxury to a daily staple.  If health is a consequence of interaction between genetics and environment, then sugar is certainly one of the most important variables that defines our gastronomical environment and it certainly has a lot of adverse impact on our health.  Many scientists concur that that the deleterious metabolic effects of sugar are due to the fructose moiety of the sugar molecule; the calories provided by the fructose from sucrose triggers visceral obesity and a host of metabolic problems—but more about that later.


Much of our food related advertising is about pandering to our sweet sugar addiction. From biscuits to colas to fruit drinks to ice-creams to chocolates to jams and ketchups—a barrage of advertising blitzkriegs us and our children every day from our television screens, the print media and the internet, influencing our food choices; creating and fueling our desire to consume sugar in the form of liquid and solid calories and leaving in its wake an epidemic of obesity and its associated complications. 


Given above is a graphic illustrating the percentage of sugar, gms per 100gms or 100ml in various processed foods available commonly in the Indian market and consumed widely.  And if you thought sugar was all about sweetness, think again even a tangy product like Hindustan Unilever’s Kissan tomato ketchup which we consume generously with our savories contains a whopping 26 grams of sugar per 100 grams of ketchup!


Contrast the information portrayed in the above graphic with ICMR’s recommendations for the daily consumption of sugar (intrinsic + extrinsic(added)) for children and adults which we obtained from a query to ICMR under the Right to Information Act, 2005, and which is given below.

SI. NO.               Age Group   Recommended sugar & jaggery intake (g/day)

1.                        1-3 years                                      30

2.                        4-6 years                                     40

3.                        10-12 years                                 45

4.                        ≥18 years (Men)                        30

5.                        ≥18 years (NPNL* women)     35

* NPNL - Non pregnant non-lactating

The American Heart Association (AHA) is even more conservative than the ICMR in matters of daily added sugar intake.  It recommends the following daily intake levels of sugar for men, women and children (reference. 1, 2). Men should not consume more than 45 grams of added sugar per day; women should not consume more than 25 grams of added sugar per day and in case of children and teenagers:—For preschool children the recommended added sugar intake is around 16.7 g per day, for children from ages 4 to 8 the recommended added sugar intake is 12.5 g per day. For Pre-teen and teenagers the recommended added sugar intake is between 21 and 33 g of sugar per day.


As can be seen, eating even a big bar of Cadbury Silk chocolate (160gms) or half of it is equivalent to consuming 89 gms or 44.5 gms of sugar a day! But is that all we consume? For breakfast and tea, along with our savories we consume, depending upon our whim, tablespoons of ketchup or jam.  We eat biscuits, consume ‘refreshing’ soft drinks (colas or fruit juices) during the course of the day and finally the two teaspoons of sugar that might go in to our several cups of coffee or tea through the day! Clearly, we over-consume sugar several times over the ICMR as well as AHA recommended daily intakes for added sugar.

Read the second part here....

(Dr Arvind Shenoy is an MSc (Organic Chemistry) and PhD in Biochemistry from UDCT, Mumbai. He has 43 years of experience in the analysis, R&D and marketing of foods, organic and inorganic chemicals, plastics, rubber, paper, textiles, waxes, leather, pharmaceuticals, etc. He is the only person from India to have been trained in Belgium, the Netherlands and England in comparative product testing.)

N Kanitkar
1 decade ago
How does jaggery as a replacement of Sugar in the daily cups of Tea and/or cooking help? Also if a person is exercising regularly, i suppose the sugar levels that he/she consumes could be more than the prescribed limits?
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