A small added sugar label change could have big impacts on health and wealth, according to a new study from Tufts University.
Within the next two years, a new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy — requiring food manufacturers to add more information about added sugars — is set to take effect.
The FDA announced the mandatory changes in 2016. By 2021, all processed food labels must include the grams and percent daily value of added sugar content. The goal being to help consumers limit the calories from added sugar in accordance with the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines for Americans. Researchers noted that in the U.S. people consume more than 15 percent of their total calories from added sugars. That increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Researchers found that the new added sugar labels could:
• Prevent or postpone 354,400 cases of cardiovascular disease and 599,300 cases of diabetes
• Gain 727,000 quality-adjusted life-years
• Save $31 billion in net healthcare costs and $61.9 billion in societal costs
Researchers also considered what might happen if the food industry reduces added sugar in light of the new labels. According to the analysis, the new label could:
• Prevent or postpone 708,800 cases of cardiovascular disease and 1.2 million cases of diabetes
• Gain 1.3 million quality-adjusted life-years
• Save $57.6 billion in net health-care costs and $113.2 billion in societal costs
According to a 2013 study published by the National Center for Health Statistics, added sugar accounts for over 14 percent of total calories consumed by both men and women between the ages of 20 and 39. This translates to 397 calories of added sugars for men and 275 calories for women.
This translates to 397 calories of added sugars for men and 275 calories for women. By contrast, the World Health Organization recommends a limit of 5 percent of total calories for added sugar, which is about 140 calories for men and 95 calories for women.
Added sugars are refined forms of sugar (such as white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup, or honey) that are added to processed foods to increase their sweetness. Many nutrition experts — and the FDA — believe that it is important to limit added, rather than total, sugar in your diet, since there are health benefits associated with many foods that contain naturally-occurring sugar (such as fruits, cooked tomato products, and milk products).