Healthy Living: Most of us are consuming way too much sugar

Lots of people are talking about Seattle's new sugary drink tax.  The tax went into effect January 1st and means most sweetened beverages like sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks will cost more, for distributors and for consumers.  Some of the money from the tax will go toward health education to sway people from drinking the sweet beverages.  While some say this was a political move and just another new tax, others argue it's an important step to help people live healthier.

It's probably no surprise, most of us are consuming way too much sugar each day.  How much though, may shock you.  According to the American Heart Association, the recommended daily level of added sugar a day for women and kids is 6 teaspoons or less, and for men, it's 9 teaspoons or less.  For comparison, a 12-ounce can of regular soda has 10 teaspoons of added sugar and a 20-ounce bottle of soda has 16 teaspoons of added sugar.

Dr. Mary Ann Bauman is an internist and speaks on behalf of the American Heart Association.  She says Americans are consuming too much sugar and it's having a negative impact on our health.  She sat down with Q13's Marni Hughes to talk about the health concerns around too much sugar.

How much sugar are most of us consuming each day?

Most people, it's about 20 teaspoons a day which is 3 times what women are supposed to do and about twice what men are supposed to do and three times what kids are supposed to do.

What's your biggest health concern when it comes to sugar?

There are a number of different things.  First of all, obesity, right. That is the major issue we're dealing with.  Heart attacks, strokes, diabetes is an epidemic and we think (sugar) plays a great role in that.  Also, a lot of people don't know, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer are increased when you are obese.   Remember, we've got 69% of our country that is overweight or obese.

We should be reading nutrition labels, what words or phrases can sugar hide under?

Glucose, fructose, the corn syrups, the high fructose corn syrups.  Also, people don't realize, honey, agave, they think this is healthy, but it's still sugar.  Just like people do sea salt thinking it's not salt, it's still salt.  All of these play a role and you have to look at the labels.  You would be shocked at the amount of sugars and the amount of carbohydrates that are in everything that you eat.

What's your advice to help us cut back on sugary drinks?

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 ounces of sugar per week.  So we're not saying you can never have a soft drink again, but instead you need to limit it.  You need to increase your water and do other things.   I tell people find the least amount of sugar in something that you can enjoy because we're supposed to enjoy food, we're supposed to enjoy things, but you can change your taste-buds and if you do that you'll find that things that you used to eat or you used to drink and you loved them are way too sweet now.