FDA On Sugar: Not So Sweet

The agency reverses itself—and capitulates to the sugar lobby. Action Alert!
Recently, the FDA announced a proposal to include a daily recommended value (DRV) for added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label of packaged foods and dietary supplements.
The “added sugars” designation has nothing to do with the amount of sugar that already occurs naturally in the food. “Added sugars” are any sugars (sucrose, fructose, etc.) that are added during processing. So while the sugar found in an apple would be considered naturally occurring, agave—a sweetener isolated from cactus—added to another product would be considered an added sugar, as would sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. (If a product contains an entry for added sugars, that’s an immediate indicator that it’s a highly processed food.)
The agency proposes that the daily intake of calories from added sugars not exceed 10% of total calories. Their “general nutrition advice” is 2,000 calories a day for adults and children 4 and above (meaning that, according to the government, a 5-year-old girl and an athletic 25-year-old man should both be fed the same amount). Under this new proposal, each should also consume 50 grams of added sugars every day. For children under 4, who might get 1,000 calories per day, this is 25 grams of added sugar. There is no current (or proposed) DRV for sugars in general, only the proposal for added sugars.
The FDA’s press announcement represents a somewhat surprising departure from previous messaging by the agency. Last year, the FDA proposed that the nutrition label declare how much added sugar a food contained but refused to establish a DRV, claiming that there was no “sound scientific basis for the establishment of a quantitative intake recommendation [from]  which a DRV could be derived.” This was correct: to imply that we need any amount of added sugar is false and misleading.
The agency now claims that the scientific evidence presented by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has convinced them that there is indeed a “sound scientific basis” for an added sugar DRV. Really? A “sound scientific basis” for eating processed food that contains 200 calories of high fructose corn syrup every day, in addition to whatever sugars are already in the food naturally? Food companies, and of course the general public, will regard this DRV as a recommendation to consume added sugar! Did this really come from the dietary committee—or from lobbying efforts by Big Food?
It’s generally good that consumers have more information about the nutritional content of their food—ANH-USA supports the inclusion of data about sugars on nutrition labels. But creating a DRV for added sugars is a tacit federal approval of putting extra sugars in processed foods, and that’s something we don’t need. The federal government already subsidizes sugar with import quotas and crop subsidies. The FDA—an agency charged with protecting public health—shouldn’t become yet another sugar sales agent.
Let’s also keep in mind that the average American already consumes three pounds of sugar every week. It has been estimated that this has led to chronic diseases whose treatment cost an extra $1 trillion in healthcare spending between 1995 and 2012.
Some consumers mistake products with added sugar as healthy snacks when they are anything but. For example, many brands of yogurt, especially low-fat yogurt, have more sugar than a Twinkie. Or take Vitaminwater: one 20 oz. bottle contains as much sugar as three Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Many “gluten free” products are especially loaded with added sugar. It seems to us that marketing these junk food products as health foods represents a form of fraud. The FTC is supposed to police fraud, but it looks the other way on these.
Further, the myriad dangers and health conditions caused by sugar—and the rather abysmal track record of nutritional advice offered by the federal government—are enough to tell us that the FDA shouldn’t be approving a 10% DRV number for added sugar. Particularly since the World Health Organization slashed its recommendation last year for daily total sugar intake, including from fruit, from 10% of total calories to 5% of daily calories.
Any integrative doctor or nutrition professional worth his or her “salt” will advise patients (in most cases) to strictly limit their sugar intake, and to eliminate added sugar completely—in particular artificial sweeteners and highly processed forms like high fructose corn syrup. Dr. David Williams doesn’t mince words: “I can’t put it more plainly: sugar kills.” (Alternatives Newsletter, June 2010).
(You can review some of our past articles on natural, healthier forms of sugar that are preferable to other sweeteners—but these should be used rarely, and in moderation.)
Even with a DRV for added sugar, it will still be difficult for consumers to know how much is too much sugar. Just because sugar naturally occurs in most fruits doesn’t mean we should eat them in abundance. Dr. Mercola, for instance, advises consumers to limit their intake of fructose from healthy fruits to 15 to 25 grams a day.
We should also keep in mind that DRVs in general are flawed. Each person has different requirements for different nutrients, and consumers should consult a nutritionist or an integrative physician to determine the ideal balance of nutrients specific to his or her own body. But it is also true that the Nutrition Facts panel is the only information that most people use to make decisions about their diet and health. In an ideal world, we would recommend that the government indicate not a recommended amount for natural sugar but rather a maximum, and drop the DRV for added sugar to zero, But Big Food political pressure would likely make anything the Feds come up with deeply flawed.
Action Alert! Write to the FDA and tell them their Nutrition Facts proposal for added sugars is wholly inadequate—that they shouldn’t be promoting a recommended value for added sugars at all. Please send your message immediately.


  1. Does anyone really pay attention to the FDA?. Weren’t they part of the brilliant group that said hydrogenated fat was better for us than saturated? Oops. Wonder how many clogged arteries came about from that bit of wisdom…..

  2. Force everyone one of these political appointees running the FDA to read the book: “Sugar Blues”

  3. The real joke is the sickness in this country is man made. Dollars dictate the food you eat and the food you eat is killing you. Read and educate yourself about nutrician find out what it is that you need to be healthy and strong, You will be surprised to find out it is not what you have been told all your life!

  4. If I want to put sugar in my coffee or tea, I have that right. If I want to use honey, raw honey I have that right. I think there is too much hysterics over sugar, especially that occurs naturally. I agree that synthetic sugars are not the best for good health. Not everyone has the same body or tolerance to sugar. Visit your local bee keeper and get a jar of raw honey that has been run through a sieve to remove the unwanted parts, put it in a dark cool cub bard till it turns to sugar. The natural bee pollens in it helps the allergies and when mixed with coffee or hot tea lends a fantastic flavor. Eat it like candy! Butter, real butter, you know the bad stuff made from the real thing is bad. Home made biscuit with real butter and honey and a cold glass of whole milk, just plain ole good eating…

      1. I like salads, salads are great. There is a limit to everything, even salads. Salads is great with a medium rare stake with a baked potato stuffed with butter and goodies and a large glass of cold whole milk! Ever had milk with the cream fresh? Very hard to get these days with all the food taboos! Everything is bad if taken to extremes.

        1. I’ll take my steak medium please 🙂 Haven’t had milk with real cream floating on top since I was a kid…..and we’re talking decades here. Thanks for the memories!!

        2. I don’t drink milk, I only use it as an additive in my food, like in tea or coffee or cereal.. or anything really. I just don’t drink it plain, I find it disgusting.
          Also, I don’t use dairy at all because it’s nearly impossible to find non-homogenized organic milk. The very rare times I can, it costs a fortune and I can only buy it as a one off. I’ve been consuming soy/almond/rice/coconut for the last decade now.
          As for meat; well done or bust. I can’t understand how people can even stand the smell of undercooked meat, let alone biting into it.
          And the baked potato.. try putting some coconut oil on it. No need for salt or butter with that; it’s pretty divine.

    1. Yeah, sure, don’t tread on me…got it. But as A1c rises above 5.7, retinas, brain function, life expectancy diminishes. And it rises just the same whether the rise occurs from honey, processed cane, or Agave.

        1. If you have to ask, I might not have enough time to explain. Nevertheless, go to Wikipedia at the very least and review what A1c is. (An average of blood sugar levels over a 90 day period can be derived from measuring glycated hemoglobin.)
          A1c rises somewhat with aging, but rises considerably with lack of sugar control. An A1c of 6.0 is considered borderline diabetic, but at that level, the glycation of nerves, retina, and blood vessels lead to damage.
          Sugar in the blood, is still sugar, whatever the source, and still harmful in high levels.

          1. Thank you for your expansion of the information.
            I just wanted to know a bit more about what you were talking about (and I’m sure others appreciate it as well). That is probably one of the main problems, nobody measures such a thing for themselves! Thus, without knowing how much sugar they eat (which should only be nominal if you just eat organic fruits that contain the natural fruit sugars), but with the amounts added to the processed foods, just like with salt, it gets insane! Thus, health problems. People are slowly figuring it out, though. Just need to spread the info and educate the masses.

    2. I agree with you, JDW. If you’re going to use sugar, local honey has the added benefit of helping aleve allergies. Our beehives were near the blueberry bushes, so the honey had great flavor. It never spoils. Sugar is highly processed, honey is not. Sugar contains 16 calories per teaspoon, honey has 22, but you’ll use less since it’s so much sweeter. Honey contains some vitamins and minerals and has anti-bacterial properties. Some of us like our sweets, but I was amazed at the actual differences in sugar and honey, such as honey’s lower glycemic index. I’m wanting a homemade biscuit with real butter and honey to go with my whole milk, too. We’re all going to die of something, but I’m not going to die hungry or from the e-coli in my spinach. I can do without the ‘Nursing Home Years’ that sugar and butter will cut off of my life expectancy.

        1. I agree….sort of. Butter from cows fed nothing but gmo grains and stading in their own sh**t all day might be better than sugar……MIGHT. But butter, preferably cultured, from grass fed cows is definitely good stuff 🙂

          1. The only *somewhat* beneficial dairy is Raw from a safe local, clean dairy.
            Anything commercial is poisoned. Ultra Pasteurized commercial dairy contains fat particles so small they pass the blood-brain-barrier and thus are unhealthy to ingest. They are UP’ed because the industry dairies they come from are not clean nor safe (not to mention not-humane.).

      1. We ignorantly consume foods that slowly kills us. Our life style is a great influence on our longevity. We are consumers of haste. Processed gmo food is at the top of the list. Eggs where bad for us, now they want to push grain feed, as a result the eggs have less protein. Our meats are full of injected synthetics. Just down the road from me “once upon a time was a farmers market” that is now a parking lot where local produce was sold. Now, you see a myriad of “one truck stands” with produce from mexico for sale. You do not know what fertilizer was used or insecticides that you will ingest with that salad.

        1. I’m in southeastern PA, and even stands with “local” produce are full of herbicides, insecticides, etc. My home is surrounded on three sides with gmo corn fields. The Amish market down the street is nothing but kiosks of processed foods; once Amish recipes now manufactured for sale with preservatives, etc.

      2. The problem is commercial honey can be contaminated by pollinators carrying GMO pollens from GMO death mono-fields. The only safe honey would be organic honey produced in a contained facility; such a sad thing.

    3. Using raw honey in hot beverages defeats the point of raw honey, unless you put it in at cooler temperatures. Heat kills the beneficial enzymes in raw foods, which is why they are not cooked over a certain degree.

      1. Do you have some evidence that enzymes you eat somehow bypass the digestion process and are absorbed by the body without first being broken down into base nutrients? Please share a link! It sounds kind of far-fetched…

          1. I’m sorry but you entirely missed my point. Whether they are destroyed by cooking or destroyed by digestion, what is the difference?!

          2. Seems like you are fairly passive aggressive and just want to attack me without basis.
            You want me to explain the benefits of eating to you? Fine: The difference between them being destroyed when you cook them before digestion and them being “destroyed” by your digestion is NUTRITION! When you ingest them raw they provide more benefits; unlike when they are destroyed before you ingest them (IE: cooking, processing, etc).

          3. Without basis? My basis is the truth. What basis do YOU have to claim that enzymes from raw food are somehow more nutritious or that those enzymes somehow survive the digestive process long enough to be absorbed by the body? I can actually answer that question: none!
            I notice in your most recent reply you’ve completely abandoned talking about enzymes (I guess you either realized you were wrong, or couldn’t find any evidence) and have now switched to claiming raw foods to be more nutritious than cooked foods. I would also like to see what evidence you have to make this new claim. I know for a fact that many foods are MORE nutritious when cooked, such as tomatoes, and some highly nutritious foods MUST be cooked to be eaten, such as beans and legumes. Cooking causes the nutrients in many foods to become more bioavailable, which means you’re missing out if you consume them raw.

          4. Yet again here you are with your base-less attacks. I never claimed that they survived through digestion. Raw food is more nutritious though. No, you are not a legitimate respondee and thus I am not taking you seriously any longer. This isn’t a debate about enzymes, it is you trying to get a “gotcha” moment when there isn’t one and it is just making you out to be a fool. I never claimed that raw food was better than cooked food, I merely stated that raw foods are better when they are not cooked. If you don’t know what I mean by raw foods, again, not my problem.
            Anyway, keep trying if you really feel it is necessary but there is nothing here for you to win so I don’t know why you are even wasting your time.
            Well, I suppose you are getting me to respond, but only to correct your blatant lies about me.

  5. Nutrition standards and labels are completely out-of-whack and flawed (no thanks to the government agencies like FDA and their “relationships”). For example, the % Daily Value one sees on Nutrition and Supplement labels are based on the year 1968 “Recommended Daily Allowance”. The entire system needs an overhaul by honest and holistic nutritionists and Integrative Drs.; not by mainstream RDs, who have been educated with the same principles as our current medical Drs. We not only have had massive changes in our food system since the late 1960’s, but our knowledge of what is truly healthy and what is not is now known.

  6. Look, the FDA is a classic case of the inmates running the asylum. Every single one of the political appointee hacks running the FDA is either an ex big pharma or ex Monsanto executive or lawyer. Totally useless organization. The are completely and categorically owned and run by the very industries they are suppose to be protecting us from. The administrators of the FDA are merely puppets on a string.

    1. Especially when the system/society you contribute to/live in maliciously poisons/abuses/maims/deceives/murders/etc you for the minority of rich jerks material gain.

  7. The internet is a treasure trove of information and self-education. It’s now up to citizens to educate themselves and eat right. And stand up to corporations who place profits above planetary and human safety and best practices…GoodGuide.com is a free tool to start.

  8. “Dr. Mercola, for instance, …” is a marketing genius (shyster). Start quoting him and I’m outa here.

  9. All these government agencies are out of control, run by ex corporate shills. They are working hard to make us sick and keep us that way, they are all making a fortune off endlessly treating the diseases they have created in the population while at the same time working to create more of them and higher priced drugs to treat them with. Working on being able, by way of government intervention, to force you to take their drugs and vaccines whether you want them or not. Trying to get vitamins, minerals and natural medicines banned so you can’t fix yourself. Prevent proper labeling to keep you from knowing for sure what is in your food. Take away our right to stand up and demand that poisons (GMO’s) be removed from our food and our environment. We need to take back control of our government, country and our right to choose. If we don’t do it now, while we still have a chance, we will never get another, we will die and doom our children and grand children, assuming we are still able to procreate in the future.

  10. It is simple: Sugar is an Anti-nutrient, meaning it requires nutrients to digest. You need the nutrients to safely digest it. If you continually ingest/digest it without an intake of the proportional amount of nutrition required to digest properly, you get health problems (obesity, diabetes, etc)!
    Avoid sugar, especially “added sugars”. Agave is probably the safest, among coconut sugars, etc. Always use raw for the highest nutritional benefit and try to maintain your intake.

  11. How about identifying foods that contain the life destroying properties of Monsanto’s GMO’s in our foods and farms? This is all B/S you know the FDA is just another controlled group that could care less about the population!

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