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How Much Sugar Do We Eat?

Updated on June 28, 2013

How much sugar do Americans consume? Consume, meaning eating and drinking. Yes, we not only eat sugar, but we also drink it in sodas and sugary beverages. Drinking sugar is a major cause of weight gain.

Estimates of American sugar consumption varies. But regardless of which estimates you look at, it is always "too much".

Here are some telling numbers on the annual refined sugar consumption in the U.S:

1750: 4 pounds per person, per year
1850: 20 pounds per person, per year
1994: 120 pounds per person, per year
1996: 160 pounds per person, per year
[reference: page 122 Primal Body, Primal Mind]

We consume 40 times more sugar now than we did in 1750. In 2011, we consume about 12 teaspoons of sugar a day.

Here is another source from the book The Happiness Diet ...

American Sugar Consumption per year

1700 - 5 pounds per person
1800 - 23 pounds per person
1900 - 70 pounds per person
2000 - 152 pounds per person

152 pounds per year is like 52 teaspoons that one person is eating every day.

Whatever the source, the number varies slightly. But any which way you look at it, we are eating way too much sugar.

Some estimates say that American consume 156 pounds of sugar per person per year.[reference] That is the equivalent of 0.43 pounds per day (almost half a pound).

Other estimates are similar saying that the average person consumes 140 pounds of sugar per year. [page 53 of Suicide by Sugar]

Dr. Mark Hyman shows a chart of our sugar consumption in pounds per person year from the 1800s all the way to 2008 on page 152 of the book The UltraMind Solution. He writes ...

"Historically, we ate the equivalent of only 20 teaspoons of sugar a year as a hunter/gatherer species. Now we eat 158 pounds per person per year, or about 50 teaspoons or half a pound each day. The average schoolboy has 34 teaspoons of sugar a day."[3]

One teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to four grams. What that means is that we eat more sugar in one day than we had eaten in one year when we were a hunter gatherer species. Was our body evolved or designed to take this amount of sugar? No, it is not.

The book Digestive Wellness, writes in regards to the average American diet ...

"We eat 17 percent of our calories from refined table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. The current estimate is about 496 calories a day and more than 22 teaspoons." [page 132]

Dr. Robert Lustig

Dr. Robert Lustig, an expert in childhood obesity at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, said in a 2007 Australian radio show "The Health Report" the following ...

"Our consumption of fructose has gone from less than half a pound per year in 1970 to 56 pounds per year in 2003."[1]

You can also watch Lustig's talk about sugar on YouTube. At around 23 minutes into the video he shows that we get about 15 grams a day of fructose from fruits and vegetables. In 1994, we consume 54.7 gm/day of fructose -- that's 10.2% of total caloric intake. With Adolescents consuming 72.8 gram/day. These number are for fructose. For sugar numbers, just double that number.

27 minutes into video he mentions that we consume 95 pounds a year of HFCS and sugar by 2000. Including fruit juice, the average person now consumes 141 pounds of sugar a year.

Gary Taubes New York Times Article

Gary Taubes in 2011 New York Times article...

"But 40 pounds per year happened to be 35 pounds less than what Department of Agriculture analysts said we were consuming at the time — 75 pounds per person per year — and the U.S.D.A. estimates are typically considered to be the most reliable. By the early 2000s, according to the U.S.D.A., we had increased our consumption to more than 90 pounds per person per year."[2]

And these number are "added sugar", meaning that they are sugar beyond what we naturally get in fruits and vegetable.

In his book Good Calories, Bad Calories, Taubes writes that the annual per capital consumption of sugar in the United States went from 10 - 20 pounds in the 18th century to 150 pounds in the 2010s.

In Gary Taubes book Good Calories, Bad Calories, he writes ...

"According to USDA statistics, between 1975 and 1979 Americans consumed an annual average of 124 pounds of sugars per person. By 2000, that number had jumped to almost 150 pounds." [page 199 Kindle Edition]

According to the featured article Sweet Little Lies in the December 2012 issue of Mother Jones magazine written by Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens, it says that in 1980, we consume 120 pounds of added sugar per capita. This includes sugars, corn sweeteners, honey, and syrups. In 2010, we consume a whooping 132 pounds of added sugar per year per person.

Other references:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest writes in 2000 ...

"According to new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, sugar consumption in 1999 was 158 pounds per person"[4]

The paper "Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century" found in the American Journal of clinical nutrition says ...

"The per capita consumption of all refined sugars in the United States in 2000 was 69.1 kg, whereas in 1970 it was 55.5 kg"[5]

You can see a bar chart here. Note that 1 kg is 2.2 pounds.

The consumption of sugar in the world has tripled during the past 50 years. [6]

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