Hi everyone,

The WHO recently announced that people would benefit from a further reduction in their current recommended free sugar intake of 10 percent of their total caloric intake to 5 percent per day. But in our daily routines how many of us go about calculating the amount of sugar we eat.


Not many of us. As busy as we are, we have difficulty just keeping track of the running total of calories and fat we consume let alone adding sugar to the list. It’s also complicated by the fact that many sugars are what we call “hidden sugars,” the sugars we find in many processed foods like ketchup, juices and pre-packaged foods. So, what we’re learning is that what you can’t see can actually hurt you.

What exactly is free sugar?

By the WHO’s definition, free sugar includes all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by manufacturers, cooks or us, as consumers, plus any sugar that is present in foods naturally like in fruit. Okay, so now that we know what it is, let’s look at what 10 percent and 5 percent of free sugar intake really looks like.

Most of us, me included, naturally think teaspoons or tablespoons when calculating sugar. I mean if you cook at all, this isn’t unusual.   So if 1 teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams of sugar, it’s safe to say that a 12-oz can of soda with 32 grams of sugar divided by 4 equals 8 teaspoons of sugar.   That’s a lot of sugar. It’s not uncommon for us to take for granted the hidden sugars in a lot of our foods. Without thinking about it most people I know put 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar in their coffee at the most. Of course, if you prefer flavored syrups it’s going to increase your sugar intake quite a bit. For example, coffee syrups, or specialty sauces used in coffee drinks and on ice cream, can carry quite the sugar punch, too. The main ingredient in caramel syrup is sugar, and carries 40 grams or 5 teaspoons of the sweet stuff for every serving consisting of 2 Tablespoons. So, when you make that specialty coffee drink at home you definitely have more control over the recipe. But if you prefer to run to Starbucks every morning for your java fix, your sugar and calorie estimate might be slightly off when it comes to these extra syrups.

If you’re thinking that switching to honey or a natural sweetener might be a better strategy for you; think again. That honey may be natural but it has negligible amounts of nutrients, and that molasses may have a few scant minerals, so the bottom line is that both the honey and the molasses is still a concentrated sweetener.

So getting back to what 10 percent of free sugar intake looks like in your diet, let’s say, as an example, you reduce your free sugar intake to 10 percent as suggested. Let’s say that amount happens to be 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of sugar for the entire day.   A further reduction to 5 percent would be 25 grams or only 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. But let’s think about it, could you reduce your sugar intake to only 6 teaspoons a day? It may not be as easy as you think when you consider that ONE 12 oz. soda would already be well over the free sugar intake recommended by the WHO!

According to the WHO organization, they researched and gathered papers published from the Journal of Dental Research to assist with this latest proposal and conditional recommendation on free sugars. Their main concern was over sweetened drinks taking the place of more nutritionally sound choices and increasing the overall calorie intake that ultimately increases obesity and leads to many chronic diseases, such as heart disease. It was also found, when analyzing these studies, that a further reduction of sugar intake to 5 percent would play a greater role in decreasing dental caries, another prevalent and chronic disease.

At Dr. Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD, PC, we advise our patients to watch their sweet in-between meal treats and to brush after a sugary snack or soft drink if possible. Don’t have a toothbrush or have time? A few swishes of water can help dilute and wash away sugary debris at least until you can get to a toothbrush. It’s our mission and pleasure to keep your whole smile healthy for a life time. You can help, by calling us at (248) 356-8790 to schedule your next dental check-up with us. Discover the difference a great dental office can make!

Until Next Time,

Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
Your Southfield Family Dentist
Tel: (248) 356-8790