Total, added, and free sugars: Are restrictive guidelines science - Based or achievable?

Jennifer Erickson, Joanne L Slavin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Sugar consumption, especially added sugars, is under attack. Various government and health authorities have suggested new sugar recommendations and guidelines as low as 5% of total calories from free sugars. Definitions for total sugars, free sugars, and added sugars are not standardized, nor are there accepted nutrient databases for this information. Our objective was to measure total sugars and added sugars in sample meal plans created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Utilizing the Nutrition Data System for Research (NDSR) nutritional database, results found that plans created by the USDA and AND averaged 5.1% and 3.1% calories from added sugar, 8.7% and 3.1% from free sugar, and 23.3% and 21.1% as total sugars respectively. Compliance with proposed added sugar recommendations would require strict dietary compliance and may not be sustainable for many Americans. Without an accepted definition and equation for calculating added sugar, added sugar recommendations are arbitrary and may reduce intakes of nutrient-rich, recommended foods, such as yogurt, whole grains, and tart fruits including cranberries, cherries, and grapefruit. Added sugars are one part of excess calorie intake; however, compliance with low added sugar recommendations may not be achievable for the general public.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2866-2878
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 15 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Added sugar
  • Free sugar
  • Nutrition facts labels
  • Sugar recommendations


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