‘Added sugar’ food labels may prevent heart disease and diabetes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the updated nutrition labeling in 2016

sugary candy

SWEET NOTHINGS  Nutrition label information on how much sugar is added to food and drink is estimated to reduce close to 1 million cases of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.


Nutrition label changes aimed at curbing America’s sweet tooth could have a sizable payoff for public health.

A new study projects that the updated labels, which detail the amount of sugar added to a food or drink, could help the average U.S. adult cut sugar consumption by around half a teaspoon a day. If that happens, the labeling change could prevent around 350,000 cases of cardiovascular disease and nearly 600,000 cases of diabetes over the next two decades, scientists report online April 15 in Circulation.

The estimates come from a simulation, covering the years 2018 to 2037, that was based on a representative U.S. population of about 220 million adults aged 30 to 84, and that used data on sugar intake from a national health and nutrition survey.

The updated sugar labeling is part of a series of nutritional label changes announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2016, to be fully implemented by 2021. The U.S. government also released updated dietary guidelines in 2016, recommending that people consume no more than 10 percent of their daily calories in added sugar (SN Online: 1/7/16). Added sugar accounted for 17 percent of an adult’s calorie intake, on average, in the United States in 2012, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  

Consuming too much sugar, especially in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, has been tied to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This link may be due in part because the body becomes resistant to the glucose-regulating hormone insulin.

Aimee Cunningham is the biomedical writer. She has a master’s degree in science journalism from New York University.

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