How Much Sugar is Too Much?

sugarby Stephanie Nesbitt

The overweight and obesity epidemic has changed drastically over the years in the U.S. Obesity is classified as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or higher and overweight is classified as a BMI of 25 kg/m2 or higher. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33.9% of adults are overweight and 35.1% of adults are obese. Obesity and sedentary behaviors have both been linked to a variety of chronic diseases. These chronic diseases include heart disease, stroke, cancer and type-2 diabetes; all of which are major health concerns among Americans. Most, if not all of these chronic diseases may be prevented.

Research has stated that the chronic diseases listed above are not only exercise-related, but diet-related as well. The combination of poor diet and inactivity may lead to health disparities such as type-2 diabetes. There has been research that states consuming sugary drinks is linked to the development of type-2 diabetes. The American diet contains a lot of sugar. There is sugar in almost every type of processed food/drink available in the grocery store. Food companies disguise sugar in the ingredients list by using the terms “agave syrup,” “corn sweetener,” “high-fructose corn syrup,” “fruit juice concentrate,” and “molasses,” etc. The American Heart Association recommends women to consume no more than 100 calories of sugar per day (around 6 teaspoons(1)), and men to consume no more than 150 calories of sugar per day (around 9 teaspoons). According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey the average American consumes over 20 teaspoons of sugar a day (which is the equivalent to 335 calories consumed by men, and 230 calories consumed by women). With the holidays around the corner it seems that every food group is comprised of mainly some type of sugar. Controlling your sugar intake, overall portion control and incorporating physical activity into your daily routine may help reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

Diabetes is such a debilitating word, but it doesn’t have to be a debilitating disease. Most of us hear the term diabetes and don’t fully understand what it means. Diabetes is a condition where the body does not properly use the energy provided from food. Small lifestyle changes such as dietary modifications and exercising on a regular basis may reverse the effects of diabetes, if not prevent it. There are two types of diabetes: type-1 and type-2. Type-1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Only 5% of people with diabetes have this specific type. When someone has type-1 diabetes it means that their body does not produce enough insulin(2). Our body’s immune system destroys insulin producing cells in the pancreas and may need insulin injections or an insulin pump to cope with this disease. Type-2 diabetes usually develops after the age of 40, but lately has been seen in children. When someone has type-2 diabetes it means their body does not use insulin properly. People who suffer from type-2 diabetes are hyperglycemic(3). The pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it, but over time the body cannot keep up and make enough insulin to keep blood glucose at normal levels. Regardless if you suffer from diabetes (either type) or not, regular physical activity and proper diet is always recommended for living a healthy lifestyle.

(1) 1 teaspoon of sugar has around 16 calories.
(2) Insulin is the hormone in our bodies that is needed to convert sugar, starches, other carbohydrates and food into energy.
(3) Hyperglycemia is when the blood sugar levels rise to levels above normal.


American Diabetes Association. (2015). Diabetes basics. Retrieved from http://www.diabetes .org/diabetes-basics/type-2/

American Heart Association. (2014, March 19). Getting healthy. Retrieved from http://www.

Brown, O. (2013). The challenges of changing dietary behaviors of underserved populations. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 7(6), 367-370.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, September 9). Adult obesity facts. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, April 17). About BMI for adults. Retrieved from

Tung, W., & McDonough, J. (2014). Overweight and obesity among Hispanic/Latino American women. Home Health Care Management & Practice, 10, 1-4.

Wise, J. (2014, May 29). Obesity rates rise substantially worldwide. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 348, g3582.

About the Author
Stephanie Nesbitt obtained her Bachelors in Exercise Science from California State University at Fresno. She expects to complete her Masters in Exercise Science from California State University at Long Beach in Fall 2015. Stephanie has been involved in athletics most of her life – softball, volleyball and horseback riding were her favorites growing up. Today, Stephanie enjoys running. She partakes in service-learning opportunities in her community as well as educating individuals on the benefits of quality exercise and nutrition.

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