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TheStreet Open House

Our Sugar Consumption Is Out of Control, Author Says

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Sugar is not so nice -- to the human body, that is.

The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, says J.J. Virgin, a nutritionist and author of Sugar Impact Diet, due out in November. That's to the benefit of a cane sugar refining industry that made $3.3 billion in revenue in 2012 with an estimated gross profit of 19.21%, according to a market report issued last year, but not to the benefit of consumers.

"Save for momentary gratification, nothing good comes from eating sugar," Virgin says. "It wrecks your immune system, crashes your blood sugar to create fatigue and bloating, stores as fat and sets the stage for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer."

That may be news to people who've consumed another product of sugar producers such as C&HDixie Crystals, Domino and Great Western: a public relations campaign to keep sugar's market share high that Mother Jones magazine identified as costing about $3.4 million a year.

Also see: You Have a 25% Chance of Needing Disability Insurance

Virgin reached out with a thorough -- and alarming -- list illustrating the extent and result of Americans' addiction to sugar -- an addiction she calls as strong as one to cocaine, based on brain scans of people who use each. Be prepared to switch from that candy bar to an apple when you finish:

  • Recent analyses indicate that children and adolescents get about 16% of their total caloric intake from added sugars.
  • In the average American's diet, added sugar accounts for almost 500 calories per day.
  • The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar every day, and the average child consumes 32.
  • In 1900, the average American consumed five pounds of sugar annually. By 2000, that number had risen to 150 pounds annually.
  • Worldwide, consumption of sugar is growing faster than population. In the past decade (from 2000 to 2010), sugar consumption rose by 23%.
  • The average American will chug down three pounds of sugar each week, adding up to 3,550 pounds over a lifetime. That's enough sugar to fill an entire industrial dumpster.
  • The biggest sugar culprit? Soft drinks, which account for 33% of added-sugar intake each day. A 12-ounce soft drink is like sitting down and eating 10 teaspoons of sugar. Keep in mind, too, that most people are opting for larger-sized soft drinks.
  • Fruit drinks, often touted as healthy for kids, make up about 10% of added sugar intake.
  • Dairy desserts (such as ice cream) and milk account for almost 9% of added-sugar intake.
  • More than 70 health disorders are linked to sugar consumption, including diabetes, poor brain development in children, lack of concentration, allergies, asthma, ADHD, hypoglycemia, mood swings and immune and nutritional deficiencies.

Virgin says she's a realist, and knows there's little chance you won't get some sugar in your body no matter what diet you use. Even veggies and nuts contain some of the sweet stuff.

But she advises absorbing that sugar as slowly as possible, and advocates a low-glycemic diet that gives you a low, slow rise in blood sugar, instead of the "giant insulin surge" you get from most sugary foods and drinks. That can help avoid the fatigue, inflammation and weight gain that comes with traditional sugar intake.

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