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Defining and interpreting intakes of sugars

This paper clarifies the myriad of terminologies used to describe intakes of sugars by American consumers. In addition, it carefully critiques information sources used to explain and interpret consumption levels. Sugars are incorporated into foods for their biological, sensory, physical, and chemical properties. By chemical definition, the sugars normally consumed are the monosaccharides and disaccharides: glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, lactose, maltose, and trehalose. US governmental agencies use 4 terms to describe sugars: added sugars, caloric sweeteners, sugar, and sugars. Different sources are included when measuring sugars. Knowledge regarding intakes of sugars relies on food intake surveys (primarily dietary recalls) and economic food availability estimates. Although intake data may underestimate actual consumption, availability data tend to overestimate it. Furthermore, the sugars contents of many foods appearing in composition databases are derived from the summation of recipe ingredients rather than from actual measurements. Intakes of sugars over time (trends) must be viewed within the context of varying definitions, changes in food composition, changes in dietary intake methods, and acknowledged increases in the underreporting of intake. Agreement is needed to identify one common definition to describe intakes of sugars. Convergence between intake data and economic availability data would more accurately depict consumption. Precise amounts of sugars within currently available foods should be measured, not calculated. Without a common language, accurate and precise measurements, and consensus among scientists, educators, regulatory agencies, and the public, conversations regarding any health effects of sugars may lead to continued misunderstandings

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