Drinking too many calories can cause more weight gain than eating too many calories from solid foods. Liquid calories don't satisfy as much as calories consumed from solid foods. As a result, people consume more fluid calories.

Defining sugar

There are two forms of sugar: natural and added sugar. Natural sugars come from fruits, vegetables and other plants (sugar cane). The most common natural forms of sugar include fructose, glucose and sucrose. Once sugars are extracted from natural food sources, they can no longer be labeled natural.

Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to beverages during processing or preparation. They include natural sugars as well as other caloric sweeteners that are chemically manufactured. Many processed dairy products also contain added sugars. Added sugars provide calories but few or no nutrients.

One teaspoon (4.2 grams per teaspoon) of sugar has about 16 calories. The average American eats about 20 teaspoons of added sugar every day. This adds up to over 70 pounds of sugar a year. Even worse, American teens are eating closer to 34 teaspoons a day. Much of this added sugar is in beverages.

Sugary drinks

Regular soft drinks are the No. 1 source of added sugars in Americans’ diets. 47% of added sugar in our diet comes from sugary drinks. The American Heart Association recommends that all Americans consume no more than 450 calories (36 ounces) per week from sugar-sweetened beverages (based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet).

Teens and men consume the most added sugars. Average daily consumption for men: 335 calories, women: 230 calories, boys: 362 calories, girls: 282 calories.

The guidance on the approximate amounts of solid fats and added sugars that can be part of a healthful diet is as follows:

  • Children ages 2 to 8 years: 120 calories/day
  • Children 9 to 13 years: 120 to 250 calories/day
  • Girls ages 14 to 18 years: 120 to 250 calories/day
  • Boys ages 14 to 18: 160 to 330 calories/day
  • Adult women: 120 to 250 calories/day
  • Adult men: 160 to 330 calories/day
  • How sugar can hurt your health

    Eating too much sugar can lead to dental decay, unhealthy weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Plus, eating lots of sugar makes you less likely to get all the vitamins and minerals you need in your diet. Here are some other health concerns:

    • Type 2 Diabetes — More than 410,000 Coloradans suffer from type 2 diabetes, and 1.3 million more have pre-diabetes.
    • Obesity — Colorado is the nation’s leanest state, but more than half of us (and one in four kids) are overweight or obese.
    • Tooth Decay — Four in ten kindergartners and more than half of third graders in Colorado have experienced tooth decay, the most common chronic disease of childhood.
    • Macular Degeneration — One of the leading causes of irreversible vision loss among Americans over age 40. In a study, female volunteers who ate a high proportion of "high-glycemic-index" foods were more than twice as likely to develop an early indicator of age-related macular degeneration.
    • Gout — A 22-year study of 80,000 women found that those who consumed a can a day of sugary drink had a 75% higher risk of gout than women who rarely had such drinks. Researchers found a similarly-elevated risk in men.
    • Shortened life-span — A 2013 study estimated that 180,000 deaths worldwide may be attributed to sweetened beverage consumption. The United States alone accounted for 25,000 deaths in 2010. The authors summarize that deaths occurred due to the association with sugar-sweetened beverages and chronic disease risk such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

    Make a change

    The best way to start cutting down on sugar is to choose water instead sugary drinks. Water, and not sports drinks, should be the main source of hydration after sports. Reducing liquid calorie intake has a stronger effect on weight loss than reducing solid calories. Drinking only water between meals can keep you hydrated and even help stave off hunger.

    The health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your health.