Rising sugar consumption prompts warning

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Rising sugar consumption prompts warning

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The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said on Thursday that Koreans’ intake of sugar is rising steadily because of their collective craving for soft drinks and coffee.

Koreans’ average daily consumption of sugar per person was 65.3 grams (2.3 ounces) in 2011, a 17 percent increase over the 2008 figure of 56 grams, according to a survey conducted by the ministry that examined the sugar habits of people from ages 6 to 64 from 2008-2011. The overall average intake during the survey period was 61.4 grams.

Teenagers’ (ages 12 to 18) average daily consumption of sugar topped that of other age groups, at 69.6 grams, followed by the sugar habits of people age 19 to 29.

More than half (34.9 grams) of the overall average intake came from sugar added to foodstuffs such as drinks, bread, milk and snack foods; naturally occurring sugar is present in many vegetables, fruits and other produce.

Sugary drinks were the biggest factor in the consumption of added sugar. People in their teens and 20s gravitated to carbonated drinks, while those in their 30s mostly stirred sugar into their coffee.

The ministry also highlighted how much sugar was in some popular drinks in an effort to keep people conscious of their eating habits.

A single serving of cafe mocha contains 13.8 grams of sugar; a hazelnut latte a whopping 20 grams. There are even higher sugar levels in a serving of cocoa (31.8 grams) or a smoothie (32 grams). A can of cola has a sugar content of 26 grams.

The World Health Organization suggests that people limit their added sugar intake to 10 percent of their total daily caloric intake; the ministry told the Korea JoongAng Daily that the average Korean consumption of 61.4 grams per day translates to about 13 percent of daily calories. A draft ministry document issued earlier this year is more generous, suggesting an added-sugar limit of 10 to 20 percent of total calories.

“If person eats an excessive amount of sugar,” said Lee Hye-young, a researcher at the Food Ministry, “he or she has a higher chance of developing diabetes or cardiovascular problems.”

She also underlined the higher risk of sugar hidden in many processed food items.

“Fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals,” said Lee Won-young, an internist at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital in northern Seoul. “But people with diabetes are encouraged to cut back on fruits as well, because their blood glucose level can surge, responding to sugar consumption.”

BY PARK EUN-JEE, KIM HYE-MI [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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