White sugar being weighed for a cake
White sugar being weighed for a cake

Added sugars or free sugars are sugar carbohydrates (caloric sweeteners) added to food and beverages at some point before their consumption.[1] These include added carbohydrates (monosaccharides and disaccharides), and more broadly, sugars naturally present in honey, syrup, and fruit juice.[2][3][4] They can take multiple chemical forms, including sucrose, glucose, fructose, and dextrose.

Excluded from the definition are sugars that are naturally found in fully unrefined carbohydrates such as brown rice, wholewheat pasta, and fruit.

Medical consensus holds that added sugars contribute little nutritional value to food,[1] earning a colloquial description as "empty calories". Overconsumption of sugar is correlated with increased calorie intake and weight gain.[1]


In the United States

In the United States, added sugars may include sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup, both primarily composed of about half glucose and half fructose.[5] Other types of added sugar ingredients include beet and cane sugars, all types of corn syrup (including solids), malt syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup, fructose sweetener, liquid fructose, fruit juice concentrate, honey, and molasses.[5][6] The most common types of foods containing added sugars are sweetened beverages, including most soft drinks, which represent 20% of daily calorie consumption,[1] twice the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO).[1]

Based on a 2012 study on the use of caloric and noncaloric sweeteners in some 85,000 food and beverage products, 74% contain added sugar.[5][7]

Sweetened beverages

Sweetened beverages contain a syrup mixture of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose, which is formed by hydrolytic saccharification of the disaccharide sucrose.

The bioavailability of liquid carbohydrates are higher than in solid sugars.


World Health Organization

See also: Sugar marketing § Influence on health information and guidelines

In 2003, the WHO defined free sugars principally by splitting the term "carbohydrate" into elements that relate more directly to the impact on health rather than a chemical definition, and followed on from meta-studies relating to chronic disease, obesity, and dental decay. In tandem with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the WHO published a revised food pyramid that splits up the classic food groups into more health-directed groups, which appears, as yet, to have had little impact on the food pyramids in use around the world.[citation needed] The WHO recommended that a maximum of 10% of an individual's diet should come from free sugars.[8]

The WHO's definition of free sugars based on their health impact rather than their chemical constitution received backlash from the U.S. sugar industry. Sugar companies attempted to get the U.S. government to remove funding from the WHO for suggesting that consumption of free sugars within the food pyramid should only amount to a daily maximum of 10%, and that there should be no minimum (i.e. no requirement for any free sugars in the human diet)[9][10][11][8] on the basis that the report did not take into account the evidence supplied by the sugar industry. The WHO's report specifically includes references to this evidence, but was unable to use it for a health basis, as the studies did not offer effective evidence of an impact on health.[2]

In 2015, the WHO published a new guideline on sugars intake for adults and children, as a result of an extensive review of the available scientific evidence by a multidisciplinary group of experts. The guideline recommends that both adults and children reduce the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake. A reduction to below 5% of total energy intake brings additional health benefits, especially with regards to dental health.[12]

In 2016, added sugar was added to the revised version of the nutrition facts label and was a given a daily value of 50 grams or 200 calories per day for a 2,000 calorie diet.[13][14]

European Food Safety Authority

In February 2022, scientists of the European Food Safety Authority concluded that sugar consumption is a known cause of dental caries, and that evidence also links―to varying degrees of certainty―consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, juices and nectars with various chronic metabolic diseases including obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and type 2 diabetes. Prof. Turck said: "We underlined there are uncertainties about chronic disease risk for people whose consumption of added and free sugars is below 10% of their total energy intake".[15]

There is evidence for a positive and causal relationship between the intake of fruit juices and risk of some chronic metabolic diseases.[16]

American Heart Association

In 2018, the American Heart Association recommended daily intake of sugar for men is 150 calories or nine teaspoons per day, and for women, 100 calories or six teaspoons per day.[17][failed verification]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Lindsay H Allen; Andrew Prentice (December 28, 2012). Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition 3E. Academic Press. pp. 231–233. ISBN 978-0-12-384885-7. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation, 2003, "WHO Technical Report Series 916 Diet, Nutrition, and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases", Geneva". 2003. Archived from the original on July 7, 2004.
  3. ^ Diet, nutrition and the prevention of dental diseases, Public Health Nutrition: 7(1A), 201–226
  4. ^ Chesak, Jennifer (June 21, 2019). "The No BS Guide to Added Sugar". Healthline. Natalie Butler (medical reviewer). Retrieved March 30, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c "Hidden in Plain Sight". SugarScience, University of California at San Francisco. 2019. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  6. ^ Committee on Examination of Front-of-Package Nutrition Ratings Systems and Symbols; Institute of Medicine (December 21, 2010). Examination of Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Phase I Report. National Academies Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-309-18652-0. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  7. ^ Ng, Shu Wen; Slining, Meghan M.; Popkin, Barry M. (2012). "Use of Caloric and Noncaloric Sweeteners in US Consumer Packaged Foods, 2005-2009". Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 112 (11): 1828–1834.e6. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.07.009. ISSN 2212-2672. PMC 3490437.
  8. ^ a b Barbara Sibbald (June 10, 2003). "Sugar industry sour on WHO report". CMAJ. 168 (12): 1585. PMC 156706. PMID 12796354.
  9. ^ "Sugar industry threatens to scupper WHO", Sarah Boseley, health editor, The Guardian, Monday 21 April 2003
  10. ^ "Sugar Industry Takes on the World Health Organization", John Ydstie and Marion Nestle (Chair of the Nutrition and Food Studies Department at New York University, Author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (University of California Press, 2002)), NPR, April 24, 2003
  11. ^ Boseley S. (2003). "Political context of the World Health Organization: sugar industry threatens to scupper the WHO". Int J Health Serv. 33 (4): 831–3. doi:10.2190/u0mw-wm82-n5bh-e20c. PMID 14758862.
  12. ^ See Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2015 Archived 2015-08-17 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Nutrition, Center for Food Safety and Applied (January 8, 2021). "Added Sugars on the New Nutrition Facts Label". FDA.
  14. ^ Charles, Dan (May 20, 2016). "An 'Added Sugar' Label Is On The Way For Packaged Food". NPR. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  15. ^ "Added and free sugars should be as low as possible | EFSA". www.efsa.europa.eu.
  16. ^ Turck, Dominique; Bohn, Torsten; Castenmiller, Jacqueline; de Henauw, Stefaan; Hirsch‐Ernst, Karen Ildico; Knutsen, Helle Katrine; Maciuk, Alexander; Mangelsdorf, Inge; McArdle, Harry J; Naska, Androniki; Peláez, Carmen; Pentieva, Kristina; Siani, Alfonso; Thies, Frank; Tsabouri, Sophia; Adan, Roger; Emmett, Pauline; Galli, Carlo; Kersting, Mathilde; Moynihan, Paula; Tappy, Luc; Ciccolallo, Laura; de Sesmaisons‐Lecarré, Agnès; Fabiani, Lucia; Horvath, Zsuzsanna; Martino, Laura; Muñoz Guajardo, Irene; Valtueña Martínez, Silvia; Vinceti, Marco (February 2022). "Tolerable upper intake level for dietary sugars". EFSA Journal. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2022.7074.
  17. ^ "Sugar 101". American Heart Association. April 17, 2018. Retrieved July 9, 2019.