75 Teaspoons of Sugar Recommended Daily for “Healthy” People!

I recently came across a website that promised to tell me how many grams of carbohydrate I needed to consume in one day.  I was intrigued because I was sure that it would entirely overestimate my need for carbohydrate.  If you want to check it out for yourself here is the link.

It began by asking some simple questions.  Age, height, gender, frame size (small, medium or large) and activity level.  Through these simple questions it came up with the number of grams of carbohydrates I ‘need’ to consume in one day.  The number?  376 grams!  Yes, 376.  Just in case you can’t quite put your finger on what this means, let me put this into perspective for you.  Five grams of carbohydrate is equal to one teaspoon of sugar in your blood.  So if I were to consume 376 grams of carbohydrates in one day that would be equal to 75 teaspoons of sugar!

Now, the website does stress that there are different kinds of carbs.  They mention complex vs. simple and that when consuming carbohydrates as many of them as possible should be complex.  While this is true, if you consume 376 grams of carbohydrates per day it won’t matter if they’re simple or complex.  You will not be healthy.

Just in case you still can’t wrap your head around just how much 376 grams of carbohydrates are I have posted a list below of food that would fit into my ‘diet’ if I chose to heed this ridiculous advice.

I could eat…

  • 20 raw, medium apples or
  • 19 raw, Florida oranges or
  • 14 bowls of Cheerios or
  • 17 bowls of Special K or
  • 25 pieces of whole wheat bread (more than a loaf) or
  • 13 whole breakfast bars

I could go on and on, but the list above just shows how much you would have to eat in one day in order to consume 376 grams of carbohydrates.  Apples are good for you, don’t get me wrong.  But 20 apples in a day would not be.  The sugar content would lead to problems down the road for sure.

The website where I found this touts that it is for “Consumer Health News, Information and Resources Updated Daily.”  In a country where obesity is a major problem and the biggest cause is over consumption of carbohydrates, this website only feeds the problem.  The amount of carbohydrates they advise people to consume is not only ridiculous but it is unhealthy.

When I have patients in my office and they want to improve their health I will routinely recommend that they get no more than 60 grams of carbohydrate per day.  People often say, “But don’t you need them for energy?”  The answer is no.  The body is perfectly capable of burning fat for energy.  There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. Fats and proteins are considered essential nutrients meaning they must be obtained from diet.

If you want to be healthy, limit your carbohydrate intake and eat a diet that is filled with protein and healthy fats.  The carbohydrates that you get should be from fruits and vegetables.  Keep grain products low in your diet.

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5 Comments

Filed under Diet, Public Health

5 responses to “75 Teaspoons of Sugar Recommended Daily for “Healthy” People!

  1. Sam Cooke

    This carbophobia alarmism that is popular right now is unwarranted for the active population. Have a look at this study published in nature:
    http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v57/n9/abs/1601650a.html
    (in case you didn’t read it, participants consumed close to a pound of pasta in a postprandial state and continued to show increased fat oxidation)
    I agree that people consume far too many simple carb sources, but overall calorie consumption/expenditure is much more important. This glut of non-research backed scare tactics has led people to literally fear carbs. I again take issue with your assertion that all carbs are equal to table sugar (sucrose). I can’t imagine that you’d argue the fact that the kinetics of absorption of whole carb sources is completely different than those for simple sugars. At best your information on the implications of dietary carbs is oversimplified, and at worst completely misleading.

    • Thanks for the link to the study. The information is interesting. However, your simplistic version of dieting advice (calorie in vs. calorie out) is majorly flawed. It is easy to market to the masses but makes little sense for long term physiology. Eating food is a hormonal process and controlling that hormonal process (insulin vs. cortisol) is a major factor in controlling not only weight gain but overall health. Because carbohydrates are the only food that significantly increases insulin production (proteins have very little effect and fat has no effect) it is the control of the consumption of carbohydrates that is most important. I have many patients who have tried limiting calories and expending much more energy than they consume and cannot lose weight. For these people (and most others in my clinical experience) gaining control of their hormones is the only way to lose weight and get healthy. Carbohydrates certainly have their place, but life would exist without them. If you check Guyton’s textbook of physiology you will see there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. The body is perfectly capable of producing energy from fats and proteins consumed in the diet. Perhaps you’ve seen the recent research out of Temple that has shown that both low carb and low carlorie diets are equal in terms of weight loss, but low carb diets actually improve HDL cholesterol more effectively. There are many studies to support the effectiveness of low carbohydrate diets.

      • Sam Cooke

        As I said, I agree that people eat far too many simple carbs, but I did not say calories in equal calories out. I was commenting on overall consumption and expenditure, as in people who can’t lose weight often underestimate their consumption and overestimate their expenditure. I don’t think it’s debatable that hitting goals for daily macros is critically important for weight loss. It is also true that things like glycemic index and insulin impact are only relevant when foods are eaten in isolation, which is not often the case. And are there not tribes of people that have traditionally lived off very high carbohydrate diets and done perfectly fine (meat is a luxury in many parts of the world)? Carbs are not the only food that significantly spike insulin. Branched chain amino acids, especially leucine, are very insulinogenic, and are prominent additions to many protein supplements. I don’t disagree with much of what is posted on this site and think it’s a valuable source of information, but the current state of nutrition science seems to be predominated by too much absolutism. Until recently, fats were considered the penultimate evil and to be avoided at all costs. It’s now evident that many of the reasons for the fat fears were unfounded, and in many cases the real culprit has turned out to be simple carbs. But it’s still dangerous to paint things with such a broad brush. What about beans and legumes that have fairly high carbs, but also contain high proportions of fiber and protein and are by all accounts one of nature’s healthiest foods? I’m sure you wouldn’t say that the carbs in black beans have the same effect as teaspoons of sugar, but from reading this article one might get that impression.

      • I think I have to disagree with you that the glycemic index and insulin response are only valuable when foods are eaten in isolation. While it is true that the glycemic index is measured in isolation, it is the only measure we can accurately go by. Sure, a meal with a high fat content will slow the emptying of the stomach and reduce glycemic load but it does not change the fact that the potential carbohydrate in that meal must be used or it will be stored. The only exception to this is of course diabetes where sugar may spill into the urine but that’s a different story.

        Another angle that I always consider with carbohydrate consumption is its impact on inflammation. By up regulating insulin we shift our systems to a pro-inflammatory state which leads to health concerns down the road like high oxidized LDL levels, heart disease, high triglycerides and other inflammatory conditions. Lowering carbohydrates is the single best way to control inflammation as evidenced by the reduction of inflammatory enzymes like CRP and homocysteine.

        Perhaps you’d be interested in reading an entry I wrote earlier this year: https://thevreelandclinic.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/danger-and-inflammation/. I’d be interested in your opinion.

  2. Sam Cooke

    “it does not change the fact that the potential carbohydrate in that meal must be used or it will be stored.” This is largely true of any excess calorie consumption whether it be protein, fat, or carbs.

    Having read the linked article, I agree with the majority of it. As you point out in the article, it is the refined, simple carb sources that are the main culprits. These are generally not whole food sources. Carbs are not “bad”. Simple and refined carbs are bad. But as much as they are to blame for many of the current epidemiological health concerns, I think it’s prudent to also take into account the largely sedentary nature of the American population.

    Also, I know vegetarians that eat lots of processed foods simply because they don’t contain animal products. The fact that that vegetarians at large may have greater inflammation does not mean that one couldn’t eat a vegetarian diet and be exceedingly healthy. (Just as a clarification, I am not a vegetarian.)

    As I stated before, this blog provides lots of useful information, and I appreciate what is presented here. However, I think that by demonizing carbs as a whole, people may be led to cut healthy foods out of their diet because they don’t take the time to analyze the full nutrition profile.

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