Is Sugar the New Tobacco?

A little over a year ago, as part of my breast cancer treatment and recovery, I met with a dietitian to talk about my diet, more specifically, my love of sweets. She had a few suggestions for me, but the one that hung in the air was to cut my sugar intake. I was a chocoholic. An ice cream addict. A sugar junkie. But, to get myself in the best health possibly, I pledge my allegiance to the Better Safe than Sorry camp and vowed to not consume more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. This, my friends, is not impossible; it is actually quite doable.


The 25 gram recommendation is not a special medical diet. It is not a special diet of any type. I call it normal sugar consumption because it’s what the USDA recommends. For everyone. This is not a low sugar diet—it is what should be everybody’s norm. This information came to me from a registered dietitian affiliated with Duke University Health System, but take a look at some of the other resources who back it up as well:

The American Heart Association,, recommends limiting added sugars to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons (40 grams). The AHA recommendations focus on all added sugars, without singling out any particular types such as high-fructose corn syrup.

U.S. Department of Agriculture,, reiterates the 6 teaspoons for women/9 teaspoons for men guideline.

World Health Organization: reports that the WHO recommends a sugar intake of 5 percent of your daily calorie intake. For an adult of a normal body mass index (BMI), that works out to about 6 teaspoons–or 25 grams–of sugar per day.

I could go on, citing the Mayo Clinic, the LIVESTRONG organization, and medical journals, but I think you get my point—this is not me and a bunch of made-up websites making a crazy statement about sugar. This is the real deal folks.

If you’re still not taking this seriously, chew on this: it was in 1964 when the U.S. Surgeon General released the first report stating that cigarette smoking was a cause of lung and laryngeal cancer in men, a probable cause of lung cancer in women, and the most important cause of chronic bronchitis. Yes, the tobacco companies continued to market hard, and it seemed people turned a deaf ear to the information that could have saved lives. A lot of lives.

Today we have access to information every second of our lives. The food industry markets sugar even more aggressively than tobacco marketed cigarettes, but this time we have the data at our fingertips. No excuses. This time, shame on us for ignoring article after article, report upon report, and shaking our heads at the rate of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer in the U.S. as we pop open sodas, unwrap chocolate bars, and indulge in sweets on a daily basis. And that’s just our overt sugar intake. If you don’t take 15 seconds to read a food label, you’re likely ingesting even more sugar. For example, there are 10 grams of sugar in 1/2 cup of Prego Traditional Italian Sauce. That’s nearly half your allowance for the day ladies.

The bottom line is, I know too many people who have battled cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Some have won and some have not. You might argue that it’s genetics, and certainly there is that, but when the U.S. Government advises that sugar consumption is linked to each of these diseases, don’t you think we ought to listen? 1964 is when the government warned us about smoking and cancer. Few listened. I have to ask, is sugar the new tobacco?

Cheers to your health,