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How much added sugars can be accommodated in a healthy diet while still meeting food group and nutrient needs?

Approach to Answering the Question
Food Pattern Modeling

Data Analysis and Food Pattern Modeling Cross-Cutting Working Group

Food Pattern Modeling Protocol
The protocol describes how the food pattern modeling methodology will be used to answer the question, including:

  • Estimating the number of calories in the USDA Food Patterns that could be used for added sugars.
  • Redistributing calories from top reported sources of added sugars to foods and beverages that achieve food group and nutrient goals.
  • Estimating excess calories from added sugars when USDA Food Patterns are met with typical vs nutrient dense choices.

For additional details, see the full protocol for the question: How much added sugars can be accommodated in a healthy diet while still meeting food group and nutrient needs?

View Full Protocol

Draft Conclusion Statement

The draft conclusion statements listed below describe the state of the science related to the specific question examined. Draft conclusions are not considered final until they have been deliberated with and decided upon by the full Committee and published in the Committee’s final advisory report. Individual conclusion statements should not be interpreted as dietary guidance or the Committee’s overarching advice to the Departments.

The amount of energy required to meet food group and nutrient needs using nutrient-dense representative foods comprises 85 percent or more of total energy available across most energy levels. Assuming typical population-level intakes of solid fats and no consumption of alcohol, this leaves 6 percent or fewer additional kilocalories available for the consumption of added sugars for most energy levels. In the highest energy level analyzed (3200 calories/day) only, 8 percent or fewer additional calories would be available. Even these modest percentages of calories available for added sugars represent relatively rare scenarios where adults consume nutrient-dense (rather than typical) foods low in added sugars, and consume no calories in the form of alcohol. These scenarios also assume adults would not benefit from a net negative energy balance due to overweight or obesity, and would not have other reasons to reduce calories and/or added sugars (e.g., type 2 diabetes).

Five food categories contribute the majority of added sugars intake in the U.S. population and these foods are often energy-dense with low amounts of key dietary nutrients. The redistribution of calories from food categories with added sugars to under-consumed food groups and nutrients could have a significant positive impact on overall diet quality and nutrient status; for example, allowing age-sex groups to better meet food group recommendations for fruits, vegetables and dairy and also increase consumption of key nutrients contained in these food groups.

When the USDA Food Patterns are constructed with the most frequently consumed typical food choices rather than nutrient-dense representative foods, there are higher amounts of total energy and added sugars. If consumers choose to eat the recommended quantities from each food group or subgroup, but do not choose nutrient dense foods lower in added sugars, total energy will increase due to a relatively higher contribution of solid fats and added sugars, exceeding daily needs.