Interrelationships of added sugars intake, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity in adults in the United States: National Health Interview Survey, 2005

J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Aug;109(8):1376-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.05.002.


Background: The consumption of added sugars (eg, white sugar, brown sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup) displaces nutrient-dense foods in the diet. The intake of added sugars in the United States is excessive. Little is known about the predictors of added sugar intake.

Objective: To examine the independent relationships of socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity with added sugar intake, and to evaluate the consistency of relationships using a short instrument to those from a different survey using more precise dietary assessment.

Design: Cross-sectional, nationally representative, interviewer-administered survey.

Subjects/setting: Adults (aged > or = 18 years) participating in the 2005 US National Health Interview Survey Cancer Control Supplement responding to four added sugars questions (n=28,948).

Statistical analyses performed: The intake of added sugars was estimated using validated scoring algorithms. Multivariate analysis incorporating sample weights and design effects was conducted. Least squares means and confidence intervals, and significance tests using Wald F statistics are presented. Analyses were stratified by sex and controlled for potential confounders.

Results: The intake of added sugars was higher among men than women and inversely related to age, educational status, and family income. Asian Americans had the lowest intake and Hispanics the next lowest intake. Among men, African Americans had the highest intake, although whites and American Indians/Alaskan Natives also had high intakes. Among women, African Americans and American Indians/Alaskan Natives had the highest intakes. Intake of added sugars was inversely related to educational attainment in whites, African Americans, Hispanic men, and American Indians/Alaskan Native men, but was unrelated in Asian Americans. These findings were generally consistent with relationships in National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004 (using one or two 24-hour dietary recalls).

Conclusions: Race/ethnicity, family income, and educational status are independently associated with intake of added sugars. Groups with low income and education are particularly vulnerable to diets with high added sugars. Differences among race/ethnicity groups suggest that interventions to reduce intake of added sugars should be tailored. The National Health Interview Survey added sugars questions with accompanying scoring algorithms appear to provide an affordable and useful means of assessing relationships between various factors and added sugars intake.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Age Distribution
  • Asian Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dietary Sucrose / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Sucrose / adverse effects
  • Educational Status*
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Feeding Behavior / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Nutritive Value
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweetening Agents / administration & dosage
  • Sweetening Agents / adverse effects


  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Sweetening Agents