Added Sugars Intake Across the Distribution of US Children and Adult Consumers: 1977-2012

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Oct;116(10):1543-1550.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.06.003. Epub 2016 Aug 1.


Background: Public health organizations in the United States have recently increased focus on reducing population consumption of added sugars.

Objective: The objective of this study is to provide in-depth information on national trends in added sugars consumption and to examine both the mean and distribution of added sugars intake from 1977 to 2012.

Design: We conducted a descriptive study using six cross-sectional nationally representative surveys of food intake in the United States: the 1977-1978 National Food Consumption Survey (n=29,668), the 1989-1991 Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals (n=14,827), the 1994-1998 Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals (n=19,027), the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES; n=8,273), the 2009-2010 NHANES (n=9,042), and the 2011-2012 NHANES (n=16,451).

Statistical analysis: We examined the key dependent variables, calories from added sugars and percentage of total energy intake from added sugars, at the mean and by quintiles of added sugars consumption for children (2 to 18 years) and adults (19 years and older) across the survey years. We also examined trends in added sugars intakes from foods and beverages. We used ordinary least squares regression to examine linear trends between survey years and multinomial logistic regressions to examine sociodemographic characteristics by quintile of added sugars consumption. We adjusted estimates by race, income, sex, and education.

Results: The US mean adjusted intake of added sugars remains high. In 2011-2012, children and adults consumed 326 kcal/day and 308 kcal/day, respectively, of added sugars, or 14% and 17%, respectively, of total their energy. For both children and adults, there was a considerable increase in calories from added sugars from 1977 to 2003, followed by a substantial decline from 2003 to 2012. There was no decline in the percentage of total energy intake from added sugars from 2003 to 2012. Changes over time were consistent across each quintile of added sugars consumption. The highest quintile of consumption was more likely to be male and in children was more likely to be non-Hispanic white.

Conclusions: Despite a decline in consumption of added sugars since 2003 in the United States, mean adjusted added sugars intakes continue to be above the recommended level of 10% of the total energy intake. Changes in added sugars consumption from 1977 through 2012 occurred evenly across the distribution of added sugars intakes.

Keywords: Added sugars; Adults; Children; Distribution of consumers; Trends in intake.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Beverages
  • Black People
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / trends
  • Dietary Sucrose / administration & dosage*
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Racial Groups
  • Sex Factors
  • United States
  • White People


  • Dietary Sucrose