Sources of Added Sugars in Young Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Low and High Intakes of Added Sugars

Nutrients. 2018 Jan 17;10(1):102. doi: 10.3390/nu10010102.


High intake of added sugars is associated with excess energy intake and poorer diet quality. The objective of this cross-sectional study (n = 16,806) was to estimate usual intakes and the primary food sources of added sugars across the range of intakes (i.e., deciles) among U.S. children (2-8 years), adolescents and teens (9-18 years), and adults (≥19 years) using the National Health and Nutrition Examination (NHANES) data from 2009-2012. The percent energy contributed by added sugars was 14.3 ± 0.2% (2-8 years), 16.2 ± 0.2% (9-18 years), and 13.1 ± 0.2% (≥19 years), suggesting the highest intakes are among adolescents and teens. However, the primary foods/beverages that contribute to added sugars were remarkably consistent across the range of intakes, with the exception of the lowest decile, and include sweetened beverages and sweet bakery products. Interestingly across all age groups, even those in the lowest decile of added sugars exceed the 10% guidelines. Additional foods contributing to high intakes were candy and other desserts (e.g., ice cream) in children and adolescents, and coffee and teas in adults. Tailoring public health messaging to reduce intakes of these identified food groups may be of utility in designing effective strategies to reduce added sugar intake in the U.S.

Keywords: Dietary Guidelines; NHANES; added sugars; obesity; sweetened beverages.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Beverages
  • Candy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Dietary Sugars / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Sugars / analysis*
  • Food Additives / administration & dosage
  • Food Additives / analysis
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Nutritional Status
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Sugars
  • Food Additives