A study published in the journal Nutrients describes the impact of added sugar intake from different sources on the intake of nutrients in US adults.
Study: Intakes of Added Sugars, with a Focus on Beverages and the Associations with Nutrient Adequacy in US Adults (NHANES 2003–2018). Image Credit: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock
The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) provide recommendations about dietary patterns for the US population mainly to control the prevalence of diet-related chronic diseases. According to the guidelines, US adults should increase the intake of nutrients that are consumed inadequately, such as calcium and vitamin D. Moreover, the guidelines recommend reducing the intake of added sugar, sodium, and saturated fats.
Sweetened beverages are the top source of added sugars in the US. Many sources of added sugar also provide a considerable amount of nutrients. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2017–2018 data, beverages including water, alcoholic beverages, coffee or tea, sweetened beverages, milk, and 100% juice collectively provide 54% of added sugar, 7% of protein, and 14-38% of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins C and D. This means that reducing added sugar intake may considerably impact the intake of essential nutrients.
In this study, scientists have evaluated the association between added sugar intake from different sources and nutrient adequacy among US adults.
The NHANES is a nationally representative cross-sectional survey conducted by the US National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) on US residents. In this study, scientists combined the data from eight consecutive 2-year cycles of NHANES (2003–2004 through 2017–2018) to determine the intake of added sugar from specific beverages and nutrient adequacy.
The dietary data of 35,128 US adults aged over 19 years was included in the final analysis. The sources of added sugar specifically addressed in the study included soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, coffee and tea, and flavored milk.
Regarding nutrient adequacy, the intake of ten nutrients was analyzed, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, dietary fiber, protein, and vitamins A, B12, C, D, and E. Nutrient adequacy was assessed as the percentage of adults with nutrient intakes below the requirements.
A reduction in the intake of added sugars from any beverages was observed with increasing age, except for flavored milk. In contrast, an induction in the intake of added sugar from the rest of the diet was observed with increasing age.
The highest intake of soft drinks was reported by adults belonging to the age group of 19 – 50 years, followed by the intake of fruit drinks and coffee and tea. A significantly lower intake of these beverages was reported by adults belonging to the age groups of 51 – 70 years and above 71 years.
The added sugar intake from beverages accounted for 52%, 36%, and 25% of total daily calories in the age groups 19 – 50 years, 51 – 70 years, and above 71 years, respectively. Similarly, the added sugar intake from the rest of the diet accounted for 48%, 64%, and 75% of total daily calories in these age groups.
In the 19 – 50 age group, a reduction in added sugar intake from soft drinks, fruit drinks, and flavored milk and an induction in added sugar intake from sports and energy drinks and coffee and tea were observed over the 16-year study period. In the older age groups, added sugar intake from fruit drinks decreased over time.
Association between added sugar intake and nutrient adequacy
Significant associations between added sugar intake and nutrient adequacy were observed for all beverage types, with some variations between age groups. Overall, the higher intake of added sugar from soft drinks was associated with higher percentages of adults with nutrient intake below the average requirements and lower percentages of adults consuming an adequate amount of certain nutrients.
In contrast, the higher intake of added sugar from fruit drinks and flavored milk was associated with lower percentages of adults with nutrient intake below the average requirements and higher percentages of adults consuming the adequate amount of certain nutrients.
Regarding added sugar from the rest of the diet, a higher intake was associated with lower percentages of adults with nutrient intake below the average requirements and higher percentages of adults consuming the adequate amount of certain nutrients.
The study finds that a higher added sugar intake from soft drinks can negatively affect the recommended nutrient intake. In contrast, added sugar intake from fruit juice, flavored milk, and the rest of the diet can be useful in terms of meeting the recommended threshold for nutrient adequacy.
Overall, the study indicates that the nutritional composition of different added sugar sources can significantly influence the association between added sugar intake and nutrient adequacy.