A spoonful of sugar may, as Mary Poppins sang, help the medicine go down. But too many spoonfuls will probably increase your need to take medicine in the first place. Too much sugar—or rather, the unproductive calories it delivers to the body—can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease, among other health problems.
How much is too much? An American Heart Association study found that Americans consume an average of 22 teaspoons a day (during 2001-2004). AHA guidelines recommend much less: six teaspoons a day for women, and nine teaspoons for men.
Check the labels of the foods you’re eating: a lot of sugar can be found in most processed foods. And don’t rely on sugar substitutes like high-fructose corn syrup. Though fructose may have less impact on the body’s blood sugar and insulin levels, a calorie of fructose has the same impact as a calorie of sugar. As in most things, moderation is key.