Canadians are consuming fewer sugary drinks than they used to — but the beverages are still the top source of sugar consumption in the country.
That’s according to a newly released report from Statistics Canada, which compares Canadians’ sugar intake from 2004 to 2015.
It found that intake for Canadians has decreased overall, but sugar intake from solid food sources has increased. While sugar intake from sugary drinks went down, they remained the top source of sugar for all Canadians.
“The increase in food is not as large as the decrease in beverages so that’s why, overall, we had a decrease,” Didier Garriguet, a researcher at Statistics Canada and one author of the study, told Global News.
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How much sugar are we consuming?
The study explained that in 2015 the average daily total sugar intake among children aged one to eight was 101 grams (or 24 teaspoons). In 2014, that number was 104 grams.
Children aged nine to 18 consumed 115 grams (or 27 teaspoons) of sugar in 2015 compared to 128 grams in 2004.
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“For children in both age groups, over one-third of the total sugars came from beverages, both those that did and those that did not contain free sugars,” the study explained of the 2015 numbers.
Canadians aged 19 or older consumed 85 grams (20 teaspoons) of sugar daily, down from 93 grams in 2004. Similar to younger Canadians, one-third of the sugar tracked in 2015 came from drinks.
The study said that if all sugary drinks — such as soft drinks, milk, juices, fruit drinks, tea, coffee and energy drinks — were combined into one category, they would be the top sugar source for all Canadians.
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However, the decrease is still worth noting.
“Despite the high proportions found in this study, percentages of sugary beverages consumed in 2015 were significantly lower than in 2004, which suggests a decrease in consumption across age groups,” the study read.
Health effects of sugary drinks
Consuming drinks with a high amount of sugar can lead to an array of health problems.
In a 2017 report, the World Health Organization noted sugary drinks are a “major contributor” to obesity and diabetes.
It added that the drinks can lead to dental problems, such as cavities and tooth decay. They can also increase the risk of being overweight or obese, which leads to an added set of potential health difficulties.
The WHO recommends that sugar intake be limited to 10 per cent of daily energy intake for both adults and children. For the average adult, that is 12 teaspoons. But it notes that lowering the intake to six teaspoons will offer “additional health benefits.”
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How to phase out the beverages
Abbey Sharp, a Toronto-based registered dietitian, explained that cutting out certain drinks is an important factor in reducing calories and sugar.
She noted that there are obvious drinks to cut back on, such as pop and alcohol.
“I love doing sparkling water with a small splash of juice and a few shakes of bitters,” she said.
“Kombucha is also delicious, low in calories and sugar and high in probiotics so this is a great option for replacing traditional cocktails. I also like doing unsweetened coconut water with a little lime or fresh squeezed ginger juice.”
The new Canada’s Food Guide also reportedly aims to take on the challenge of lowering how much sugar Canadians consume through beverages.
While it has not been released yet, an initial draft does not include fruit juice.
— With files from Global News reporter Arti Patel