"Added sugars" include all caloric sweetening agents added to foods, i.e., sugar, corn sweeteners, maple syrup and honey. Estimates of added sugars intake in Canada are about 51-53 g per person per day, or about 11% of total daily energy intake (1). This is considered a moderate amount, as the Dietary Reference Intakes for Canada and the US suggest a maximal intake of 25% of energy from added sugars (2). Current estimates of added sugars intake from nutrition survey data (Canadian Community Health Survey) and Statistics Canada availability data are explored below. For a more detailed explanation see Estimated Intakes of Added Sugars in Canada and Relationship to Trends in Body Weight.

Terminology

Food Available for Consumption (Availability or Disappearance) - Data on the supply of food commodities, not accounting for losses in distribution, retail stores, households, private institutions or restaurants. Statistics Canada publishes this type of data. Availability = (beginning stocks + production + imports) minus (exports + ending stocks).

Apparent Consumption (Waste Adjusted Food Availability) - Estimates of food consumption derived by deducting retail, institutional and household losses including cooking, storage and plate losses from "food available for consumption" (above).

Food Intake (Dietary Surveys) - Self-reported estimates of food intakes derived from nutrition surveys (e.g. Canadian Community Health Survey).

Sugar - Sucrose (from sugar cane or sugar beets). Canadian food standards specify that sugar must have a minimum purity of 99.8% sucrose.

Sugars - All monosaccharides and disaccharides, naturally occurring and added:

  • Monosaccharides: glucose, fructose, galactose.
  • Disaccharides: sucrose, lactose, maltose.

Sugars and Syrups (Statistics Canada Category) - Sugar and sugar syrups (from sugar cane or sugar beets), maple sugars, honey. Does not include corn sweeteners.

Added Sugars - All sugars added to foods, including:

  • Sugars and syrups (Statistics Canada category above).
  • Corn sweeteners: high fructose corn syrup ("glucose-fructose"), glucose syrup, and dextrose.
  • Fruit juice/concentrated fruit juice or other ingredients that act as a functional substitute for added sugars.

Estimated Intakes of Added Sugars from Nutrition Survey Data

In 2004, the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) collected 24-hour dietary recall data on 35,000 Canadians (3). The survey provides self-reported data on food intakes of carbohydrate and total sugars but not added sugars. This is because added sugars are not chemically distinct from naturally occurring sugars, so there is no laboratory test capable of measuring the added sugars content of foods.

Although dietary surveys cannot provide a direct measure of "added sugars" intakes, added sugars can be estimated based on total sugars intake. An analysis of the distribution of naturally occurring and added sugars in the major food sources of total sugars suggests that added sugars account for approximately half of total sugars intake (1,4).

Among Canadian adults, the CCHS reported total sugars to contribute approximately 21% of total energy intake (Table 1). Added sugars intake among Canadian adults can then be estimated to contribute an average of 10.5% of total energy, which is considered a moderate amount. The suggested maximum intake of added sugars for individuals in Canada is 25% of daily energy (2).

Table 1: CCHS 2004 Intakes of Carbohydrates and Sugars for Canadian Adults (19+ yrs) and Estimated Added Sugars

  Total Energy (kcal/day) Total Carbo-hydrates (% energy) Total Sugars (g/day) Total Sugars (kcal/day) Total Sugars (% energy) Added Sugars (% energy est*) Added Sugars (g/day est*)
Female 1775 49.9 92 368 21 11 46
Male 2420 48.2 115 460 19 10 58
Weighted Average 2065 49 102 409 20 10 53

*Based on estimation that added sugars comprise approximately half of total sugars (1,5).

*Also see: Further Analysis of Statistics Canada Health Report: Sugar Consumption Among Canadians of All Ages

Until another national survey is conducted in Canada, trends in added sugars consumption are limited to estimates from Statistics Canada availability data.

Comparison to US Nutrition Survey Data

Although the media and most scientific papers rely on US nutrition survey data, this can be misleading because US consumption patterns do not accurately reflect Canadian intakes.  Added sugars intakes in Canada are about one third less than US intakes. In large part lower consumption in Canada reflects much higher soft drink consumption in the US which is double that of Canadian consumption (6).

Added Sugars Available for Consumption in Canada

Availability data (also known as disappearance data) reflect the total amount of a food or commodity entering the market, regardless of its final use. This provides a basis for examining consumption trends over time. Statistics Canada publishes annual availability data on 'sugars and syrups'. The 'sugars and syrups' category includes data for refined sugar1, honey and maple sugars, but does not include corn sweeteners (7).

Both popular and scientific articles often incorrectly report availability data as actual intake data. Availability data is useful to report trends, but overestimates actual intakes because it does not account for sizable losses that occur during distribution, storage, preparation and consumption (e.g. food discarded or spoiled). To correct for these losses, Statistics Canada applies a waste adjustment factor of approximately 30% to estimate consumption. Figures 1, 2 and 3 below show Statistics Canada data for both availability and estimated consumption (using the 30% adjustment factor).

1 Includes all white, brown and specialty sugars and sugar syrups made from sugar cane or sugar beets

Sugars and Syrups Availability

According to Statistics Canada data, estimated consumption of sugars and syrups in Canada has also been decreasing over the past 4 decades (Figure 1). These data include refined sugar, honey and maple sugars, but do not include corn sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The annual variability shown in the graph below is due to annual changes in liquid sugar shipments, which is sometimes used as a substitute for HFCS in soft drinks. The competitive price of liquid sugar in Canada relative to HFCS generally determines bottlers' decisions regarding purchases of liquid sugar versus HFCS. In recent years, there has been very little use of sugar in soft drinks so there is less variability. Statistics Canada does not account for HFCS separately but indirectly reports consumption through soft drinks data (see Figure 3). 

Figure 1: Sugars, and Syrups Available and Consumed. 50 years, 1964 - 2014, Statistics Canada Availability Data, Consumed (estimated)* Available Consumed (est)*
kg / person / year
1964 44.27 26.12
1965 45.30 26.73
1966 47.28 27.90
1967 45.61 26.91
1968 46.28 27.30
1969 46.17 27.24
1970 46.06 27.18
1971 45.43 26.80
1972 44.97 26.53
1973 47.43 27.99
1974 41.55 24.51
1975 40.22 23.72
1976 42.30 24.95
1977 42.37 25.00
1978 41.18 24.30
1979 41.30 24.37
1980 35.00 20.65
1981 38.52 22.73
1982 38.45 22.69
1983 39.34 23.20
1984 41.45 24.45
1985 42.20 24.90
1986 42.28 24.95
1987 43.42 25.61
1988 39.47 23.29
1989 36.10 21.30
1990 36.84 21.74
1991 35.62 21.02
1992 37.49 22.13
1993 38.21 22.55
1994 39.09 23.07
1995 36.98 21.82
1996 37.32 22.01
1997 37.11 21.90
1998 34.59 20.41
1999 34.82 20.55
2000 35.94 20.86
2001 35.38 20.85
2002 35.30 20.81
2003 35.25 20.80
2004 35.13 20.73
2005 33.68 19.87
2006 32.74 19.30
2007 31.16 18.38
2008 33.04 19.49
2009 32.72 19.30
2010 32.55 19.20
2011 31.90 18.82
2012 30.38 17.92
2013 31.62 18.66
2014 31.61 18.65

*Statistics Canada data on sugars and syrups availability, 2014. Availability data have been adjusted using updated USDA historical waste adjustment factor (41%) to account for estimated losses at retail, household, cooking and plate loss. Data excludes corn sweeteners (i.e. HFCS / "glucose-fructose", glucose syrup, and dextrose). See Figure 3 for trends in HFCS as reflected in Statistics Canada soft drink data. 

Energy Available from Sugars and Syrups

The per cent total energy available from sugars and syrups declined from about 14% in 1976 to 10% in 1998 and has remained relatively stable over the past decade (Figure 2). The overall decline in 'sugars and syrups' availability up to 1998, in part reflects the replacement of liquid sugar by HFCS in sweetened beverages. The transition from liquid sugar to HFCS, which started in the 1970s, was gradual and depended on the relative prices of the two sweetening agents. Since the late 1990s, sugar has been fully replaced by HFCS in almost all sweetened beverages in Canada, so there is much less annual variability (Figure 1).

Figure 2: Energy (%) Available from Sugars and Syrups 1976-2008, Statistics Canada Sugars and Syrups
% Energy
1976 0.143
1977 0.1432
1978 0.1399
1979 0.1404
1980 0.1210
1981 0.1310
1982 0.1319
1983 0.1324
1984 0.1408
1985 0.1402
1986 0.1398
1987 0.1406
1988 0.1282
1989 0.1198
1990 0.1226
1991 0.1203
1992 0.1251
1993 0.1243
1994 0.1239
1995 0.1172
1996 0.1160
1997 0.1128
1998 0.1036
1999 0.1035
2000 0.1067
2001 0.1044
2002 0.1053
2003 0.1062
2004 0.1059
2005 0.1028
2006 0.1003
2007 0.0996
2008 0.1045
2009 0.1054
2010 0.1035
2011 0.1044

Soft Drinks Availability

Soft drink availability in Canada increased from 1980 to 1998 but has declined over the past decade (7). The trend in the US is very similar; however soft drink consumption in the US is approximately double that in Canada (Figure 3). Soft drink availability for both diet and regular soft drinks is combined in Figure 3.

Statistics Canada data on the contribution of soft drinks to total energy availability in the food supply shows a similar downward trend (Table 2) (7). The contribution of soft drinks to total energy availability is relatively small (~3% total caloric intake) and is likely overestimated as all soft drinks are considered caloric in these estimates.

Figure 3: Soft Drinks Available for Consumption, litres per Capita 1980 - 2014, Statistics Canada, USDA* United States Canada
Litres
1980 127.3 66.99
1981 131 67.65
1982 134.1 68.63
1983 140.1 71.07
1984 147.6 73.63
1985 155.8 77.92
1986 161.7 80.11
1987 167.8 83.62
1988 173.7 96.41
1989 175.7 94.92
1990 178.2 96.38
1991 178.9 101.15
1992 179 98.56
1993 181.5 102.91
1994 187 109.06
1995 191.4 109.72
1996 195.3 110.88
1997 199.3 112.93
1998 203.7 117.35
1999 202.5 117
2000 201.3 113.15
2001 200.3 113.57
2002 200 112.43
2003 199 110.5
2004 198.6 106.59
2005 195.6 103.07
2006 191.6 100.34
2007 184.8 90.47
2008 N/A 86.25
2009 N/A 84.77
2010 N/A 82.53
2011 N/A 80.32
2012 N/A 76.66
2013 N/A 72.33
2014 N/A 68.67

US carbonated soft drinks per capita figures were calculated by USDA using industry data. This data was discontinued after 2007. Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Food Availability: Miscellaneous Beverages. 2007.
Abbreviation: USDA = United States Department of Agriculture

Table 2: Canada Soft Drinks: Energy Available from the Food Supply, per person, per day, Statistics Canada

Year Soft drinks energy (kcal) Total energy (kcal) % energy from soft drinks
1980 78 3047 <2.6%
1985 91 3176 2.9%
1990 113 3166 3.6%
1995 128 3329 3.9%
2000 132 3552 3.7%
2005 120 447 3.5%
2006 117 3404 3.4%
2007 105 3389 3.1%
2008 101 3372 3.0%

Estimated Energy Available from 'Added Sugars'

Statistics Canada does not publish data on total "added sugars" because data are not available for corn sweeteners (namely HFCS) as this is proprietary information. Because the main use of HFCS is to sweeten caloric beverages, soft drink data provide an indirect estimate of HFCS availability and trends.

Combining Statistics Canada consumption data for percent total energy from sugars and syrups (10%) with percent total energy from soft drinks (3%), total added sugars can be estimated to contribute approximately 13% of total calories in the Canadian diet (Table 3).

Table 3: Estimated Energy Available from Total Added Sugars in Canada, 2008, Statistics Canada

Sugars and syrups (kcal) 352
Soft drinks (HFCS) (kcal) 101*
Total added sugars (kcal) 453
Total energy availability (kcal) 3372
% Energy total added sugars 13 %

* Overestimate as does not correct for diet soft drinks (i.e., all soft drinks are considered caloric). Abbreviations: HFCS = high fructose corn syrup

Adjustment Factor for Estimating Consumption

Statistics Canada's adjustment factor for estimating consumption from availability data is based on a static model developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service in the 1970s and does not reflect the progressive increase in food waste over the past 40 years. Food waste is now estimated at approximately 40% (8). When a 40% food loss estimate is deducted from Canadian availability data, added 'sugars and syrups' consumption is estimated to be 51 g/day (Table 4).

Table 4: Estimated Consumption of Sugars and Syrups in Canada from Availability Data, Statistics Canada

Sugars and Syrupsi Canada 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010
Total Available (kg/yr) 46.1 40.2 35.0 42.2 36.8 37.0 35.9 33.7 31.2
Total Available (g/day) 126 110 96 116 101 101 99 92 86
Loss Adjustment Factor 40%ii -50 -44 -38 -46 -40 -41 -39 -37 -34
Estimated Consumption (g/day) 76 66 58 69 61 61 59 55 51

i Sugars and syrups as defined by Statistics Canada (includes sugar, honey and maple sugars, and excludes corn sweeteners), Food Statistics 2011.
ii Hall KD, Guo J, Dore M, Chow CC. The progressive increase of food waste in America and its environmental impact. PLoS One 2009;4:e7940.

Summary

The contribution of added sugars to total energy intake can only be estimated from both availability data (7) and nutrition survey data (3,9). These sources provide similar estimates of added sugars intake, averaging approximately 51 – 53 g/day or 11% of total daily Calories among Canadians (1,4).

References

  1. Brisbois TD, et al. Estimated intakes and sources of total and added sugars in the Canadian diet. Nutrients 2014;6(5):1899-1912. 
  2. Health Canada, Dietary Reference Intakes Tables, 2005.
  3. Health Canada. Canadian Community Health Survey, Cycle 2.2, Nutrition. 2004.
  4. Canadian Sugar Institute. Further Analysis of Statistics Canada Health Report: Sugar consumption among Canadians of all ages, 2011. 
  5. Glinsmann HW, Irausquin H, Park KY.Report From FDA's Sugars Task Force - 1986 - Evaluation Of Health Aspects Of Sugars Contained In Carbohydrate Sweeteners. FDA, 1986.
  6. Garriguet D. Beverage consumption of Canadian adults. Health Rep 2008:19:23-29.
  7. Statistics Canada. Food Statistics, 2011.
  8. Hall KD, Guo J, Dore M, Chow CC. The progressive increase of food waste in America and its environmental impact. PLoS One 2009;4:e7940.
  9. Langlois K, Garriguet D. Sugar consumption among Canadians of all ages. Health Rep 2011:22.