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Statistics LibreTexts

20.26: Sugar Consumption in the US Diet

Skills to Develop

  • Sugar Consumption in the US Diet between 1822 and 2005 

Research conducted by

Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen

Case study prepared by

Robert F. Houser and Georgette Baghdady 


Sugar has many forms: cane sugar, beet sugar, honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, sucrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, agave nectar, to list a few. High-fructose corn syrup, in particular, was introduced into the US food industry in the early \(1970s\) and has become ubiquitous in processed foods and soft drinks. Many of the added sugars in packaged foods and beverages could be considered "hidden sugar" because, if we do not examine the ingredients list on food labels or know sugar's many aliases, we are most likely unaware of how much sugar we consume each day.

To explore sugar consumption trends in the US, researchers Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen compiled data on caloric sweetener sales spanning \(184\) years. They extracted annual caloric sweetener sales per capita for \(1822\) to \(1908\) from US Department of Commerce and Labor reports, and for \(1909\) to \(2005\) from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) web site. The researchers adjusted the sales data for post-production losses using the USDA's \(1970-2005\) loss estimate of \(28.8\) percent to obtain reasonable estimates of annual per capita consumption of added sugars. Post-production losses of a food commodity occur at the retail, foodservice and consumer levels from, for example, spoilage, pests, cooking losses and plate waste.

Guyenet presents a striking graph and regression analysis of sugar consumption in the US from \(1822\) to \(2005\) in a blog to promote awareness and discussion. 

Questions to Answer

Do different time periods between \(1822\) and \(2005\) reveal different trends in sugar consumption in the US diet? Can a regression graph be used to make predictions outside the range of the study data? 

Design Issues 

The data represent added caloric sugars such as cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and maple syrup, not naturally occurring sugars such as those in fruits and vegetables. Thus the data do not represent total sugar consumption. The data are not direct measures of consumption, but rather estimates derived from sales figures by adjusting for losses before consumption. The adjustment, applied across all years, is based on the USDA loss estimate from \(1970-2005\), which may or may not underestimate sugar consumption in earlier time periods. 

Descriptions of Variables

Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Description of Variables

Variable Description
year All years from 1822 to 2005
sugar_consum Estimated consumption of added sugars in the US diet in pounds per year per person

Data Files



  • Johnson, R. K., Appel, L. J., Brands, M., Howard, B. V., Lefevre, M., Lustig, R. H., Sacks, F., Steffen, L. M., Wylie-Rosett, J. (2009). Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 120, 1011-1020.


  • Online Statistics Education: A Multimedia Course of Study ( Project Leader: David M. Lane, Rice University.