There  is a concern about how much sugars Canadians consume. It is important to look to Canadian sources of data on what we are currently consuming. 

  • Estimated Intakes from Nutrition Survey Data. According to dietary intake surveys from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) 2004, consumption of total sugars in Canada was 110 grams per day, equivalent to 21% of total daily energy intake. The consumption of added sugars in Canada was estimated to be 51 grams/day in 2004, equivalent to 11% of total energy intake.
  • Trends in Canadian Added Sugars Availability in the Marketplace. Statistics Canada availability data indicates that the amount of added sugars available in the marketplace has been declining over the past 30 years. When published, sugars data from CCHS 2015 will provide an estimate of dietary changes since 2004. 
  • Comparison of Canadian Sugars Consumption to US Data. The amount of available added sugars in Canada is about one-third less than the US.

Estimated Intakes of Total and Added Sugars from Nutrition Survey Data

Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) 2004 offers the most recent published nutrition survey data and an objective observation of food consumption based on the collection of self-report nutrition surveys in the form of 24-hour dietary recalls from 35,000 Canadians. CCHS data shows that in 2004 Canadians consumed about 110 g of total sugars per day, equivalent to approximately 21% of their daily energy; this includes all sugars naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables, and milk products, plus all sugars added to foods and beverages (1).

Added sugars cannot be chemically distinguished from naturally occurring sugars in individual foods that contain sugars from both sources. As a result, CCHS cannot report the actual consumption of added sugars. Although CCHS cannot provide a direct measure of added sugars intake, added sugars can be roughly estimated based on the food sources contributing sugars to Canadians’ diets. 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; so roughly 51 g per day or 11% of daily energy. Average intake ranged from 9.9% of energy in adults aged 19 years and above to 14.1% of energy in adolescents aged 9-18 years (Figure 1)(2). Average intakes however do not account for the variation in intakes among individuals. Unfortunately, data is not yet available for the characteristics of those who consume higher levels of added sugars.

Figure 1: Estimated Canadian Sugars Consumption in 2004
  Total Sugars Added Sugars
All ages 21% 11%
1-8 years 27% 10%
9-18 years 25% 14%
19+ years 20% 10%
% of total energy intake
Age group

 

Trends in Canadian Added Sugars Availability in the Marketplace

CCHS 2015 has collected the most recent dietary intake data, which is to be released soon. When published, sugars data from CCHS 2015 will provide more up to date information on Canadian eating habits, including an estimate of dietary changes since 2004. Until then, we can look to Statistics Canada food availability data, which is reported annually. Availability data for sugars represents the amount of added sugars available in the marketplace and can be used as a proxy to observe trends in per capita sugars consumption in Canada (3).

While many headlines suggest that Canadian intakes of added sugars are increasing, data from Statistics Canada indicates a decline in availability of sugars over the last 20 years. This means the amount of added sugars available for purchase has been declining, and implies a similar declining trend in added sugars consumption in Canada.

Figure 2: Estimated Added Sugars Consumption in Canada Added Sugars g/day
Loss Adjusted Availability, grams/person/day
1984 78.1
1985 80.0
1986 80.5
1987 82.8
1988 78.4
1989 72.7
1990 74.1
1991 72.9
1992 75.5
1993 77.3
1994 79.7
1995 76.4
1996 77.1
1997 77.1
1998 73.6
1999 74.0
2000 74.2
2001 74.3
2002 74.2
2003 73.7
2004 72.9
2005 70.0
2006 66.7
2007 63.9
2008 64.3
2009 65.7
2010 62.2
2011 62.9
2012 60.3
2013 61.9
2014 61.2
2015 59.6
2016 58.7
2017 58.5

Data source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM. Adjusted for waste using updated USDA Loss-Adjusted Food Availability  (http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-availability-(per-capita)-data-system/.aspx#26705) . Includes refined sugar, maple sugar, honey and sugars in soft drinks. Note: Variability in sugars and syrups reflects substitution with high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks so total sugars, syrups and soft drinks is an overestimate in some years. Sugars in soft drinks is an overestimate as soft drink data includes non-caloric soft drinks.

Comparison of Canadian Sugars Consumption to US Nutrition Survey Data

Figure 3: Trend in Canada and United States Added Sugars Consumption (1994-2016) Canada United States
Loss Adjusted Availability, grams/person/day
1994 79.7 103.4
1995 76.4 105.4
1996 77.1 105.9
1997 77.1 108.5
1998 73.6 109.2
1999 74.0 110.9
2000 74.2 109.0
2001 74.3 107.7
2002 74.0 107.0
2003 73.7 103.5
2004 72.9 103.7
2005 70.0 104.0
2006 66.7 101.5
2007 63.9 99.0
2008 64.3 99.2
2009 65.7 95.3
2010 62.2 96.3
2011 62.9 94.8
2012 60.3 94.7
2013 61.9 93.9
2014 61.2 94.7
2015 59.6 94.6
2016 58.7 92.5

Data source: Canada: Statistics Canada, CANSIM. Adjusted for waste using updated USDA Loss-Adjusted Food Availability. United States: USDA, Caloric sweeteners: Per capita availability adjusted for loss.

Media articles often quote American sugars consumption statistics. However, our eating patterns are often different than our neighbours’, and this includes sugars intakes. Comparisons from 2004 consumption surveys indicate that Canadians eat and drink fewer sugars from foods and beverages than Americans, approximately one third less (2, 4). Much of this difference can be explained by the fact that Canadian consumption of soft drinks was about half that of the US (4).     

Comparison of Canadian and US Consumption

Canada US
Population Average per person per day (Added sugars estimated)

(CCHS 2004)

(NHANES 2003-04)

Total Calories

2,073 Calories 2,195 Calories

Total sugars (grams) - natural and added

110 g 133 g

Added sugars (grams)*

55 g 88 g

Added sugars (Calories)

220 Calories 352 Calories

Added sugars (% Calories)

10.7% 15.9%
*Added sugars estimates 

For more information, additional resources include:

Recent news items include: 

References

  1. Langlois K, Garriguet D. Sugar consumption among Canadians of all ages. Statistics Canada Health Reports. September 2011.
  2. Brisbois TD, et al. Estimated intakes and sources of total and added sugars in the Canadian diet. Nutrients 2014;6(5):1899-1912. 
  3. Statistics Canada CANSIM Table 002-0011. Food Available in Canada. 
  4. Welsh JA, Sharma AJ, Grellinger L, Vos MB. Consumption of added sugars is decreasing in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94:726-734.