Canadians get about 20 per cent of their calories from sugar, according to a new report.

Statistics Canada reported on sugar consumption of Canadians of all ages on Wednesday. 

"The sugar that Canadians consume accounts for 21 per cent of their daily calories," Kellie Langlois and Didier Garriguet of Statistics Canada in Ottawa concluded. "Beverages are among the top sources of sugar."

The sweetener may occur naturally in fruit and milk or be added to foods and drinks.

Since the report didn't distinguish between naturally occurring and added sugars, it isn't possible to compare how much sugar Canadians take in to guidelines from the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine, the report's authors noted. 

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The percentage of sugar consumed in confectionery items like sweets was about twice as high, for children, nine per cent, and teens, 10 per cent, as for adults at five per cent. ((Matthias Schrader/Associated Press))

The Institute of Medicine recommends that no more than 25 per cent of total calories come from added sugars. The World Health Organization recommends a daily maximum of 10 per cent of calories from free sugars.

"In terms of how other countries are doing, we look to be about the same," Langlois said.

On average, Canadians consumed 110 grams of sugar a day, the equivalent of 26 teaspoons.

Overall, 35 per cent of the sugar that Canadians consumed came from the "other" foods category. The percentage peaked at 46 per cent among teenage boys.

Nadine Romaine, a public health nutritionist in Halifax, said there are reasons to worry about teenagers who drink a lot of sugary drinks.

"Tooth decay, obesity and other chronic diseases," Romaine said. "Because usually when people consume the soft drinks and the sweetened beverages, when they consume those they usually replace other healthier foods."

Sugar consumption was lowest among women aged 71 and over, at 20 teaspoons, and highest among teenage boys aged 14 to 18, at 41 teaspoons.

This study reported daily intake of sugar by food group and by the top 10 sources.

For example, the top five sources of sugar intake for Canadians age 9 to 18 were:

  • Soft drinks: regular 14.3%.
  • Milk: 14.0%.
  • Fruit: 10.6%.
  • Confectionery: 10.3%.
  • Fruit juice: 9.1%.

The Canadian Sugar Institute said it was pleased that the report will help dispel "misinformation" regarding Canadian consumption patterns.

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"The report shows Canadians' total sugars consumption is moderate and within the 45 to 65 per cent of energy that is recommended for carbohydrates", Sandra Marsden, a registered dietician and president of the institute said in a release.

The report was based on the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey of nutrition. The 35, 000 respondents were asked to report everything they ate and drank during the previous 24 hours. 

It was the first time such consumption information has been available in Canada. The researchers plan to collect the nutritional information again in 2015.

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With files from CBC's Heather Evans and Pauline Dakin