Americans' consumption of sugar "unprecedented"

(CBS News) The amount of sugar consumed by Americans today is unprecedented, and is contributing to heart disease and high blood pressure, a dietitian said on "CBS This Morning."

Cynthia Sass, a nutritionist and registered dietitian, was on the broadcast to discuss a "60 Minutes" report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta which explored studies indicating that sugar - more than any other substance - is linked to obesity, type-2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Sass explained that the average American today consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. "In a year's time it's about 17 four-lb. bags of sugar per person per year," she told Charlie Rose. "We need to change our habits."

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When asked why sugar may be considered toxic, Sass compared one's blood to a glass of water: "Now think about pouring sugar into that water. The more sugar that's there, the thicker and more syrupy that water gets.

"When that's happening in your body - in your blood - your heart has to work harder to pump that thicker fluid through your system," Sass said. "It puts stress on the heart. It puts stress on the arteries. It Increases blood pressure. It attacks the kidneys, the liver. So it's really the amount that we have that's really causing these problems."

Sass said the source of sugar is also an important consideration. "The sugar that's healthy is the kind that comes from Mother Nature - the sugar that's in fruit, that's in yogurt, that's naturally occurring," she said. "So when you think about blueberries, a cup of blueberries, that has about 7 grams of fructose, but it's bundled with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber."

A can of soda, by comparison, has about 25 grams of fructose - about three times more - with no nutrients.

When asked by Erica Hill how people can avoid sugar, Sass replied, "You need to read the ingredient list. That's the only way to know if the sugar that's in the product is added, manufactured in, processed in, or it's coming from nature."

To watch the complete interview click on the video player above.

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