Greensboro, NC -- First it was the war on fat, then carbohydrates. Now, when it comes to our health, the culprit that's front and center is sugar.
According to some experts, the amount of sugar Americans consume daily could be considered toxic.
We're not talking about natural sugar, the kind that's found in fresh fruit and vegetables, we're talking about sugar that is added when food is processed.
Sugar is hiding in so many foods, a lot of people don't even realize they're overdosing on it.
"We are inherently born with a sweet tooth," said Dr. Gary Miller, Associate Professor of Health & Exercise Science at Wake Forest University.
According to researchers, on average, Americans consume 150 grams or 37.5 teaspoons of sugar a day. That's 130 pounds of sugar a year, per person.
"Sugar should be one of the top things on the list that we really need to be aware of," said Miller.
So you might be asking, how are we eating that much sugar?
"For a long time, fat was kind of the evil nutrient. We'd try to avoid it," said Miller. "What the food companies would do, they would replace that fat with sugar in order to make it more palatable and in order for us to consume it still."
From breakfast cereal, to yogurt and condiments, even peanut butter, manufacturers are adding loads of sugar.
"There are a lot of hidden ones that have a lot of sugar in them, like some of the granolas, where you say, 'OK, this is nice and healthy,' but then you kind of start looking and see, they've added a lot of sugar, a lot of honey, to the product to make it taste pretty palatable too," Miller said.
According to Miller, dextrose, sucrose, glucose, fructose, and high fructose corn syrup are all code words for sugar that's added during processing. Miller said they're all bad news. If it's added, it doesn't need to be there.
"I think there's enough science to show, it's not doing us any good," he said.
Miller said doctors can trace diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, heart disease and a slew of unexplained illnesses back to sugar.
"Based on what we see in our food environment now, I think it is fair to say that sugar can be toxic to us," he said.
News 2's Lauren Melvin asked Miller whether it's fair to say we have a sugar addiction.
"That's a good question, I think a lot of it depends on how you want to define addiction," he said. "Sugar tastes good, we all like it. I'm guilty of it too. But sugar changes our physiology, our behavior of our brain, and basically, really enjoy and kind of keep searching it out, which is one of the definitions of addiction."
Miller said he doesn't necessarily think it's a good idea for sugar to be regulated, but he does believe companies and food manufacturers should start policing themselves. He said that would take pressure from consumers.
"It's going to be a long, slow process," he said.
It doesn't mean you can never touch another cookie, but remember what your mother taught you.
"Everything in moderation can be fairly healthy and our body can kind of adapt to it," said Miller.
So how much sugar should you have?
Based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, which is what health experts say is normal, less than 10 percent of your total calories per day should come from sugar.
That means, we should consumer no more than 200 calories, or 50 grams of sugar, a day. Miller said much of that should be natural sugar, found in fruits and vegetables.
Additionally, a lot of experts are not convinced that artificial sweeteners are the answer.
Even though a lot of sugar-free products are available, it hasn't necessarily made us thinner. Moreover, a lot of experts have actually questioned the safety of artificial sweeteners. Miller said there is even some evidence that shows artificial sweeteners might actually make you crave sugar.
WFMY News 2