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Sugar

Sugar is found in many foods, whether its hidden away or prominently displaced as a marketing tool.  It’s not unknown how alluring sugar is, but we’ve lost track of how much we are consuming throughout the years of the rise of convenience foods.

There are two types of sugar: added and natural.  Foods containing naturally found sugar include fruit, fruit juice, milk and dairy products. Added sugar, as the name suggests is sugar that is added to food during processing or preparation to make it sweeter.  There is a long list of ingredients that are classified as added sugar includes not just white table sugar, but brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, and stevia.  Just to mention a few food products that have a lot of added sugar include sugary drinks, cakes, candy, fruit drinks, bread, pasta sauce, chips and snacks, yogurt, and cereal.sugar-in-food

Sugar has a great influence on how our bodies perform.  Jean Mayer, a Harvard professor of nutrition, is credited with discovering how the desire to eat is controlled by the amount of glucose in the blood and by the brain’s hypothalamus, both of which in turn are greatly influenced by sugar. Scientist are not the only ones who have looked into how sugar affects the brain, food manufactures have also learned how to use it to produce better, more tasty, and addicting foods.  Food scientists can determine a product’s “bliss point,” – the precise amount of sweetness – that makes it most enjoyable.

The increasing amount of sugar Americans are craving may be turning into a learned behavior, the sweeter food is the sweeter we expect it to be.  Throughout generations this produces kids who love sweet breakfast cereal, who grow up to desire sugar in their morning coffee, sugary salad dressing at lunch, frozen meals with sugar, topped off with a bowl of ice cream. As our taste becomes increasingly accustom to high amounts of sugar we start to unconsciously expect it.

With consumption at rates 22 teaspoons of it a day, the American Heart Association suggested in 2009 that Americans  should cut their intake down to six teaspoons for adult women and nine for men. Although here is no specific national guideline for sugar consumption.  Nor is there a recommended maximum limit for the amount of sugar food producers use unlike salt and fat.  In 2004 when the WHO tried to include the 10% sugar limit recommendation in its Global Strategy for Diet, Physical Activity and Health, the U.S. Congress — under pressure from the sugar industry lobby — threatened to withdraw U.S. funding for the agency.

Sugar has come under fire previously in the late 70’s when the public became concerned about the amount of sugar in cereal and the FTC looked into regulating how TV advertising was aimed at kids.  Some cereal’s clock in at 50 percent sugar.  Soda consumption once was looked as the major culprit of the rising obesity numbers, but now the intake of other sugary drinks, like sports drinks, vitamin water, tea and others are just as bad.

Released earlier this year, this research is the first to link on a national level the amount of sugar American adults eat to their risk of dying from heart disease after taking into account weight, age, health, exercise and diet, said lead study author Quanhe Yang, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  “The risk of cardiovascular disease death increases exponentially as you increase your consumption of added sugar,” says the study’s lead author, Quanhe Yang, a senior scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consuming too much added sugar — in regular soda, cakes, cookies and candy — increases your risk of death from heart disease, according to a new study, the largest of its type.Excessive sugar is a big contributing factor to the obesity epidemic in America and other countries across the world.  Weight gain is just the tip of the iceberg.  Obesity is correlated with increased risks for even worse conditions including diabetes 2 and heart disease.

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How can we curb our desire for sugar?  Be conscious about the products were consuming, ultimately we are in charge of our health and can not be reliant on outside forces.  Start with breakfast, the quintessential breakfast dish accounted for 31 percent of Americans’ morning meals, beating out eggs, bagels and other pastries, according to an ABC poll.  Sugary drinks are also ill advised, even fruit juices  like the beloved orange and apple, because the majority of nutrients and fiber and left behind when its sweet nectar is cultivated.  We can’t expect food manufactures to be solely responsible for our health, they are in the business of making money and that is what they will do.  It’s not that gloomy through.  Campaigns are fighting for regulation and the lowering of additives.  Also the new nutrition labels, which we wont be seeing for a few years, with address the issue of added sugars and more prominently display the amount of sugar a product contains.

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First Look at Changes for New Nutrition Labels

The FDA made it its goal earlier this year, previous post Changes to Out Date Nutrition Labels, to update the 20 year old nutrition facts panel.  The Nutrition Facts label was introduced in 1993 and since then the American diet has immensely changed.  As the rates of obesity, as well as other public health problems, rise to drastic highs many have blamed the food products we consume.  Michele Obama has been one of the leading voices for making a healthier America with the “Let’s Move” initiative.

What will the changes look like?  Michael Landa said, “The proposed new label is intended to bring attention to calories and serving sizes, which are important in addressing these problems. Further, we are now proposing to require the listing of added sugars. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends reducing calories from added sugars and solid fats,” director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

What will be different? Proposed vs old.

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  • emphasis and bold in some areas like calories & serving size
  • no more calories from fat
  • update Daily Values
  • amount of potassium & Vitamin D will be required
  • update serving size to reflect what is typically eaten
  • & more

This proposal has not entered a 90 day public waiting period for comments.  After the 90-day comment period, the FDA will issue a final ruling. They hope to complete that process within a year. Manufacturers will have 2 years to get the new labels on packages.