There are two types of sugars in American diets: naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars include any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. This can include natural sugars as well as those that are chemically manufactured such as high fructose corn syrup.
The major sources of added sugars in American diets are soft drinks, sugars, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and fruit drinks, ice cream and sweetened yogurt.
Unfortunately, it's not possible to tell by looking at the nutrition facts panel of a food if it contains added sugars. The line for “sugars” includes both added and natural sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are found in many ingredients. However, reading the ingredient list on a processed food’s label can tell you if the product contains added sugars, just not the exact amount if the product also contains natural sugars.
Sugar-Free – less than 0.5 g of sugar per serving
Reduced Sugar or Less Sugar – at least 25 percent less sugars per serving compared to a standard serving size of the traditional variety
No Added Sugars or Without Added Sugars – no sugars or sugar-containing ingredient such as juice or dry fruit is added during processing
Low Sugar – not defined or allowed as a claim on food labels
If the product has no fruit or milk products in the ingredients, all of the sugars in the food are from added sugars. If the product contains fruit or milk products, the total sugar per serving listed on the label will include added and naturally occurring sugars.
Over the past 30 years, Americans have steadily consumed more and more added sugars in their diets.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars consumed to no more than half of a person's daily discretionary calorie allowance. For most American women, this is no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons) and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons) for men.
For most people, experts agree that some added sugar in the diet is fine, but most Americans consume way too much. The average intake is nearly 66 pounds of added sugar per year. Children and teens are particularly at risk with children and adolescents obtaining about 16 percent of their total caloric intake from added sugars. With as many as 11 teaspoons of added sugar in one 12 oz. soda, a single serving is close to double most people's daily sugar allowance! Even a leading brand of yogurt, supposedly a healthy food choice, has 7 teaspoons of total sugars, most of it added.
Research shows that for some people eating sugar produces craving and withdrawal, along with chemical changes in the brain's reward center. Using brain-scanning technology, scientists at the US National Institute on Drug Abuse demonstrated that sugar causes changes in peoples' brains similar to those in people addicted to drugs such as cocaine and alcohol. These changes are linked to a heightened craving for more sugar.
Consuming too much added sugar over long periods of time also can affect the natural balance of hormones that drive critical functions in the body. Eating sugar increases levels of glucose in the bloodstream, which leads the pancreas to release insulin. Higher levels of insulin, in turn, cause the body to store more food calories as fat.
Insulin also affects a hormone called leptin, which is our natural appetite suppressant that tells our brains we are full and can stop eating. Imbalanced insulin levels, along with high consumption of certain sugars has been linked to a condition called leptin resistance in which the brain no longer "hears" the message to stop eating, thus promoting weight gain and obesity.
To make foods low fat, many food companies replaced the fat with added sugar.
People are consuming excessive sugar in the form of fructose or high-fructose corn syrup which is a highly processed form of sugar that is cheaper but 20 percent sweeter than regular table sugar. That is why manufacturers favor it.
High-fructose corn syrup is found in almost all types of processed foods and drinks today.
The problem is that is the human body is not made to consume excessive amounts of sugar, especially in the form of fructose and it metabolizes fructose differently than sugar.
Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology in the University of California says that our body can safely metabolize at least six teaspoons of added sugar per day. But since most Americans are consuming much more than that, almost all of the excess sugar gets metabolized into body fat.
Some of the effects that consuming too much sugar are:
Liver damage. The effects of too much can be likened to the effects of alcohol. The liver is severely taxed which can lead to damage known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The body is fooled into gaining weight which affects insulin and leptin signaling. It fails to stimulate insulin, which in turn fails to suppress the hunger hormone, which then fails to stimulate the the desire to stop eating. The result...you to eat more and develop insulin resistance.
Metabolic dysfunction. These include weight gain, abdominal obesity, decreased HDL and increased LDL, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure.
Increased uric acid levels. High uric acid levels are a risk factor for heart and kidney disease.
One study found that fructose is readily used by cancer cells to increase their proliferation.
Alzheimer's disease is another illness that can arise from too much sugar consumption.
What can a person do to avoid excess sugar consumption? Increase healthy fats, such as omega-3, saturated, and monounsaturated fats. Some of the best sources include organic butter from raw milk, virgin olive oil, coconut oil, raw nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, avocado, and wild Alaskan salmon.
Drink pure, clean water instead of sweetened beverages like sodas and fruit juices. The best way to gauge your water needs is to observe the color of your urine (it should be light pale yellow) and the frequency of your bathroom visits (ideally, this is around seven to eight times per day).
Nine signs you are eating too much sugar