June 24, 2014
Defining Added Sugar
People seem to enjoy foods with sugar because they taste good; or that for decades their taste buds have been retrained to enjoy that taste. Research using brain scans show that sugar releases dopamine in the brain and causes a pleasurable sensation. Currently the Nutritional Facts Label lists all sugars (both naturally occurring and those that have been added - sugar, HFCS, honey, corn syrup, etc) as “Sugars.” The White House has taken the lead on breaking down sugars into two categories: Sugars and Added Sugars as research shows that consumers are confused into believing some products that have healthy naturally occurring sugars may have too much sugar, and avoided them. For example, 100% orange juice can offer a range of nutrients and only contains naturally occurring sugars.
While the new recommendation of the addition of “Added Sugars” under Sugars will differentiate added and naturally occurring sugars in products, Americans still continue to consume too much sugar of all kinds. Reduction of sugar intake continues to be an issue of education for consumers (how those sugars are actually metabolized into their bodies) and how to eat a balanced diet.
First off, what is Added Sugar?
Added sugar is any caloric sweetener not naturally found in a food. It can be sugar/sucrose (from sugarcane or sugar beet processings) which is half fructose and half glucose. Sucrose is often used in cold dairy products such as ice cream. Fructose (a monosaccharide or simple sugar) can be used as high fructose corn syrup and although it is made of fructose and glucose like sucrose it is thought to be the most evil of sugars.
The new regulation of Added Sugar will help people distinguish between the natural sugars found in fruit, vegetables, milk, 100% juice (versus fruit drinks), and sugars added arbitrarily. The proposed nutritional label changes for Sugar will “make it easier than ever to judge a food by its label,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A Hamburg, M.D. The rule changes may illuminate food content that many consumers may find surprising and it may help us focus more on health and wellness.
“Healthy” Added Sugars:
Some products containing Added Sugar are marketed as “natural” because those sugars come from Agave nectar, raw honey or coconut palm sugar. Agave syrup has 70% fructose which is actually more than high fructose corn syrup. In the Huffington Post’s “Top 10 Food Label Tricks to Avoid in 2012”, Dr. Robert J. Davis states, “Just because a product contains an alternative to HFCS -- whether sugar, fruit juice concentrate, brown rice syrup or agave nectar -- doesn't necessarily make it more healthful.” He concludes, “All caloric sweeteners, if consumed in excess, can contribute to obesity and related health problems.”
It is important to work with a Registered Dietitian at your local retail market or your personal physician to understand the level of caloric sweetener intake that is right for your body. While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years, the labels that consumers rely upon to inform them about ingredients are less consistent.
Gail Rampersaud, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., University of Florida, Florida Department of Citrus, explains, “Your body doesn’t know the difference between added sugar or natural sugar from a metabolic standpoint. Where the difference comes in is what nutrients and how much of them are traveling with those sugars. You have to look at the total package. I really think that the addition of Added Sugars on the label will help with that confusion and am encouraged that it will help differentiate nutrient dense beverages from others.” Gail points out that we need to “reduce our intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars (emphasis on beverages with added sugars) and eat more nutrient dense foods and beverages. Naturally-occurring sugars like in 100% orange juice will be more obvious to consumers who will start to see what beverages give you nutritious calories.”
Gail Rampersaud gives five excellent reasons why to drink 100% orange juice in her INTERVIEW HERE. Additionally as a side note, some consumers may think “From Concentrate” orange juice is with more sugar, but that is not the fact. The difference is in how the fruit is processed.
The Context of the Diet:
Kristine Clark, PhD., RD, Director, Sports Nutrition, Assistant Professor, Penn State, spoke with The Food Journal about how sugar can be linked in the minds of consumers to obesity. “Ultimately what the researchers are showing is it’s not sugar that causes weight gain, but excess calorie consumption and inadequate energy expenditure. It’s not a simple one size fits all especially with genetics playing an increasing role. If we took people all overweight by ten pounds, with similar diets, and gave them 16 tablespoons of raw sugar every day to see what happened, if nothing happened, we can’t say sugar is causing something. Say two of the 100 people broke out in hives, could we say sugar cause that?” READ FULL INTERVIEW WITH KRISTINE CLARK HERE
With Added Sugar, it continues to be up to the consumer to take charge of all aspects of their heath as nutrition science expands. According to the FDA's web site on Guidance & Regulation, “The government has no specific recommendation for added sugars. Including added sugars on the new Nutrition Facts label would allow consumers who want to limit their added sugar intake to compare various brands of similar products.”