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Added Sugars: Labels Can Deceive

Researchers at the George Institute for Global Health in Australia have just presented a review of 34,000 packaged foods to the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation. They found that seventy percent of these packaged foods contained added sugars that were not clearly identified on the nutrition labels. The same type of deception occurs in the United States. Current legislation mandates that by 2018, U.S. food manufacturers need to include both total and added sugars on food labels, but this regulation is likely to be rescinded.

Added Sugars vs Sugar in Whole Fruits and Vegetables
Sugar added to food affects you differently than sugars in whole fruits and vegetables. Clinical trials in humans and population studies show that sugar added to foods increases risk for diabetes and heart attacks, while sugar in whole fruits does not (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, published online January 29, 2015). People who eat lots of fruits and vegetables are at reduced risk for heart attacks and are least likely to die prematurely (European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 04/25/2015; European Heart Journal, Sept 2014). An earlier review of several studies showed that heart attack risk is reduced by seven percent for each daily portion of fruit you eat (J. Nutr, October 2006;136 (10): 2588-2593). Another study showed that eating lots of fruits and vegetables is associated with a 46 percent reduction in diabetes in women (Preventive Medicine, Jan 2001;32(1):33-39).

Fruits and vegetables contain soluble fiber, a gel that binds to sugar in fruits and markedly reduces its absorption until it reaches your colon. There bacteria ferment the soluble fiber to release the sugar so that much of fruit sugar is absorbed in your colon, whereas most of the added sugar in drinks and foods is absorbed immediately after it passes into your intestines. Thus sugar added to foods causes a much higher rise in blood sugar than the same amount of sugar in whole fruits and vegetables. High rises in blood sugar can damage cells throughout your body and the higher the rise in blood sugar after you eat, the greater your chance of suffering arteriosclerosis, diabetes and heart attacks (Atherosclerosis, Nov 17, 2016;256:15-20). Diabetes can be diagnosed by measuring the rise in blood sugar after meals, even in people who have normal fasting blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar rises above 150 one hour after eating a meal, you are at high risk for all of the terrible effects of diabetes including a heart attack.

Surprising Foods with Added Sugars
• Pasta sauces can contain 6 to 12 grams sugar per half-cup serving, the same amount as in a cookie.
• Low-fat yogurt may have 17 to 33 grams of added sugar per 8-ounce serving, the same as a cup of ice cream.
• Energy drinks usually contain 25 grams or more per can.
• A bottle of sweet tea can contain more than 30 grams of sugar.
• Granola bars may have 8-12 grams of added sugars.
• Instant flavored oatmeal packets may have 10-15 grams of added sugar.
• Ketchup typically has 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon.
• Coleslaw can have 15 grams of added sugar per serving.
• Salad dressings can contain as much as 5-7 grams of sugar per 2-tablespoon serving.

My Recommendations
• Neither you nor your children should be drinking beverages with sugar in them unless you are in the midst of prolonged, vigorous exercise. Instead, drink water and eat plenty of whole fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Read the list of ingredients on all processed foods that you plan to buy and try to limit or avoid those that have added sugars. For a list of the dozens of ingredient names that indicate added sugars, see Hidden Sugars

August 13th, 2017
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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