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Hidden Sugars

The average North American takes in 150 to 200 pounds of sugar a year. Most of your sugar intake comes from added sugars in drinks and packaged, frozen and canned foods that you buy in grocery stores or eat in restaurants. More than 75 percent of the packaged foods in your grocery store have added sugar in them.  Many of these foods do not taste particularly sweet, so you don't even realize that you are eating sugars.

Check These Foods for Hidden Added Sugars
• salad dressings and barbeque sauces
• yogurts including those with added fruit
• frozen and microwave meals
• canned fruit
• breakfast cereals
• breading on frozen foods and restaurant foods
• processed lunch meats, bacon and canned meats
• peanut butter and other nut butters
• ketchup
• canned cranberry sauce
• packaged diet foods
• gluten-free foods
• canned or packaged soups and sauces
• power bars, energy bars, diet bars and "health" bars
• bakery products
• soft drinks
• non-dairy milks
• fruit-flavored drinks
• many alcoholic drinks including wines

Read the List of Ingredients on All Packaged Foods and Drinks
The Food and Drug Administration requires all packaged foods and drinks to list the sugar content per serving, and to show all sources of sugar in the list of ingredients. If you see any of these ingredients, you are eating added sugars or sugar alcohols: anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, caramel, carbitol, concentrated fruit juice, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, diglycerides, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, erythritol, Florida crystals, fructooligosaccharides, fructose, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, granulated sugar, hexitol, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, inversol, isomalt, lactose, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, malted barley, maltose, malts, mannitol, maple syrup, molasses, nectar, pancake syrup, pentose, raisin syrup, raw sugar, ribose, rice malt, rice syrup, rice syrup solids, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, sugar syrup, white sugar, xylitol, zylose and many more.

Why You Should Limit Added Sugars
All calories are not equal. Added sugars are much more harmful than the sugars or starches in unprocessed whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Added sugars cause higher insulin and blood sugar levels that precede diabetes, metabolic syndrome and extensive cell damage, harmful fat storage, particularly in the belly, and inflammation and high blood pressure that lead to heart attacks. Killer diseases associated with high sugar intake include:

Diabetes: Added sugars, particularly in sugared drinks, cause high rises in blood sugar which can damage every cell in your body. To protect you from a high rise in blood sugar, your liver converts sugar almost immediately to a type of fat called triglycerides. Then the fatty triglyceride molecules are stored in your liver. Your liver is supposed to regulate blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels rise, your pancreas releases insulin into your bloodstream and it lowers blood sugar levels by driving sugar from your bloodstream into your liver. However, when you have fat in your liver, the fat prevents the liver from accepting the sugar from your bloodstream and blood sugar levels remain high, which leads to diabetes. See Sugar-Added Foods Increase Diabetes Risk

Heart Attacks: High rises in blood sugar can punch holes in the inner linings of your arteries. The holes bleed and clot and start to form plaques in the arteries leading to your heart. Then a plaque can break off from the inner lining of a heart artery and travel down the ever-narrowing artery until it blocks the artery completely to cause a heart attack. Diabetes is the most common known cause of heart attacks. See Sugar-Added to Foods Linked to Heart Attack Risk

Cancers: Every factor that is associated with a high rise in blood sugar is also associated with increased risk for many cancers: obesity, abdominal obesity, lack of exercise, lack of vitamin D and so forth. Normal cells feed on all foods, but cancers have damaged mitochondria so they have to get most of their energy from sugar. See A Cure for Cancer is Coming

Obesity: Almost 60 percent of North Americans are already overweight. Added sugars contribute the empty calories (calories with no other nutritional value) that are driving this epidemic of obesity. See Being Overweight Increases Risk for Premature Death

The Worst Culprit: "Fruit" Drinks
An analysis of 203 "100 percent fruit" drinks (fruit juices, fruit drinks and smoothies) marketed to appeal to children found that almost half of them contained at least 19 grams (almost five teaspoons) of added sugar per serving, a full day’s recommended maximum amount of sugar for a child (BMJ Open, March 23, 2016). This study was done in the UK, but the results would probably be even worse in North America. The grocery store where we shop has an entire aisle devoted to sugar-added fruit drinks. Insidious advertising and labeling has convinced parents that these drinks are a healthful alternative to soft drinks.

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 fruit.
• 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.  

Checked 1/8/17

January 3rd, 2016
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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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