Recently, as I was rifling through a stack of journal articles that have piled up on my desk, one in particular practically got up and danced a little jig across my desk. The study…published in the American Society for Nutrition journal…was emblazoned with the headline “Consumption of added sugars is decreasing in the United States.”
Exciting news for sure. But wait…but how could it possibly be true?
I mean have you checked the labels of the items in your grocery cart lately? It seems as if there’s added sugar in just about everything these days. Even non-sweet items like crackers and bread have a dose of the sweet stuff dumped into them. Frankly, just one trip to the grocery-store should convince just about anyone that it’s almost impossible that we have decreased our sugar intake.
Yet, according to the researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, a cross-sectional study of the dietary data gathered in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted from 1999 to 2008 combined with the data for added-sugar contents from the MyPyramid Equivalents Database revealed that Americans are indeed downing nearly a quarter less added sugar than they were nine years ago.
According to the team at Emory, between 1999 and 2000 there were 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of added sugar in a typical American’s daily diet. That number…according to the team’s data…had dropped to 77 grams (2.7 ounces) between 2007 and 2008.
So it would appear that the message is finally sinking in, right? Except, has it really? What’s the REAL story here?
Further digging reveals a fatal flaw in the study. The researchers failed to take into account how clever and devious the food manufacturers can be.
Checking a label for added sugar simply by looking for the word “sugar” alone in the list of ingredients just will not cut it anymore. Added sugars masquerade under a variety of identities these days, including beet extract, cane juice, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose (table sugar), dextrose, lactose, cane syrup, and glucose to name just a few.
And while the researchers did take many of these added sugars into account, they failed to include a critical added sugar that’s on the rise…and that is fruit-derived sugar.
Sensing a change in people’s attitudes toward added sugars (yes, the good news is that we really have been trying to make a change to something healthier), many food manufacturers have simply made the switch to fruit juice and fruit-juice concentrates to sweeten their products.
Since many people perceive fruit sugar to be harmless…and perhaps even healthy…many of us have simply shifted to fruit-sweetened products, but in all likelihood we have not reduced our added-sugar intake by nearly as much as the Emory University study found.
The bottom line is that consuming a lot of added sugar…no matter what the source…is detrimental to your health. Sugar, and the inflammation it causes, is at the root of countless diseases. And don’t even get me started on the perils of artificial sweeteners.
Related articles & videos of interest:
“Consumption of added sugars is decreasing in the United States,” American Society of Nutrition, June 15, 2011.