Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

What are the dangers of “added sugar”?

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The new food labels using the Nutrition Facts panel will be required to list the amount of “added sugars” in the food serving. Some companies are already complying but the FDA extended the dates last summer.

Our total carbohydrate intake decreased between 1909 and 1963 due to a decrease in the whole grain consumption and its accompanying  fiber. Since 1960, total carbohydrate intake has increased, but fiber intake did not rise with it, suggesting an increase in refined carbohydrates. Much of the carbohydrate added back to our diets between 1963 and 2000 came from sugars; over this time period per capita sugar consumption rose by 33%. Whole-grain breads and cereals were replaced by white bread, snack foods, and sugared soft drinks.

The types of sweeteners also changed. In the 1960’s we sweetened food with cane and beet sugar, but today most of the foods we buy are sweetened with corn sweeteners, namely high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  This appears to be changing as more food companies are removing the HFCS  from their products.

However, we are now advised to eat fewer foods with added sugars (now defined as sugars and syrups that have been added to foods during processing or preparation.)  Smolin and Grosvenor, Nutrition: Science and Applications, Third Edition.

The following paper discusses the possibility (although not conclusive) that fructose may be involved in the rise of what is called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It is debatable whether the culprit alone is fructose and some research indicates that over consumption of all refined sugars could be to blame, not just fructose. Since sucrose is approximately 1/2 fructose and 1/2 glucose, it is also a source of fructose in the diet.


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