When the source of added sugar is you

Added sugars is the new nutritional bogey man (or bogey ingredient).  Everyone’s shrieking about how much sugar is in foods, everyone is trying to avoid sugar, soda pop consumption is down and, starting next year, the FDA will require food manufacturers to list the amount of added sugars on food labels.  That’s not a bad idea, but what happens when you add your own sugar to a food?  Such as your coffee or tea?  Whether you add sugar at home from your own sugar bowl, or at your local coffee shop, it’s still “added sugar”,  just without a label.

A new study suggests that this isn’t an insignificant amount.  Data from thousands of adults was compiled from the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).  Over half the participants drank coffee and 1/4 drank tea.  Two-thirds of the coffee drinkers and 1/3 of the tea drinkers added something to their drink, whether cream, sugar, sweetened coffee creamers, other sweeteners or milk.  Most of the added calories came from sugar and on average, people who add stuff to their coffee consume 70 extra calories a day compared to people who drink coffee black.  Sugar accounts for an average 42 calories of that.  Which means some people are stirring almost a tablespoon of sugar into their drink.  Wow!

Seventy calories is not a big deal you might say.  But keep in mind, that’s an average number.  Some people may add just a dollop of half and half (maybe 25 calories), which means someone else is adding more than 70 calories to their coffee to make up the average.  On a daily basis (365 days a year), if someone adds 100 calories of sugar and/or fat to their coffee, that’s 36,500 calories, or about 10 lbs of body fat.  You may not gain 10 lbs in a year.  Perhaps you just don’t lose that 10 lbs that’s been bugging you.  Or perhaps you cut back on other real (nutritious) food to give you room for added empty calorie sugar in your coffee.  Maybe not such a big deal for an athletic 18 year old who eats a lot of food.  More of a problem for an inactive 75 year old with a poor appetite.

Take Away Message

A lot of people are consuming added sugar that isn’t going to show up on a food label.  Depending on how much coffee or tea you drink, and what you add, you might be getting a lot of added sugar every day that’s not going to show up on a food label.

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