Sugar hysteria week

candydisplayWhew, it’s been a rough week for sugar.

Over the past few days, a digital tidal wave of sugar-phobic news swept through the internet.  Here are just a few of the key pieces:

WHO says the world is eating too much sugar.

Everyone advised to “slash” sugar intake to just 6-12 teaspoons per day.  Why?  Because the WHO director says there is solid evidence that sugar intake increases risk for obesity, and its accompanying diseases, like diabetes.

Six to 12 teaspoons is a total intake of roughly 100-200 calories of added sugar per day.  The WHO did at least distinguish added sugar from natural sugars present in fruit.  Lots of processed foods have added sugar, from bread to salad dressing.  But the obvious sources account for most of our added sugar consumption: soft drinks, desserts, sweets.  One 12-oz can of soda would account for the recommended sugar limit.  Americans eat an average of 18 tsp added sugar daily, or about 13 % of calories.  In Portugal, people eat an average of 25% of their calories as added sugar.  ???  !!!  Wow.  Strangely, the obesity rate in Portugal is 15%, less than half that of the US.   So that link to increased obesity doesn’t work so well in Portugal.

Lower Fructose intake reduces fatty liver in children

Obese children are prone to developing fatty liver disease.  This study looked at the effect of cutting fructose, from added sugars such as from soft drinks, on adolescents.  The average age of the study group was 13 and the average weight was 196 lbs.  Again. … Wow!  They were 13 years old and weighed almost 200 lbs.  The kids were given study diets for 10 days, replacing sugary foods and drinks with more complex carbohydrate foods like vegetables and bread.  The good news: levels of fat in their livers went down in that relatively short time.

Dunkin’ Donuts to remove whitening agent from sugar

Oh this is a relief.  Dunkin’ Donuts apparently has been using powdered sugar with the whitening agent titanium dioxide.  Now it will use plain powdered sugar.  Phew, it’s safe to eat powdered sugar donuts.  Unless you go over the WHO’s sugar limit.

Pinterest is run by nutrition experts?  Not.

I just got a promotional email from Pinterest with this blurb:

Sugar is the new fat. It’s everywhere—flour, added sweeteners—and on average, we gobble down a pound of it every day. Cut it out and, instead, enjoy endless health benefits like weight loss, increased energy and clearer skin.

Sugar is in flour?  Umm, … I believe that would be a violation of the standards of identity for flour.  Not to mention, if flour had sugar, it wouldn’t work right in any recipes.

We gobble a pound of it everyday?  Well, according to the data used by WHO, we eat 18 teaspoons, which weighs about 76 grams, maybe 1/8th pound.  A pound of sugar is almost 110 teaspoons (2-1/4 cups), and about 1800 calories, which is more than many people eat in a day.  Spending your days eating nothing but sugar would end up pretty boring and sickening, so maybe Pinterest needs to check their facts.

As for cutting sugar to lose weight, increase energy and get clearer skin: well, if you cut calories while cutting sugar, yes you can lose weight.  Increased energy?  Clearer skin?  Where’s the evidence for that?

By the way, the email was promoting anti-sugar Pins, such as one linked to an article that recommends honey and coconut palm sugar (!!!!) as “healthier” substitutes for sugar.  !!!  Healthier how exactly?  Because they have “tons of nutrients”, like potassium.  You’d have to consume a cup of honey, at over 1000 calories of sugar (yes, sorry, honey is sugar) to get a minuscule 170 mg of potassium.  A large banana has about 500 mg potassium at 100 calories, and plenty of other nutrients as well, not to mention fiber.

As for “sugar is the new fat”.  Look where all that low fat nonsense got us.

Take Away Message:

  1. Yes intake of added sugars in processed foods is too high.  The easiest way to cut back is to cut out or strictly limit consumption of sugary foods.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to identify high sugar processed foods.
  2. No sweeteners can be rationalized by claiming they have “tons of nutrients”.
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