The colossal nuisance of added sugars



Walk Talk Nutrition RDs discuss labeling Added Sugars

The FDA has proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts panel on food products.  One major change is including “Added Sugars” on the label.  Why?  The new US Dietary Guidelines expressly tell people to cut back on added sugars.  The proposed limits are no more than 100 calories/day (6 tsp) of added sugars for women and no more than 150 calories/day (9 tsp) for men.  But without labeling, there’s no way to know which sugars are added right now.  Food consumption surveys show that average intake of added sugars is 16% of daily calories, almost 1/2 cup (22 tsp).

Most of our added sugar intake comes from soft drinks, including soda pop, fruit drinks, sports drinks.  Candy, cookies, cakes, pies, dairy desserts and table sugar are also major contributors.  Added sugars have no nutritional value but plenty of calories.  Loading up on added sugar foods crowds out healthier whole foods.

The usual suspects (sugar and dessert manufacturers) think this is a bad idea and will be expensive to implement.  Health organizations, health professionals and plenty of consumers think it’s a great idea.  What do we think?  We think it’s an idea whose time has come.  Unfortunately, we have no idea where this labeling proposal stands at the moment.  It could be a very long while before food labels actually provide this information.  Meanwhile if you want to cut back on added sugars, the easiest way is to avoid sugary beverages, and limit candy and desserts.

A list of words that mean Added Sugar:

  • anhydrous dextrose
  • brown sugar
  • confectioner’s powdered sugar
  • corn syrup
  • corn syrup solids
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • malt syrup
  • maltose
  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar)
  • pancake syrup
  • raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • sugar
  • white granulated sugar
  • cane juice
  • evaporated corn sweetener
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • crystal dextrose
  • glucose
  • liquid fructose
  • sugar cane juice
  • agave syrup
  • fruit nectar

You can find more information about added sugars from the USDA MyPlate website or Harvard University’s Nutrition Source.

Here’s the American Heart Association statement on added sugars from 2009.  As Kathy points out, that’s 6 years ago, and we still don’t have labeling to help consumers identify foods high in added sugars.

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