Sugar Sugar Everywhere

As discussed in the November Newsletter the new nutrition facts label will be rolling out in 2018. Larger manufacturers have until July 26, 2018 to be compliant with labeling, but you may have noticed the new label already on some of your favorite food items, which is very exciting.

The new changes to the label were made to help keep Americans healthy and informed. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D. states “The updated label makes improvements to this valuable resource, so consumers can make more informed food choices—one of the most important steps a person can take to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.” Obesity has been linked to increased risk of esophageal, pancreatic, colon/rectal, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, kidney, thyroid and gallbladder cancers.

One of the changes in the new food label that I feel will be most beneficial for TurningPoint patients is the breakdown of sugar. The label will now list grams and a percent daily value (%DV) for “added sugars” to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product. The definition of added sugars includes sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and include sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice of the same type. The definition excludes fruit or vegetable juice concentrated from 100 percent fruit juice that is sold to consumers (e.g. frozen 100 percent fruit juice concentrate) as well as some sugars found in fruit and vegetable juices, jellies, jams, preserves, and fruit spreads.

Why is “added sugar” something to be mindful of? To start, sugar has no nutritional value. It provides us with nothing but calories. Increased consumption of calories in the absence of physical activity can lead to weight gain, and increased weight, as stated above, can increase your risk for certain cancers. The American Institute for Cancer research states the following: “Foods and drinks that are high in refined carbohydrates, added sugar, and fat contribute to obesity, a major risk factor for cancer.”   Eating too much refined sugar can also cause chronic low-grade inflammation which has been linked to increased cancer risk as well.

The current recommendations for added sugar is 6 teaspoons a day for females and 9 teaspoons a day for males. This equates to 24 and 36 grams/day respectively. With the new label, consumers will be able to take control of their sugar consumption and choose where/how they spend their sugar budget. In the case of added sugar, it is important to remember less is always better. A few simple steps to cutting sugar is to eliminate/cut back on the obvious: pies, cookies, candies and eliminating sugary beverages such as soda, sweet tea, and sports drinks.

Keep in mind, when talking about sugar consumption, it is refined sugar, not sugar found naturally in our food, (lactose in milk or fructose in fruit, etc.), so cutting back on these foods is not warranted. See how sugar is hidden in plain sight and a list of 61 names for sugar (scroll down, right column).  Keeping refined sugar to a minimum is hugely important for overall health.

American Institute for Cancer Research