Is sugar the tobacco of the new millennium?
In a recent article in the New York Times science writer Gary Taubes argues that sugar may have prematurely killed more people than tobacco.
Whereas nutritionists argue that obesity and adult onset diabetes are caused by overeating and sedentary lifestyles, Taube says the real culprit is sugar, whether it comes in the form of glucose, fructose, or concentrated fruit juice. Sugar, he says, is at the root of the current epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver disease in children.
Can Sugar Be Avoided?
Avoiding sugar, however, can be difficult. A group of Ontario researchers examined the ingredients of more than 40,000 products sold in March 2015 at a national grocery retailer. Two-thirds of these products, including baby foods and “healthy” products such as granola bars and fruit juices, were found to contain added sugar.
According to health experts, added sugars – those added by the manufacturer during processing – are a concern because they tend to be consumed in much larger quantities than naturally occurring sugars found in foods such as bananas or milk.
In Canada, added sugars aren’t labelled as such. Instead, there are more than 150 different terms for added sugar, and many of them are too obscure for the average consumer. How many of us would recognize ingredients such as agave, barley malt, sorghum and isomaltulose as sugar in various forms?
15 Sweet Facts About Sugar
1. Most of the world’s sugar comes from two types of plants: sugar cane and sugar beet. Brazil is the world’s largest producer of sugar cane, while France, the United States, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine produce the most sugar beet.
2. The people of New Guinea were probably the first to grow sugar cane domestically, around 8000 BC. It was originally chewed raw, to extract the sweetness. Indians discovered how to crystallize sugar around 350 AD and Christopher Columbus introduced sugar cane seeds to the New World on his second voyage in 1493.
3. “White Gold”, as they called it, transformed the British economy as well as their diet. It was the engine of the slave trade that brought millions of Africans to the Americas beginning in the early 16th century.
4. Four grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon.
5. The U.S., the U.K., and the World Health Organization have set a limit on added sugars at 10% of daily calories or about 50 grams a day (12 teaspoons of sugar). That sugar allowance is almost used up by a single can of soda pop.
6. Worldwide, people consume 500 extra calories a day from sugar, which is roughly the amount of calories needed to gain a pound a week.
7. Canadians eat about 20% of their daily calories in sugar – about 100 grams or 24 teaspoons of sugar.
8. More than half of Americans consume a half a pound of sugar a day, or 180 pounds a year.
9. Soft drinks are the biggest single source of added sugar for young people. In Britain, boys aged 11-18 get 42% of their intake this way.
10. Increased consumption of added sugars has been linked to a decrease in intake of essential micronutrients as well as an increase in body weight.
11. People living in poverty are more likely to eat more added sugar than their wealthier counterparts
12. Researchers have found that people who drink 2 ½ cans of sugary soda pop a day are three times more likely to be depressed and anxious than those who drink less.
13. Brain scans have shown that too much added sugar can be as addictive as cocaine. Sugar floods the brain’s reward system with dopamine, particularly an area called the nucleus accumbens, which is strongly implicated in addiction.
14. Almost half of all infant formulas and baby foods list added sugars as part of their ingredients.
15. Sugar hides in some of the most unexpected places – tonic water, marinades, crackers, bread, fat-free dressing, and tomato sauce. A medium 250ml glass of cranberry juice contains 36.3g of sugar, or about 9 teaspoons. If you like ketchup with your fries, consider this: a tablespoon of Heinz ketchup contains 4 grams of sugar. And who limits themselves to just a tablespoon?
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