All sugars are not equal

Be aware of added sugars and how they are disguised.

There are two kinds of sugars: natural and added. Natural sugars are generally found in fruits (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars are sugars that have been added to foods and beverages during preparation and processing. Added sugars include syrups and/or sweeteners which are typical household ingredients that people often choose to add for enhanced flavor.

According to WebMD, based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, 10 percent of the calories consumed are equal to about 12 teaspoons of sugar, per day. To make this worse, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says the average American gets about 16 percent of their daily calories from added sugars.

“Just as most dietary sodium does not come from the salt shaker, most dietary sugar does not come from the sugar bowl,” said James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., preventive cardiology department at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, MO. DiNicolantonio continues to state that “added sugars probably matter more than dietary sodium for hypertension and high fructose in particular may uniquely increase cardiovascular risk.”

Food items that we don’t consider sweet often have added sugar, and many times in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. A 20 ounce serving of soda contains about 15-18 teaspoons of sugar. Yet, on the food label you may not even see the word “sugar.” Other names for added sugars include high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, molasses, honey and sucrose. Compare your ketchup bottle or bread ingredients to see what forms of added sugar may be an ingredient.

“Foods use high fructose sugars as preservatives for longer shelf lives,” according to Jill Kanaley, PhD. High fructose sugars also play a role in color and texture. Therefore, when you pick up a box of cereal and read the label, the expiration date may be over a year old. There are a tremendous amount of preservatives in these foods and many times in the form of sugar.

There is strong evidence that added sugars raise the risk of excess weight, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. There is also moderate evidence connecting added sugars to stroke, heart disease and tooth decay.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 150 calories of sugar a day for a man and 100 calories of sugar a day for a woman. The main reason for these dietary guidelines is to prevent obesity which will help control many other related illnesses. We must be very careful of the hidden sugars in food and learn how to read a food labels.

For more tips on health, nutrition and managing chronic disease visit the Michigan State University Extension website at

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