Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Sweet Nothings

Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Sweet Nothings

Article excerpt

When I first began my work on food safety and nutrition in 1970, people knew that tasty, familiar white sugar was just "junk" and "empty calories." Sugar was derided because it was devoid of vitamins and minerals and it promoted tooth decay.

But recent studies have begun to demonstrate that the large amounts of added (or refined) sugars--including cane and beet sugar, high-fructose com syrup, plain corn syrup, and dextrose--in our diets are harming much more than our teeth. (See NAH, Jan./Feb. 2010 and Apr. 2012.)

Although levels have declined in the past decade, we still consume an awful lot of sugar. According to estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average person takes in almost 400 calories' worth of refined sugars a day, and many people consume far more. In fact, more than 35 million people get more than a quarter of their calories from refined sugars. Almost half of that sugar comes from liquid candy: soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, and the like.

Studies that track thousands of people for years find that those who consume more sugary drinks have a higher risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and gout. When scientists give people sugary drinks, they put on more weight than people who get calorie-free drinks. And when researchers give people hefty amounts of fructose--which constitutes about half of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup--they see a rise in deep belly fat and in blood levels of triglycerides, glucose, insulin, and LDL ("bad") cholesterol--all precursors of heart disease. …

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