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In The News: Sneaky Sugar

Earlier this week I spoke with Terri Coles of about the prevalence of sugar in the standard U.S. diet.

In essence, my standpoint is as follows: sugar in and of itself in limited quantities is not a problem.

What raises the red flag are the massive amounts being consumed — i.e.: a single muffin at Starbucks surpasses the daily maximum recommendation — partially because they contribute nothing but excess empty calories that do not satiate.

It’s a simple concept — the less satiated you are after a meal, the sooner you will feel hungry and want to consume more calories.

Unfortunately, keeping added sugar intake to recommended levels is difficult since food manufacturers like to put it in everything (especially in its ultra cheap form — high fructose corn syrup).

When consumed in moderate amounts, I don’t have a problem with sugar (remember, “sugar” means regular white sugar, brown sugar, honey, evaporated cane juice crystals, or any other fancy synonym).

It is an ingredient that has been consumed for tens of thousands of years.

I definitely consider it safer than Splenda, aspartame, or any other Franken-sweetener concocted in a laboratory.

In fact, I never understood sugar phobia.

The fact that some people refuse to eat fruit (due to the naturally occurring sugars), but have no problem eating a bowl of heavy cream sprinkled with artificial sweetener absolutely blows my mind.

Before I started studying nutrition, I experimented with Atkins.

Their bars — which use sugar alcohols as sweeteners — not only taste awful, I also remember the not-so-pleasant gastric side effects.

These days, I’ll gladly take three Hershey’s kisses over any low carb faux sweet treat.



  1. Alex said on April 21st, 2008

    I agree. I avoid artificial sweeteners.
    What concerns me is when foods that aren’t sweet are loaded with sugar. For example, when I was living in North America I noticed that a lot of seemingly healthy foods, such as bread, had sugar added! I had to be extra cautious and always read labels to make healthy choices. In Australia it is not as bad – yet.

  2. Kristy said on April 25th, 2008

    “What raises the red flag are the massive amounts being consumed — i.e.: a single muffin at Starbucks surpasses the daily maximum recommendation — partially because they contribute nothing but excess empty calories that do not satiate.”

    A few points:
    1) There is no daily maximum recommendation for added sugars. Based on insufficient evidence of links to dental caries, behaviour problems, cancer, risk of obesity and risk of hyperlipidemia, no upper limit (UL) was set within the Dietary Reference Intakes for added sugars. However, although a UL was not set, a maximum intake level of 25% or less of energy was suggested based on the decreased intake of some micronutrients of American subpopulations exceeding this level. 25% or less of a 2,000 calorie diet is 125g of sugar. I highly doubt the Starbucks muffin contains 125g of added sugar.

    2) I am not sure how you can say that a muffin is not satiating. A muffin contains more than sugar. It contains fat and some protein (more if it contains nuts) and, depending on the type of muffin, possibly fiber. All of these components are strongly linked to satiety. If I have a large Starbucks muffin for breakfast, I am good for 4 or 5 hours at least. The calories, fat, fibre, protein contribute greatly to my feeling of satiety.

    The reality is, with the exception of beverages, sugar is rarely consumed alone. In most cases, it consumed as only one part of a food – yogurt, cereal, muffin, granola bar, etc. You cannot suggest that a food will not provide satiety simply because it contains “a lot” of sugar.

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