Think before sugar is added to one’s food

The findings of a major scientific study indicating very serious heart disease problems caused from “added” sugars were just published. These findings were reported on Feb. 3 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA.

The authors reviewed data from more than 31,000 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which evaluates dietary habits based on in-person interviews. Here is a summary of their findings from this large scientific study.

– Consuming too much added sugar – in regular soda pop, cakes, cookies and candy – increases your risk of death from heart disease, according to this large new study. Added sugars include table sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, molasses and others.

– “The risk of cardiovascular disease death increases exponentially as you increase your consumption of added sugar,” says the study’s lead author, Quanhe Yang, a senior scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

– Major sources of added sugars in Americans’ diets are sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts (ice cream) and candy, Yang says. Dr. Yang also stated that other research has tied a high intake of added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, to many poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

– People who consumed more than 21percent of daily calories from added sugar had double the risk of death from heart disease as those who consumed less than 10 percent of calories from added sugars.

– Rachel Johnson, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and a nutrition professor at the University of Vermont, says, “Now we know that too much added sugar doesn’t just make us fat, it increases our risk of death from heart disease.”

I believe this last statement from Professor Johnson summarizes the study findings and says it all.

Following are a few more enlightening added sugar facts. This information is from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services regarding sugar consumption in the USA today. Two hundred years ago, the average American ate only 2 pounds of sugar a year. In 1970, we ate 123 pounds of sugar per year. Today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year.

This is equal to about 3 pounds of sugar consumed every week! Soft drinks are responsible for most of the added sugar in the average American diet, and one can of soda contains about 11 teaspoons of sugar. Sugar is the most common “added” ingredient found in foods and drinks in the U.S. today. It is found in soda pop, cakes, cookies, candy and other sweets.

These added sugars are also referred to as “refined” sugar. Refined sugar is most commonly found in the form of table sugar (sucrose), corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and others sources as well. It is often found in very high amounts in a variety of unhealthy food and drinks. Further, most of us do not realize just how much added sugar is hiding in so many of the foods and drinks we consume every day.

I always advise my patients, medical colleagues, family and friends, and just about everybody I meet to avoid these added sugars. There is way too much sugar added to our food and drinks available today, including non-diet soft drinks, candy, cookies, cakes, fruit drinks, and many other items as well. Read all labels and avoid high sugar. As scientifically noted above, these added sugars are very, very unhealthy.

Editor’s note: Dr. Jim Surrell, author of “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet,” has his practice at the Digestive Health Clinic at Marquette General Health System. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged.