Is Sugar The New Fat?

How about laws regulating sugary purchases?  Should people be “carded” when buying a candy bar?  Is sugar really as bad as all that?

Let's see some I.D.

Let’s see some I.D.

Education and self-control aren’t working according to Robert Lustig, author of a new book about the evils of sugar, Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar.  Sugar is addictive, and it is making us fat says Lustig.

And it’s everywhere.

Nearly 80% of the foods we can buy contain added sugars.  Pasta sauce, bread, crackers and salad dressing to name a few of the more unlikely suspects.

For years we’ve been told that we needed to reduce fat–not sugar consumption.  Non-fat and low-fat varieties of standard products became the norm, the haven of health we all sought.  But that’s old news apparently.

Acclaimed food activist and writer, Michael Pollen has a lot to say about it. The notion that fat is bad, particularly saturated fat, has been the public health message foisted on us since the ’70s.  According to Pollen, the science linking fat to inflammation and disease is tenuous at best.  Read his position here.

So what’s it to be–sugar or fat?  Will the real villain please stand up?

Personally, I think that sugar has the edge.  But it often goes hand in hand with fat in the form of highly processed “food”.  And what sugar lacks in nutrition, it makes up for in calories.  Ugh.  It’s serious enough that the American Heart Association has, for the first time ever, set sugar intake guidelines.

American Heart Association nutritional guidelines for added sugar:

  • Women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars (6 teaspoons)
  • Men should consume no more than 150 calories of added sugars (9 teaspoons)
  • Pre-teen and teens should consume no more than 5 to 8 teaspoons
  • Children 4-8 should consume no more than 130 calories (3 teaspoons).
  • Preschool children should consume no more than 170 calories (4 teaspoons)

The reality is about as far from that as you could imagine.  The average American consumes slightly more than 22 teaspoons of sugar every day.

Are you an average sugar consumer?

Are you an average sugar consumer?

Here’s a list of common food items that Rodale came up with to help us gain some perspective about total and added sugars:

Plain bagel: 5.05 grams of sugar, 4.8 of which are added

Whole-wheat bread (one slice): 5.57 grams of sugar, 5.0 of which are added

Regular sodas: 8.97 grams of sugar, all of it added

Fruit punch: 11.29 grams of sugar, 4.4 of which are added

Bowl of corn flakes: 6.11 grams of sugar, all of it added

Fruit-flavored yogurt: 19 grams of sugar, 11.4 of which are added

Italian salad dressing: 8.85 grams of sugar, 6.9 of which are added

Fruit cocktail canned in light syrup: 13.93 grams of sugar, 6.4 of which are added

Smooth peanut butter: 9.22 grams of sugar, 3.1 of which are added

Granola bars: 21.8 grams of sugar, 20.4 of which are added

Low-sodium spaghetti sauce: 11.57 grams of sugar, 6.5 of which are added.

While law enforcement of the new sugar guidelines might not be practical, it couldn’t hurt to police ourselves.  What do you think?

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