Sugar

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Americans consume about 160 pounds of sugar per person each year (compared to four pounds per person in 1776), comprising 17% of daily calories. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that table sugar and high fructose corn syrup added to foods and beverages in large enough amounts can be addictive and can trigger processes that may lead to liver toxicity, kidney damage, impairment of arterial function, hypertension, obesity, prediabetes, diabetes, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. When meat is consumed with added sugars or other carbohydrates like rice, a significantly increased surge of insulin can occur. In fact, meat protein may cause as much insulin release as sugar.

There appear to be no adverse side effects of eating too much whole fruit. The fiber in fruit may slow the release of naturally occurring fructose, and phytonutrients in fruit appear to block some of the uptake of sugars in the intestine. (For more on this, see the topic on smoothies.) On the other hand, extracted fruit juice, like apple juice, may have the same deleterious effects as sugar water.

Sugars differ in their nutritional value. Table sugar and high fructose corn syrup provide essentially no nutritional value. High fructose corn syrup may even contain mercury. In a comparison of sweeteners, two emerged as offering some nutrition (see date sugar and molasses).

Cocoa powder appears to be a better choice than dark chocolate for reducing bad cholesterol and boosting good cholesterol, as dark chocolate contains sugar. Commercial cranberry juice and Cheerios have added sugar, which detracts from their value as health-promoting foods.

Sugar consumption alone does not appear to cause hyperactivity in children.

The Sugar Association has lobbied to downplay recommendations against added sugars in the case of the World Health Organization’s guidelines  and the U.S. dietary guidelines.

Artificial sweeteners introduce other, sometimes significant, health risks.

Topic summary contributed by Linda.


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