Medical and health experts are cracking down on sugar levels in food at your local grocery store and at the restaurants you frequent, and they have good reason to do so.
New studies have shown that sugar is the main culprit of much of the obesity epidemic we are seeing today in men, women and children. In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, fat was the target of most health critics. The goal was to get rid of fat at all costs. One of those costs was increasing the sugar levels in foods that didn’t even require sugar for taste in the first place. If you saw a box of crackers that said low fat or low calorie, you could be almost sure that the sugar levels would be higher than the regular version of that food item.
Food labels are being revised
Now, there has been a shift with nutrition experts and their target at what is the leading cause of obesity and heart disease in America. With sugar at the forefront of this obesity problem, nutritionists and dietary experts are calling on the United States government to change food labels to more accurately show how much sugar is in each food you buy at the store.
Soon, you will be seeing updated food labels that not only show the total amounts of sugar in each food item but the added sugars as well. Experts are hoping that this deters buyers from purchasing items that have extremely high amounts of sugar in them.
The Food and Drug Administration recently finalized new requirements for nutrition labels effective 2018. The changes are intended to provide consumers with a simpler nutrition breakdown as well as a more accurate portrayal of portion sizes, added sugars and calorie count. These revisions have been met with mixed reactions, especially from the sugar industry. So the question is, how bad is sugar for you, really?
Sugar is a simple combination of the molecules fructose and glucose. When sugar is digested in the intestine, it is broken down into its parts. Glucose can be digested by any of the body’s cells, whereas fructose is metabolized almost exclusively by the liver. Surprisingly enough, the sugar added to processed food – such as high fructose corn syrup – is composed of the same two molecules, just in slightly different concentrations. The same is true for so-called “natural” sweeteners. So what is the issue?
The majority of experts agree that there is no real difference between table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. The issue with added sugar has more to do with quantity than with composition. One bottle of Pepsi contains approximately the same amount of sugar as three apples, and none of the fiber. The way foods containing added sugar are packaged allows for rapid sugar consumption not typically found in food items with naturally occurring sugar.
Sugar in moderation is not a problem for the majority of people, but ingesting excessive sugar can seriously impact health. Weight gain is the most common problem associated with sugar, likely due to fructose. The liver is nearly entirely responsible for metabolizing fructose, and the liver is known for converting fructose to fat. A more detailed account of how sugar impacts the body can be found here.