Is Sugar Toxic?

April 25, 2012

sugarA recent 60 Minutes segment focused on sugar raised concerns about the sweet stuff’s addictive power and the impact too much sugar can play on one’s health. Is sugar really dangerous and addictive?

Research has clearly linked a high sugar intake to??health problems such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and more. It’s safe to say that sugar shouldn’t be considered a health food.

And with the average American consuming nearly four times the daily-recommended amount of sugar, to a tune of 130 pounds of sugar per person per year,??over-consumption of sugar is indeed a very big problem. According to the American Heart Association, you should eat no more than 6 teaspoons per day of added sugar. The average person eats 22 teaspoons! So how much is 6 teaspoons of sugar? It amounts to about 24 grams, which is how sugar is listed on nutritional labels.

In general, I advise all of my concerned patients to avoid sugar in all its many forms as much as possible, and especially if they struggle with cravings or binge eating of sweet foods. While the jury is still out on whether sugar is addictive and how much so, it may be easier for some people to stay away from sugar altogether.

In addition, many processed foods that you may not think of as high in sugar ??? such as dried cranberries, crackers, or even frozen dinners can contain surprisingly high amounts of sugar.

To make matters more confusing, sugar can be listed on a food’s ingredient label under many other names besides sugar. These include raw sugar, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, brown sugar, honey, turbinado sugar, molasses, agave nectar, fruit juice concentrates, barley malt syrup, maltrose, and sucrose. Sugar can also be listed under more than one of these names on the same food label.

Because of this, it may take some sleuthing on your part to determine the amount of total sugar a certain food really contains. One way to tell is by what order it appears in the ingredient list. For example foods with sugar listed as one of the top 5 ingredients would be considered a high sugar food.

Another way to determine how much sugar a food contains is to check the nutrition label for the grams of sugar per serving, along with the serving size and total number of servings per package. Note the amount in your food journal and consider limiting your daily total intake to less than 24 grams.

Because sugar contains no nutritional value and adds needless empty calories to your daily total, cutting back on sugar intake is a good way to control overall calorie intake during weight loss and in order to maintain your goal weight after.

Of course sugar is just one part of the whole picture. Total daily calories and other nutritional factors also need to be weighed into an overall healthy diet. Beware misleading labels that make claims such as no high fructose corn syrup, low carb, and sugar-free. Even foods that contain no sugar at all can be unhealthy choices.

So what should you eat when you get a craving for something sweet? I would advise you reach for a sweet treat in its most natural form ??? fresh, whole fruit. Apples, oranges, bananas, berries, melons, and other fruit make excellent healthy substitutes for sugar laden sweets such as cookies, cake, or ice cream. But avoid fruit juice, which contains no fiber and can turn the calorie equivalent of eating five oranges, for example, into one small glass.

In short, recent warnings about the addictive nature of sugar should be considered when developing your healthy diet plan. Be aware of how much you are consuming, where it is hidden in certain foods and always look for ways to decrease your daily consumption.

Dr. Matthew Pinto
Chief Medical Officer
The Center For Medical Weight Loss


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Select Month