A major new report by Credit Suisse Research Institute explores the impact of sugar and sweeteners on humans’ diets, with some shocking revelations and statistics.
Worldwide, the average person consumes 70 grams of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup per day (that’s 17 teaspoons), up 46 percent from three decades ago.
Yet, in countries like the US, Brazil, Australia and Mexico, sugar consumption is actually much higher, averaging 40 teaspoons per person per day for Americans (compared to just seven for those living in China).
And when children younger than 4 are removed from the mix, sugar consumption in the US rises by another 5-10 percent! It’s a shocking amount of sugar, but what is even more startling is the potential damage it can do to your health.
9 Foods with More Sugar Than a Doughnut
While you may consider yourself savvy when it comes to spotting sugar-laden foods, the report revealed some real sugar shockers. Before we get into just how troublesome all of this excess sugar may be, let’s first look at how stealthily it is hidden in some seemingly healthful foods.
The following nine foods all have more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut (which, for comparison, contains 10 grams of sugar):
- Luna bar: 11 grams of sugar
- Grande Starbucks latte: 17 grams
- Subway 6″ sweet onion teriyaki chicken sandwich: 17 grams
- Tropicana orange juice, 8 ounces: 22 grams
- Yoplait original yogurt: 27 grams
- Vitamin Water, 20 ounces: 33 grams
- Sprinkles red velvet cupcake: 45 grams
- California Pizza Kitchen Thai chicken salad: 45 grams
- Odwalla superfood smoothie, 12 ounces: 50 grams
Added Sugars Represent 17 Percent of the Average US Diet…but when all forms of sugars are included, the data suggests that sugar makes up 38 percent of the typical US diet.
Among added sugars, 43 percent come from sweetened beverages, which is concerning since it’s now known that calories in liquid form are processed differently by your body than those consumed in solid form.
In all, the major sources of added sugars in the typical US diet are as follows:
- Regular soft drinks (33 percent)
- Sugars and candy (16.1 percent)
- Cakes, cookies, and pies (12.9 percent)
- Fruit drinks (9.7 percent)
- Dairy desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk) (8.6 percent)
- Other grain-based products (cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles) (5.8 percent)
Is There a Human Sugar Threshold?
Health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome have all been rising with rates of sugar consumption, leading many to assume that there is a dose-response relationship, i.e. the more sugar you consume, the greater your risk of health problems becomes.
The report noted an interesting alternative theory, which is that the linear dose-response model may be too simplistic. Instead, there may be a threshold level in the body for sugar below which it causes little or no harm… but once you pass it, health problems may emerge. Consuming small amounts of sugar may not be a problem, but consuming sugar by the pound certainly is.
Indeed, the notion that “a calorie is a calorie” has been firmly debunked by science. Not all calories count equally. And the “calories in, calories out” hypothesis for maintaining weight has equally been shown to be incorrect. It is in fact FAR more important to look at the source of the calories than counting them if you’re trying to lose weight.
In short, you do not get fat because you eat too many calories and don’t exercise enough. You get fat because you eat the wrong kind of calories. At the end of the day, your consumption of carbohydrates, whether in the form of grains and sugars (especially fructose), will determine whether or not you’re able to manage your weight and maintain optimal health. This is because these types of carbs (sugar, fructose and grains) affect the hormone insulin, which is a very potent fat regulator. Fats and proteins affect insulin to a far lesser degree.
Why Calories from Fructose May Be Especially Detrimental – The Fat Switch
Fructose is in fact far worse than other carbs because the vast majority of it converts directly to FAT, both in your fatty tissues and in your liver. And this is why counting calories does not work… As long as you keep eating fructose and grains, you’re programming your body to create and store fat.
Research by Dr. Richard Johnson, chief of the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension at the University of Colorado and author of The Sugar Fix and The Fat Switch, demonstrates that large portions of food and too little exercise are NOT solely responsible for why you are gaining weight. Rather it’s fructose-containing sugars that cause obesity – not by calories, but by turning on your “fat switch,” a powerful biological adaptation that causes cells to accumulate fat in anticipation of scarcity (or hibernation).
This Isn’t Only About Weight Gain – Other Potential Health Effects of Excess Sugar
Excessive refined fructose consumption leads to insulin resistance, and insulin resistance appears to be at the root of many if not most chronic disease. Insulin resistance has even been found to be an underlying factor in the initiation and promotion of cancer. The research is quite clear… for instance, mice fed a diet containing 25 percent sugar – the equivalent of three cans of soda daily – were twice as likely to die as mice fed a similar diet without sugar.
Refined fructose, in particular, also raises your uric acid levels – it typically generates uric acid within minutes of ingestion, which in turn can wreak havoc on your blood pressure, insulin production, and kidney function. So far, scientific studies have linked fructose to about 78 different diseases and health problems.
Where Else Is Sugar Hiding?
You probably already know that table sugar, fruit juice and candy are high in sugar. But did you know that the following foods are also quite high in sugar also?
- Tomato sauce
- Granola bars
- Salad dressing
- Canned fruit
- Dried fruit
Manufacturers often label their products deceptively, claiming they are fat-free to distract you from a high sugar content, for instance.
If you currently eat sugar, there’s a good chance you’re struggling with sugar addiction. Remember that in order to minimize your sugar intake, you need to avoid most processed foods, as most contain added sugar. As mentioned, even savory foods like salad dressing, soup, and bread often contain sugar. For optimal health, eat natural whole foods primarily, and limit your fructose consumption to below 25 grams per day, including that from fresh fruit.