Kicking a Sugar Habit Requires More Than Eliminating Sweets

The body counts sugar as anything that becomes glucose after digestion

Khatib HSDAYTON, Ohio (January 13, 2015) – Many adults in America consume more added sugar than is recommended for a healthy diet and it doesn’t have a positive effect on their health.

According to a study published earlier this year in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Internal Medicine Off Site Icon , one in 10 people get a quarter or more of their calories from added sugar. Studies by the Food and Drug Administration Off Site Icon  state that America consumes about 156 pounds of sugar per person each year. That’s the equivalent of 31 five-pound bags typically purchased at the grocery store.

Studies, like the one found in JAMA, say there is a close link between high sugar consumption and an increased risk of dying from heart disease. Sugar exists in foods naturally or is added later. Naturally occurring sugars appear in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars are put into food during preparation or processing. Sugar in general – whether natural or added – offers no nutrients to a person’s diet, but instead increases the amount of calories consumed.

“Our bodies are naturally drawn to sugar, and there’s a biological reason for that,” said Ziad Khatib, MD, a family physician at Fairfield Road Physician Offices in Beavercreek. “Glucose is the source of energy that fuels our brain. Our brains need it to properly function. The problem, however, is when that need is oversaturated to the point that it negatively affects our body’s health.”

Dr. Khatib said added sugar isn’t always the problem. Americans may also struggle to watch the sugar that is often hidden within foods or found in unlikely sources. Most people understand that ice cream and candy contain sugar, but few realize foods – such as yogurt, bread, ketchup or peanut butter – contain added sugar. It’s also equally important to understand that certain nutrients become glucose once they are digested. So even though it is not labeled as sugar on the package, the body will process it that way once it is eaten. The best example of this is carbohydrates like that which is found in bread, potato chips or French fries.

“Our bodies look at the final product after a food is digested, not how it started,” Dr. Khatib said. “Something like a carbohydrate will become 100 percent glucose once it has been digested. So, passing up a spoonful of sugar in a cup of tea is good, but it’s as equally important to watch how many slices of bread you’re going to eat.”

The following are steps that can be taken to enjoy sugar within healthy guidelines:

  • Realize Your Limit – It’s important to know how much added sugar is okay to consume each day. The American Heart Association Off Site Icon  (AHA) recommends American women consume no more than 100 calories per day, or 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, the AHA recommends 150 calories, or about 9 teaspoons.
  • Learn Sugar’s Many Names – Nutrition labels help give an accurate picture of what a person is actually consuming, however, you have to know what you are looking for when it comes to sources of sugar. Sugar has many other names. Besides those ending in “ose,” such as maltose or sucrose, other names for sugar include high fructose corn syrup, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, raw sugar, syrup, honey or fruit juice concentrates, the AHA said.
  • Know Sources of Added Sugar – Educate yourself on what foods have added or hidden sugar. Bread, yogurt, pastries and, perhaps most forgotten about, sugary drinks such as soft drinks or specialty coffee drinks.
  • Fill Up on Good Nutrients First – The AHA recommends looking at one’s daily calorie needs as a budget. Spend most of your calories on essentials to meet vital nutrient needs. Use only left over calories for extras, like sugar, which provide no nutritional benefit.
  • Count Calories – Eliminating sugar from a diet is a good start, but Dr. Khatib encourages individuals to look at the total picture of their health. Just focusing on one area of a diet – such as fat or sugar – tends to take one’s eyes off of their total health. Decide on how many calories should be consumed in a day, choose healthy foods to meet that goal and stick with it.

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