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Too Sweet: Is Sugar Bad For You?

Updated: Apr 4, 2019

The many faces of sugar…

With the government recently changing the appearance of food labels, specifically including added sugar, one glaring question needs to be answered.

In reality, is sugar bad for you?

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How much sugar is too much?

Considering over 74% of packaged foods contain sugar, we are probably eating too much. In one year, the average American consumes one hundred fifty-six pounds of sugar! That’s thirty-one five-pound bags! Most of it comes in the form of high fructose corn syrup, a highly processed sweetener that is added to just about everything. The World Health Organization released guidelines that the maximum amount of sugar should account for only 10% of daily calories. To put that in perspective, that is eight heaping teaspoons for someone eating a two thousand calorie diet. One can of soda has at least ten, putting you over the edge very quickly.

Where is sugar hiding?

Surprisingly, according to the USDA, only twenty-nine percent of sugar consumed yearly comes from table sugar. The rest comes from food. Just to be clear, that is 111 pounds of sugar per person per year from food! Over thirty-three percent of added sugar comes from consuming soft drinks. These are highly processed beverages and have been associated with several chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Foods such as crackers, yogurt, ketchup, peanut butter, pasta sauce, condiments, and canned foods are all loaded with sugar. Another source of sugar are low-fat products, which up until recently were all the rage. Sugar is even hidden in plain sight, a deceptive labeling technique used by food manufactures. Pretty manipulative!

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Sugar’s Many Names

Here are sixty-one creative sugar labels.

  • Agave nectar

  • Barbados sugar

  • Barley malt

  • Barley malt syrup

  • Beet sugar

  • Brown sugar

  • Buttered syrup

  • Cane juice

  • Cane juice crystals

  • Cane sugar

  • Caramel

  • Carob syrup

  • Castor sugar

  • Coconut palm sugar

  • Coconut sugar

  • Confectioner’s sugar

  • Corn sweetener

  • Corn syrup

  • Corn syrup solids

  • Date sugar

  • Dehydrated cane juice

  • Demerara sugar

  • Dextrin

  • Dextrose

  • Evaporated cane juice

  • Free-flowing brown sugars

  • Fructose

  • Fruit juice

  • Fruit juice concentrate

  • Glucose

  • Glucose solids

  • Golden sugar

  • Golden syrup

  • Grape sugar

  • HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)

  • Honey

  • Icing sugar

  • Invert sugar

  • Malt syrup

  • Maltodextrin

  • Maltol

  • Maltose

  • Mannose

  • Maple syrup

  • Molasses

  • Muscovado

  • Palm sugar

  • Panocha

  • Powdered sugar

  • Raw sugar

  • Refiner’s syrup

  • Rice syrup

  • Saccharose

  • Sorghum Syrup

  • Sucrose

  • Sugar (granulated)

  • Sweet Sorghum

  • Syrup

  • Treacle

  • Turbinado sugar

  • Yellow sugar

Are all sugars the same?

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All sugar must be metabolized to glucose to be used as energy. Whether it is rice syrup or musovado, your body does not discriminate; sugar is sugar and will metabolize it as such. With that being said, fiber, a polysaccharide, actually slows down the absorption of sugar and helps regulate blood levels. When reading food labels, be on the lookout for multiple sugar types. This is one sneaky ways that food manufactures add additional sugar to their products, and it is all legal.

Is sugar really unhealthy?

So, is sugar bad for you then and how? When sugar enters the blood stream, insulin is required for sugar to be absorbed by the cell. Without insulin, blood sugar will rise. Over time, elevated blood sugar decreases causes the pancreas to excessively produce insulin, eventually destroying the insulin-producing cells. High blood sugar causes your blood vessels to clog. Clogged blood vessels can lead to kidney problems, strokes, heart attacks, vision loss, decreased immune response, erectile dysfunction, nerve damage, decreased circulation, especially in the legs and feet, and slow wound healing.

At the same time, the excess sugar is being converted to fat and stored in and around organs as well as under the skin and abdomen. Recent research has correlated excess sugar with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and gout, as well as a major cause of the obesity epidemic. In a nutshell, added sugar is unhealthy and unnecessary, especially when eaten excessively.

Are there any good sweeteners?

At this time, the only reasonably safe non-calorie sweetener is stevia. It is plant derived, however it is processed with dextrose or erythritol to maintain freshness and stability. Dates can also be used as a sweetener. Being a dried fruit, they contain over thirty percent sugar as well as fiber and iron.

Just as anything, do not eat to heart’s content, because sugar is sugar no matter how you look at it.


Author Bio: Dr. Scott Schreiber has been practicing in Newark, Delaware for over 11 years. He is a chiropractic physician, double board certified in rehabilitation and clinical nutrition, a certified nutrition specialist and a licensed dietitian/nutritionist. He can be contacted via his website

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