By Brittany Link,
MSW, RD, LD
For The Leader
It has become general knowledge that excess sugar intake can cause weight gain. More recently though research has linked its overconsumption to the increased likelihood of developing diseases such as hypertension, cavities, obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. As this information becomes more public, a variety of diets have emerged that focus on cutting down on sugar intake such as the Whole 30 or the Sugar Cleanse. While the fact that the public is beginning to focus more on cutting out excess sugar intake is a great first step, the problem lies in that you practically have to be a nutrition expert to make educated decisions on what foods to avoid due to their excess sugar content. The reason for this is twofold; first there are over 200 kinds of added sugars that can be used in food products, with uncommon names such as Xylose, Treacle, Dextrin, and Glucomalt to name a few. Second, there is not a clear understanding of how much sugar is appropriate to be consuming daily.
To make things even more complicated, some foods have naturally occurring sugars such as the lactose in dairy products like milk or yogurt. This makes it difficult to decipher – which yogurt only has the naturally occurring sugars in it and which yogurt has added sugar. You may be wondering why this even matters. While it’s true that both added sugar and naturally occurring sugars have the same effect on the body physiologically – everything eventually breaks down to glucose in your body. Naturally occurring sugars are also sources of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals while added sugars are extra sugars added to foods, increasing their calories without providing any additional nutrients. Luckily, all this label confusion is coming to an end.
The FDA has implemented a new food label that has an added sugars section. This means that the label will show how many sugars are in a food in total, and then below it there will be a section stating how much of the sugar in that food is added sugar. Not only does this take the guesswork out of deciphering the ingredient list (something you should still look at!) it also makes it clear when a food has naturally occurring sugar and how much. This new label goes a step further though and has assigned a % Daily Value to the added sugars section. This new section will help people become aware of how much added sugar they should be consuming each day and make educated decisions on the products they choose based on that information. Placing the Daily Value directly on the food label will make this information accessible to everyone and make it easier to access at the time of consumption and purchase. It is important to note that while artificial sugars (Stevia, Splenda, Sorbitol, Sweet ‘N Low) have become a concern to many Americans, they will not be included in the added sugars section. This is because the main concern being addressed with the new food label is the excessive calories being consumed from added sugars without any nutrient content, which is not a concern for artificial sweeteners. This is why it is still always important to read the ingredients in a product before you purchase it.
While we are especially excited here at Advice for Eating about the added sugars section of the new food label, there will be some other exciting changes making the label even more user friendly.
Keep on the lookout for the new food label – some companies are already implementing it, but come July 2018 all food labels will be required to follow the new FDA guidelines.