• Angel Alfaro | MD

Confession of a prior sugarholic


Yes, it is me. I was a prior sugarholic! Anyone else want to fess up to this? I have exercised and have been active all my life but like many of you, I LOVE to eat and previously the sweeter the better. A few years ago, when my family and I first moved to Alaska, we noticed the price of things was much higher than back home. So rather than buying birthday cakes and cupcakes, I would make my own. I got really good at making my own butter cream icing and fondant. I didn’t necessarily feel bad and didn’t think there was anything wrong with this.

I was never a big regular soda drinker, but really loved Diet Coke and would drink several a day. We would buy in bulk at Costco and run out before the next shopping trip. So what happened? When and why did things change? Well as you come to know me better, you will find out that I would never ask anyone to do something I was not willing to do myself. So recommending that patients cut out sugar seemed such a simple task. You know it is bad for you, so just cut it out. Not so easy, right? So when I looked at how much sugar/ artificial sweeteners I was taking in, I knew I had to make a change. The other thing that really bothers me is the craze of artificial everything in our food. Is there some connection with the health of the world and the artificial ingredients, flavors and colorings we ingest every day? So I have been on a mission to eliminate what I call “the chemicals” in our food. Why can’t we eat real natural food that is delicious without a bunch of additives?

So now that you know that this is something I’ve personally dealt with….let’s talk sugar and changes to food nutrition labels.

Older Label vs. New Label

Courtesy of www.fda.gov

May 20, 2016 the FDA finalized changes to the current food labels. Manufacters will have until July 26, 2018 to make these changes. The new changes are the following per the FDA website:

1.Refreshed design: The word calories will be larger and the calories will be in bold. The long portion about percent daily value is being replaced with “The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2000 calories is used for general advice” (1). About 200o calories a day for most people will maintain current weight, this of course is a generalization and cannot be applied to all people. In fact, did you know the Daily Value is calculated for healthy people? The hope is to prevent disease with proper nutrition and is not meant to treat chronic disease. What does this mean? This means that you may have special situations requiring more or less of the Daily Value and need to be aware of that it is meant to be used as a guideline, we have to start somewhere. Take a look at the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for all the specifics. Don’t worry, we’ll continue to address the guidelines on this blog. There are ways to calculate your dietary caloric needs with formulas or online calculators, see the Harris Benedict Equation site for more information. This is just one calculator and isn’t always completely accurate. Calorie counting, as you know, is very flawed, from the way calories are calculated to start with to the way our bodies react to those calories. So better to stick with nutrient dense foods with appropriate portion sizes and limiting processed foods.

2. Updated information in regards to nutrition science: In an effort to help us increase our intake of vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium, these will now be listed under the protein section, while vitamin A and C are being taken off. I agree that as a society we are not getting enough vitamin D and there are many reasons and ramifications for this, but I will leave that for a future post. Calories from fat is being taken off as it isn’t really helpful and there are different kinds of fats that are beneficial. This was put on the label in the 90’s when low fat was the message. Under the sugar section there will be an additional label for ADDED SUGAR. We know there is sugar in many types of food, so the label will show how much sugar and then how much sugar has been ADDED. This is a very controversial topic as the Dietary Guidelines did mention limiting added sugar in our diets to less than 10% ADDED sugar. This is a new era for the guidelines as they had previously not mentioned how much sugar was appropriate. However, this is not as strict as the World Health Organization that recommends that sugar should represent less than 5% of our daily energy intake. As you can imagine, big corporations are not happy about this as it will directly affect their profit margin!

3. Updated portion sizes. Do not be fooled, the portion sizes have NOTHING to do with how much you SHOULD eat. By law, they must show what people are actually eating and drinking. Since we are eating and drinking MORE, the label is getting changed to reflect that. So be careful… it will look like you can have more, but again the label has nothing to do with the amount of food that is an appropriate serving size.

Sugar content: One Teaspoon = 4 grams of Sugar

Here is a video from Harvard Health Publication that discusses the difference between natural sugar and hidden sugar, giving some perspective on how much sugar is in the food we eat.

Here is a break down of how we know about 9 teaspoons of sugar per day is the recommended upper limit of our sugar intake.

If we consider a 1500 calorie diet, 10% of those calories should come from sugar, so about 150 calories. For carbohydrates there is about 4 calories of energy per gram of weight, so divide 150 calories by 4 calories/gram to get 37.5 grams of sugar. Then divide 37.5 grams by 4 grams/teaspoon to get 9.375 teaspoons.

SO: Read labels: consider eating less than 38 grams of sugar per day, which is about 9 teaspoons per day.

By the way, The World Health Organization recommends 1/2 of that, so 19 grams per day or about 4.5 teaspoons.

Sugar comes by so many names, so look for dextrose, sucrose, maldextrin, honey, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, confectioner’s sugar, powdered sugar, glucose, maltose, molasses, etc.

High sugar intake increases the risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.

More on that later.

What can you commit to this week? Can you take a closer look at sugar labels and commit to at least first recognizing the amount you take in? Are you adding sugar to your coffee or drinks? How much soda do you drink a day?

Keep coming back for more health and wellness information!

Live Well, Dr. A

References

  1. Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm

  2. BMI Calculator – Harris Benedict Equation: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/harris-benedict-equation/

  3. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans- 8th Edition. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/

  4. World Health Organization http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/guidelines/sugars_intake/en/


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