By Jean Huelsing RN (Founder of Camp Jump Start®)
Fake news has become a part of our everyday lexicon. Sadly, fake news is what has led many people to believe that sugar is good and that saturated fat is the enemy. But that is simply not true. Sugar is an important risk factor in cardiovascular disease and obesity.
As early as the 1960s, independent studies were beginning to make a correlation between high sugar diets and rates of heart disease. This was of concern to the sugar industry, so in 1967 they paid Harvard scientists to write a review that would point the finger at saturated fat as being the driving force causing heart disease. The intention was to shift the focus away from the sugar industry. And it worked! No one was the wiser because at that time researchers did not have to disclose the funding source of the studies.
One of the scientists went on to become the head of nutrition at the United States Department of Agriculture. In 1977 he helped draft the federal government’s dietary guidelines. His “fake research” shaped the overall all scientific discussion at the time.
For 50 years the spotlight continued to shine on the relationship between saturated fats to heart disease. This one review is likely the reason that low-fat, high-sugar diets have been so popular. It is only now becoming blatantly apparent that sugar is a major player in so many of our diseases and maladies. The data today, funded by public money and not industry money shows that refined carbohydrates and sugar sweetened beverages are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and fuel the obesity epidemic.
But relief is on the way for consumers. This year the Nutrition Facts labels are required to show the amount of added sugars in an item. Natural sugar is not the problem, but until now, companies did not have to disclose the added sugars. There are at least 61 different names listed on food labels disguising these added sugars. These include common names, such as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, as well as barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice or maple syrup, to name a few. This meant that all those sugars were separated out, and were under reported on the ingredient list. Remember—the first item listed on the ingredient list is the one that is the majority in the item. The bottom line is, added sugars should be avoided!
Going forward, it will be easier to recognize the truly healthy versus the not-so-healthy option, which will allow you to make informed decisions. You expect to see high levels of sugar in a can of soda, although you probably don’t realize how much it contains. You might be surprised to see high levels of sugar in products that you thought were “healthy”–pasta sauce, yogurt and vitamin water are loaded with added sugar. Take, for example, vitamin water—it is not just vitamins and water. In a 20 ounce bottle there are 8 teaspoons of sugar. The current recommendation is that no one should have more than 6 teaspoons of sugar in a day!
Sugar is full of empty calories minus any nutrients. It tastes good and has an addictive component, but added sugar is not necessary in our diet. Too much sugar will make you gain weight, and your body will not be able to convert all those extra calories to energy. Over time you likely will develop a diabetes-related condition which will increase your triglycerides, and lead to cardiovascular disease. Many people will die from heart disease and strokes which come after the diabetes, so they really die from the complications of diabetes.
We need to begin connecting the dots from our nutritional science and education, to our food choices, to sickness, to death. Learning to make informed decisions can change our quality and quantity of life.
Important take aways:
Always find out who is funding the research to recognize the potential conflict of interests.
Read labels and pay attention to the sugar content.
Avoid added sugars as much as possible.
Aim to have no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar in a day.
Camp Jump Start
3602 Lions Den Road
Imperial, MO 63052