News Not So Sweet: 3 Reports on Sugar


The newly released film, "Fed Up," has got us all fired up about our food, and in particular, sugar. Almost 80% of processed food found in grocery stores contains sugar, and sugar was also the subject of three must-read research reports this week. We are once again reminded of dangers of this addictive substance, and some of the sneaky tactics that food companies use to keep us coming back for more.

Tufts University’s May Health and Nutrition Letter recently reported on a study from earlier this year which found that consuming even a small amount of added sugar can drastically increase your risk of death from cardiovascular disease. By using 22 years of data from a longitudinal cohort study, researchers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that those people who consumed 25% or more of their calories from added sugar were 175% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those consuming less than 10%. The Tufts report goes on to say:

Non-diet soft drinks stood out in the analysis as contributors to cardiovascular disease leading to death. Participants who averaged seven soda servings per week – just one a day – were 29% more likely to die from cardiovascular causes than those consuming less. Nationally, soft drinks are the single largest source of added sugar in the American diet, at 37.1%.”

Soda deserves that bad rap, for sure, but there are plenty of other products out there that boast obscene amounts of sugar. Take children’s cereal, for instance. Environmental Working Group released a report this week based on a study of over 1,500 cereals which found that kids' cereals can contain up to 40% more sugar than adult cereal and that by eating a bowl a day, a child can consume up to 10 pounds of sugar a year! The report says:

A typical serving [of sugar cereal] can contain   as much sugar as three Chips Ahoy! or two Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies. EWG found that on average, 34 percent of the calories in children’s cereals come from sugar. For two-thirds of these cereals, a single serving contains more than a third of what experts recommend children consume in an entire day.”

So, we all know that sugar is bad for us, yet we still eat it. This phenomenon is certainly, in part, due to the addictive nature of sugar itself, but the food industry is literally "pushing" sugar into our lives—our food and daily diet—without our knowledge. In a report released this month, the Union of Concerned Scientists delves deeply into the world of food and beverage marketing to uncover some of the surreptitious tactics that the food industry uses to appeal to our love of sugar.

[Food Industry] tactics trigger psychological, behavioral, social, and cultural responses that distract and manipulate consumers and divert their attention away from science-based health and nutrition information. Some companies have engaged in blatantly false advertising, and major industry trade groups have financed sophisticated PR campaigns that emphasize consumer freedom but facilely overlook the influence of sugar interests in shaping consumers’ perceptions of available food choices.”

We have a sweet fight against in the realm of added sugar—from personal cravings and addictions, to the marketing of sugar to our young children, to the slick food industry tactics that simply betray us for profit. By becoming more aware of the sugar that we put into our bodies, by buying products that don’t have added sugar and, by steeling ourselves away from manipulative advertising campaigns, we can start to get our health and our country's health back on track!


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