Thursday, November 12, 2015

Added sugar in foods- Can it be the villain for unhealthy society?

The debate whether sugar is the real villain of peace when it comes to the spread of diseases like diabetes, CVD, hypertension, kidney ailments etc will go on in this world as long as conclusive and unanimous view emerge from the scientific community. But food industry seems to be "convinced" that sugar is innocent as a food adjunct used by them and its addition to millions of processed products make them palatable and enjoyable. Of course it has a right to demand for proof that sugar really does any harm to human beings if and when consumed in "moderate" quantities. There lies the rub! What is moderate quantity? Is there any definitive view regarding what is moderate consumption? The tendency of the industry to add sugar at levels far more that is really called for getting the sweet taste does not help its cause either. The emerging view that naturally present sugar and added sugar in the products while processing makes a difference cannot be brushed away easily. In almost all cases naturally occurring foods like whole grains, whole fruits and others are far superior in terms of health value to their processed counterparts and white refined sugar also must be viewed from this perspective. Probably this is the basis of the move in some countries to restrict the extent of added sugar during processing to no more than 10% of total calories in the daily diet. Though this is being stoutly resisted by the industry, this new suggestion will find acceptance among the consumers world over. Here is a take on the new guidelines being considered for nutrition labeling in the US.  

"But lately, the message has gotten a lot more specific and comes down to this: If you are getting more than 10% of your calories from "added sugars" — everything from the sugar in your coffee to the high-fructose corn syrup in your ketchup —  you are getting too much. Some experts say even 10% is probably excessive, given the links between sugar and obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The latest authority to endorse the 10% or less idea: the Food and Drug Administration. Under a proposal it announced this summer, food labels would have to say how close each serving comes to providing 50 grams, or 200 calories, of added sugar — the 10% mark for a typical 2,000-calorie diet. That's 12 teaspoons of sugar. So what does that mean for your eating and drinking day? If you are a soda drinker, it's huge: 50 grams is the amount in one sugar-sweetened 16-ounce bottle, meaning if you gulp one down, the rest of your day should be an added sugar-free zone. That might be tough in a world where even pasta sauces and bread have added sweeteners.(Note: the sugars naturally found in milk and fruit don't count). "It's really worth keeping your eye on the major sources," says Michael Jacobson, president of the nutrition watchdog group Center for Science in Public Interest. "The culprits are obvious." According to a recent report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the expert group that recommends U.S. dietary guidelines, the major sources of added sugar in the U.S. diet are: • Beverages: 47%. Those include soft drinks (25%), fruit drinks (11%), sweetened coffee and tea (7%), sport and energy drinks (3%) and alcohol (1%). • Snacks and sweets such as cakes, pies and cookies: 31%. • Everything else, including condiments and dressings: 22%. The report says average consumers now get 13.4% of their calories from added sugar, but that is based on what people admit to government researchers, Jacobson says. Other data suggest average intake might be 20% or higher, he says. Either way, "we have a long way to go," says Rachel Johnson, a nutrition professor at the University of Vermont and spokesperson for the American Heart Association. Even without new labeling rules — opposed by some food industry groups — consumers can cut added sugars now, she says. "The first step is to think about your drink," she says. After that: • Use current labels, which list total sugars, to estimate added sugars. "If there's no milk or fruit in it, assume all the sugar is added sugar," she says. • Look for the "ose." If an ingredient ends in those letters — sucrose, fructose, maltose and dextrose — it's a sugar. • Buy unsweetened versions of healthy foods such as oatmeal and yogurt and sweeten them yourself. Whether you use sugar, honey or maple syrup (Johnson, as a Vermonter, favors that), you probably will use less than a food company would. For further reading, refer below cited reference:"

This is a welcome development in the area of health science and the sensitivity this has created among the policy makers is noteworthy. There is lot of logic in the argument that if sugar addition in quantities more than that demanded by the taste and flavor angles can be justified only if technologically it is a necessity. In sugar preserves sugar addition serves a different purpose viz to preserve the product through the osmotic pressure exerted by high concentration of sugar on pathogenic organisms thus achieving extended shelf life and safety. Also logical is the argument that even if sugar present in a packed product is less than what is perceived to be right by individual consumers, it can always added before using at home. It is certain majority of the consumers will accept lower levels of sugar which can make a big impact on consumption of white sugar in the long term and hopefully will lead to a more healthy world.


No comments: