Sugar Labeling & Sweet Victory

Diabetes and Sugar

Overconsumption of added sugar is linked to type 2 diabetes, a disease that affects about 26 million Americans. Type 2 diabetes isn’t new, but something has changed over the years: people are starting to have the disease at an earlier age. Projections suggest that 40% of U.S. children will develop the disease within their lifetime.

And Sugar Slips in…

It’s hard to avoid sugar. When you’re at a birthday party singing, looking at the cake, you just know there’s sugar in there. But many other times, the sugar can sneak into the best intended eating plans. It’s so easy for this to happen – did you know there are 61 names for sugar? Some are pretty familiar or easier to recognize, like beet sugar, HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup), or raw sugar. Then, there are many that would be awfully hard to recognize. How well do you know these names for sugar?

  • Barley malt
  • Dextrin
  • Maltose
  • Buttered syrup
  • Panocha
  • Evaporated cane juice

Added sugar is hiding in 74% of packaged foods. Sugar benefits producers for more reasons than tempting flavor: it boosts volume, retains moisture, extends shelf life, and enhances texture of processed foods. Savory foods like bread, pasta sauce, ketchup, and salad dressings, and also yogurt and energy bars…all of these foods often depend on the added sugar factor.

Even when it’s hard to identify sugars in an ingredient list, the greater challenge is that manufacturers haven’t been required to state whether the total sugar content in a product contains added sugar. People who are trying to be healthy can end up consuming more sugar than they realize.

New Labeling from the FDA

A new, redesigned Nutrition Facts label is coming, and it will be required on most packaged food by July 2018. Current labels combine natural and added sugars in one lump sum, presented as just “Sugars.” New labels will list “Total Sugars,” with a subcategory beneath stating “Includes 10g Added Sugars” (using 10g as an example of the added sugar content). Look at the labels below to compare the current and redesigned versions.

Side-by-Side Comparison of Nutrition Labels

Side-by-Side Comparison of Nutrition Labels

The new Nutrition Facts Label will also show how much sugar is in a product relative to the daily reference value (a percentage of the daily recommended intake) – 20% in the example above. There is great hope that the new label will help Americans make more informed choices about foods they eat.

Figuring It Out

For a long time, the Sugar Association convinced health organizations that sugar was harmless.  Making sure that their product was protected, they blamed sickness on saturated fats instead of sugars and hindered proper research. They also encouraged the belief that “a calorie is just a calorie,” and purported that the problem was too many overall calories, not too much sugar.

Now, scientists have definitively linked excessive sugar consumption to heart disease in humans (2014). They have determined that all calories are not created equal. “Now we know that too much sugar doesn’t just make us fat; it makes us sick,” – so well said Laura Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, professor of health policy at the University of California, San Francisco.

Get excited! Smarter science and updated labeling are making life better.

Resources

61 Names for Sugar

An 'Added Sugar' Label Is On The Way For Packaged Food

FDA modernizes Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods

Hidden in Plain Sight

Sweet News About Food Labels

Why Sugar Matters Today. Finding Tools to Fight Diabetes.

Why the sugar industry hates the FDA’s new Nutrition Facts label