By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
A lot of people feel guilty for eating too much sugar and want to stop. But they can’t stop eating it.
According to survey results released recently from a leading health site, nearly half of Americans feel guilty about eating too much sugar. Meanwhile, two out of three want to cut back, yet most people aren’t slashing the sugar in their diets. That’s because they don’t know how.
Healthline.com asked more than 3,000 people what they know about sugar and how it affects the body. Most don’t know how much of the sweet stuff is in their foods. They also don’t understand its role in physical addiction, the survey said.
Those results aren’t too surprising, said Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont.
“Added sugars are not currently provided on the Nutrition Facts panel, making it difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to know how much sugar has been added to their foods and beverages,” said Johnson, past chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee. “Too much added sugar increases your risk of coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity-related cancers.”
A study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine showed added sugar was associated with a higher risk of dying from heart disease. Consumers who consumed 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8 percent or fewer of their calories from added sugar.
The risk was more than double for those who consumed 21 percent or more of their calories from added sugar.
Most people try to eat less sugar, but fail, the survey said. Two out of three guess wrong on how much sugar is in popular foods. Seventy percent don’t know how many grams are in a teaspoon of sugar, nor the calorie equivalent.
Additionally, many consumers confuse yogurts and energy bars as healthier choices, but they often contain more sugar than cake, ice cream or sweetened cereal.
“Our findings reveal that Americans are a nation of sugar lovers, but we know our relationship with sugar isn’t healthy,” said Healthline Media Chief Executive David Kopp. The organization is starting a new campaign to encourage people to cut back on sugar.
The Healthline survey showed that more than half of shoppers look for “no sugar added” labels and 32 percent sought “sugar-free” foods, but the labels can be perplexing.
There are more than 60 different names for sugar — most unrecognizable to the average consumer, according to Healthline. By July 2018 the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods are required to list “total sugar” and “added sugars.”
The AHA has been warning for years about how added sugar can contribute to obesity and troubling cardiovascular health. Its 2009 scientific statement about sugars recommends consumers limit added sugar to no more than half of their daily discretionary calories. For men, that’s no more than about 150 calories a day, or 9 teaspoon. Women should eat no more than 100 calories a day or 6 teaspoons.