Sugars, is it really fair to describe it as a treat, considering how much we eat it all year round? Let’s talk about Halloween, we know what that’s really about. Candy, sweets and sugar treats. This Halloween, Americans will spend $2.2 billion on candy alone!
Today the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugars a day. Three times what we need. That’s equal to 75 pounds of sugars a year for every man, woman and child.
Let’s talk about sugar. Everyone loves it and it turns out that’s because we are genetically programmed that way. Neuroscientist’s at university research institutes, using functional MRI scanners to learn how our brains respond to sweetness found that Sugars activates the brain in a special way, that’s very reminiscent of drugs like cocaine. With sugars being so viscerally appealing to us, it is frankly no wonder that food manufacturer’s put it in everything and we do mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!
About 35% of the sugar that Americans consume comes from beverages but we are also talking about salad dressings, ketchup, breads, cereals, crackers, jerky and the list goes on and on.
We have no idea how prevalent sugar is in almost everything that we eat. Excess sugar is not good for us; both the world health organisation and the American Heart Association, have warned against the harms of eating too much of it and some studies suggest that too much sugar can literally mess with the brain.
A test rat, perfectly healthy, is put in a vat of water and he finds his way to his safety every time. Now a test rat is selected and what he has been eating is the equivalent of a North American Diet, complete with all the fats and sugars we regularly consume. Insert him in a vat of water and he doesn’t know where to go. His brain has been damaged.
The sweetener industry is not going to take the findings of a wet confused rat lying down. They are an immensely powerful $5 billion industry who fought for decades to project their products with health benefits. The Sugar Association used to claim their product was a diet aid with ads positioning it as a cure for the fats anytime of day and featured with a woman saying, ”if sugar can fill that hollow feeling, I’m all for it!” Nothing says I don’t feel hollow inside like a woman sitting alone eating straight from a bag of sugar!
The sugar association has become a little more sophisticated since then. The current president of the Sugar Association has said, “… as it relates to obesity, there’s been plenty of science that exonerates sugar – it is clarified that sugars do not contribute to obesity or diabetes…”
We are not saying that sugar is the only culprit but it definitely is one of the key suspects. To be fair, there are some scientists who dismiss links between sugars and obesity, but that’s because usually corporate money distorts science. When researchers looked at two sets of weight gain studies, one group with conflicts of interest like funding from soda companies and one group that was independent, the vast majority of independent studies found direct links between sugar, sweet softdrinks and weight gain or obesity. The vast majority that weren’t independent found the exact opposite of that. Regardless of whether sugar is terrible for you or the answer to all life’s problems – shouldn’t we atleast get to know when it is being added to our food?
To their credit, the FDA is trying to take this on. FDA is reviewing new nutritional labelling standards and that may force food makers to not just list the total sugar content but how much sugar they are adding to their products. The FDA is trying to get an added sugar category on to their food labels.
Being forced to reveal how much sugar you are adding to people’s food might seem pretty mild but there is no way the food manufacturing industry is going to let that happen. The FDA has been swamped with letters from every conceivable product. From the yogurt’s association to the national frozen pizza institute to multiple representatives of the cranberry industry.
Cranberry’s are not the tastiest of nature’s berries – they are naturally low in sugar giving them a distinctly tart, astringent, even unpalatable taste. It’s no wonder that certain companies want to exempt it from the proposed added sugars declaration.
The most revealing plea came from the American Beverage Association who wrote that if there is to be an added sugar label, it must be measured in grams and not teaspoons because teaspoons may carry an unfair negative connotation that undermines the factual nature of nutrition information.
The only reason the beverage people want sugar to be measured in grams instead of teaspoons is that people understand what a teaspoon is, whilst no one understands the metric system. The proposed FDA food label is completely missing the point. If they really want us to understand how much sugar is in our food, they need to find a measurement we can immediately grasp.
What we are saying to companies is keep loading your products up with as much sugar as you like on the one condition that on the front of the packaging you display how much sugar it contains, the least companies can do is tell us how much we are swallowing.