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Sugar: How much is too much?

February 25, 2013

Michelle Holmgren, Public Affairs & Community Relations Specialist
(Office) 413-967-2296 (Cell) 413-237-6743


Ware, MA (February 25, 2013) Our bodies rely on natural sugars to function, yet eating too much can lead to serious health issues. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more that 100 calories of added sugar a day, sugar that’s not found naturally in fruit and dairy and that men have no more than 150 calories. Yet the average American consumes a whopping 22 teaspoons or 350 calories worth each day.
“Many people consume more sugar than they realize,” said Alicia Walter, MS RD, LDN, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Educator at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital. “It’s important to be aware of how much sugar you consume. Added sugars contribute zero nutrients but many added calories that can lead to extra pounds or even obesity, thereby reducing heart health.”

"Most people are aware of the amount of sugar they add to their coffee and when they eat sweet treats, but beyond sweetened drinks and treats, hidden sugar lurks in many types of food, including bread, ketchup, yogurts and breakfast cereals,” said Walter. “So the best way to cut back on added sugar is to become a label reader. To tell if a processed food contains added sugars, you need to look at the list of ingredients. Sugar has many other names, besides those ending in “ose,” such as maltose or sucrose, watch for high fructose corn syrup, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, raw sugar, syrup, honey or fruit juice concentrates.”

“Drinks are another source of added sugar,” noted Water. "One of the easiest ways to cut back on added sugars is to watch how many sweetened beverages like soft drinks, sweet tea, alcoholic mixers, and juice drinks you have daily. The best drink choices include water and nonfat milk and unsweetened tea.”

Artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet and Low, while calorie free, may pose their own set of risks.

Ongoing research is being conducted to determine the link between insulin response and ingestion of artificial sweeteners,” said Walter. “And a number of studies show that consumption of diet soda and other artificially sweetened products may actually cause people to eat and drink even more calories and increase their risk for overweight/obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.”

“Sugar also has a direct impact on triglyceride levels, the fats that are carried in the blood from the food and excess calories that we eat,” said Walter. “Consuming foods high in saturated fat will raise triglyceride levels, but people don’t realize that increased intake of simple sugars in excess of our calorie needs, especially fructose also contributes to high triglycerides.”

High triglyceride levels are an important barometer of metabolic health, according to the American Heart Association; high levels are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart attack and stroke.

“You can help to lower your triglyceride levels by limiting simple sugars, as well as honey, maple syrup, agave sweetener, added sugars in foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, starchy vegetables eaten in excess, like potatoes and corn, highly refined breads, cereals, rice and crackers,” said Walter.

“Trying to change everything about your eating habits can be difficult and can result in a frustration and failure,” said Walter. “Better to make a series of small changes slowly to reshape your lifestyle, eating habits and develop lasting healthy changes.”

Alicia Walters facilitates a Diabetes Support Group that meets the first Wednesday of every month from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm in the Main Conference Room located on the second floor of the hospital. Meetings are open to community members who have diabetes, their families and anyone who is interested in learning more about diabetes. Registration is not required, for more information contact Michelle Holmgren, Public Affairs and Community Relations Coordinator at 413-967-2296.

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