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Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners

  1. Is sugar in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for added sugars or just sucrose? Answer
  2. Does the U.S. Dietary Guidelines call for no more than 10% of calories from sugar mean sucrose and natural occuring sugars or all sugars? Answer
  3. Since food labels show how many grams of sugar in a serving, how can I know what a good goal should be? Answer
  4. How does sugar affect your body? Answer
  5. Why do they have sugar in pop? Answer
  6. I have started to take MetRx. A couple of my friends brought up that it contains aspartame. Do you have any opinions or suggstions about MetRx or aspartame or both? Answer
  7. Could you comment on the fat that many parents are feeding their very young children diet cold drinks with NutraSweet? Answer
  8. Does aspartame cause headaches? Answer
  9. What is NutraSweet? Answer

  10. Would you serve your children KoolAid with sugar or NutraSweet? Answer
  11. What do you think about sugar-free hard candy and breath mints? Answer
  12. Is saccharin all right to use? Answer
  13. How much sugar is in a sucker? Answer
  14. I've started using honey nstead of sugar since it is a more natural sweetener. I'm not fat or a diabetic. Answer

You have been so kind to take the time to answer my questions. Thank you so very much. Please permit me a couple of follow-up questions.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend moderate intake of sugar which includes sugar you add to food at the table as well as sugar added by food manufacturers.
  1. Am I correct in understanding your statement that the guideline is for added sugars?
  2. Does the 10% guideline refer only to sucrose or does it include other sugars?
  3. You don't have to answer this question: why would the USDA make this recommendation and the FDA not require labeling to help us follow that advice?

That question was just so I could vent my frustration concerning the government. Thank you for any help you can give me. I really do appreciate it. Thanks.

The guideline includes both sugars naturally occurring in foods AND sugars added to foods by manufacturers as there is no way for a chemical analysis to separate one from the other in a food. Chemically fructose from an apple looks the same as fructose added as a sweetener even though the fructose sweetener may be in higher concentration for taste.

The 10% guideline applies to all chemicals referred to as "simple sugars". This includes simple sugars like glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose as well as sucrose.

The new food label is to educate the consumer and the FDA collected a lot or opinions to arrive at the new format. Unless a food makes a health claim, it doesn't have to list any other nutrient. Sugar is listed under "carbohydrates" along with fiber which is a complex carbohydrate.

Actually, there is less nutrition information on the new food label than the old one. The new food label only contains 2 vitamis and 2 minerals.

Does the U.S. Dietary Guidelines in calling for no more than 10% of calories from sugar means a) added sucrose, b) sucrose, added or naturally occurring, or c) all simple sugars (fructose, glucose, lactose, sucrose, etc.)?

Do you also know whether sugars on the food label of foods refers to added sucrose or to sucrose (whether or not added) or to all simple sugars?

Thank you. I appreciate any help you can give me.

There aren't a lot of foods (300 - 400) with sugar data. Just because the data is not available other than for some brand name foods which analyze for sugar it can be a major selling point (cereals) for the food. Sugar is not required on the food label by the FDA which updated their rules in 1994. The sugar data on food labels includes both natural occurring sugars like fructose (fruit sugar), lactose (milk sugar) as well as added sugars like sucrose (table sugar) as there is no reasonable way to separate these sugars. Fructose is often used as a sweetener added to foods and a chemical analysis of a food would not differentiate "added" fructose from "naturally occurring" fructose. Honey is another "natural" sugar, but is also added to foods as a sweetener.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend you moderate your intake of sugar which includes sugar you add to food at the table as well as sugar added by food manufacturers. Unfortunately, this lumps fruit sugar and milk sugar (good sources) in the same analysis with sugar added during manufacturing (carbonated beverages, cakes, pie, cookies, fruit drinks, ice cream and candy). The "sugar" content listed on food labels include both mono and disaccharides (fructose, lactose, maltose, sucrose), but not starch.

Hi. I'm trying to cut down on the amount of sugars I eat. Since the new food labels typically show how many grams of sugar is in a serving, how can I know what a good "goal" should be?

I'd like to record how many grams I eat now and then compare it to how many grams I should be eating. What about percentage of sugars to carbohydrates? I can easily find a goal for my height and weight for carbohydrates, but how much of that should be in the form of sugars? For example, if my carbohydrate goal is 300 grams per day, how many of those grams should be sugar?

If you eat 300 grams of carbohydrate each day, then up to 30 grams could come from sugars. However, the new food label lumps all sugars together including milk (lactose) and fruit sugar (fructose) along with table sugar (sucrose). For instance one serving of fruit canned in fruit juice has 14 grams of sugar and 1 cup of skim milk has 12 grams of sugar. Yet neither of these foods has sugar "added" to them. Unfortunately, the new food label lumps all sugars (disaccharides) together and doesn't make it easier for consumers to identify sources of "added" sugar.

Carbohydrates, including sugars, are your body's main source of energy. There are two forms of sugar in the food we eat. There are naturally occurring sugars in fruits and dairy products and there are added sugars (white, brown or powdered sugar as well as corn syrup solids) in many processed foods.

First start by reading the ingredient list on a food label. Learn to differentiate between ingredients that are added sugars (corn syrup solids or sucrose) and natural sugars like lactose (milk sugar) or fructose (fruit sugar) that are inherent in raw or basic foods. It may take some leaning on your part to recognize sources of added versus natural sugars and may be a bit confusing at times because fructose is also used as an added sugar.

When you eat foods that contain added sugars, choose foods that also contain nutrients like vitamins, minerals or fiber. Limit foods that are high in sugar with few other nutrient values (i.e. 15% vitamin C) listed on the Nutrition Facts label. Avoid foods such as candy, non-diet soda pop, jam, jelly and syrup. You should get most of your carbohydrates (sugars) from starchy foods such as pasta, rice, bread, other grain products, potatoes and other starchy vegetables. These foods are great sources of complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber. These foods are considered to be "nutrient rich". Fruit and fruit juice is another great source of carbohydrates that can provide vitamin A, C, folacin, potassium and other important nutrients. When you choose foods that contain sugars, read the food labels to make sure you're getting some nutrients to go along with your sugar. Remember that moderate amounts of sugar, no matter what their source, are part of a healthy diet.

How does sugar affect your body?

Sugar adds calories which if you eat more than you need, you will gain weight. Weight gain increases your risk of getting heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or even some types of cancer. However, if you are underweight, sugar can add extra calories so that you can gain weight. If your body doesn't make enough insulin like a diabetic, then the sugar you eat increases the sugar in your blood to unhealthy levels.

The body breaks down sugar into the sugar you find in your blood (glucose). Unfortunately, there are no vitamins or minerals in sugar and so it is called an "empty" calorie. That is why it is the first food to be eliminated from a weight loss diet. By the way, it doesn't matter if the sugar is white or brown. The amount of molasses in brown sugar is so low it doesn't contribute enough of any vitamin or mineral to count on a food label.

Why do they have sugar in pop?

Well imagine plain water with food coloring and artificial flavor? You could make that at home. Sugar tastes good and adds flavor. But, there is 9 teaspoons of sugar in 12 ounces of pop (soda). Plain water or fruit juice would be a better alternative.

For the past two weeks I have started to take MetRx. A couple of my friends have brought up the fact that it contains aspartame which supposedly kills brain cells and has not been approved by the FDA. I take this mix twice a day and the difference I have noticed is that I am eating less. My concern is with the ingredient aspartame - do you have any opinions or suggestions about MetRx or aspartame or both? Thank you in advance.

Aspartame has been approved by the FDA for a number of years and is considered safe. It contains two amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid. There is no research to substantiate that it kills brain cells.

I am unfamiliar with MetRx. If you send the nutritional analysis and info as to why it is used, I can give you more feedback.

Could you comment on the fact that many parents are feeding their very young children diet cold drinks with NutraSweet? What effect will this have on the development of these children? I am concerned because they do not seem to be getting enough water and healthy foods and beverages.

Children do not need diet beverages (sugar free) or other diet foods, unless the child is a diabetic. At the present, there is no concern with NutraSweet usage by children. I am concerned though about children who involuntarily share their parent's low calorie diet and parent's preoccupation with weight control.

Children at least through age 10 need sufficient calories and protein for normal growth and development. This can be grossly measured by height and weight. There are published tables for comparison. If a child's height is in the 100th percentile, a weight in the 100th percentile (range of 75% to 125% is appropriate) is OK. If a child's height or weight is less than the 25th percentile, he / she should be seen by a doctor to determine why. Smallness may be genetic, but it can also be induced by an insufficient diet.

Other vitamins and minerals are important and food is the best source of these nutrients. When calories are restricted, so are these vitamins and minerals necessary for growth and development.

If calories or protein are restricted, children may not achieve their genetically determined height. If protein is severely restricted early in life, brain development may be permanently stunted.

Infants and very young children cannot always say when they are thirsty or hungry. A good rule of thumb is for adults to offer children fluids when they themselves drink liquids. Another rule of thumb is to look at the color of urine. During the day, it should be colorless and odorless.

It is usually adults that determine what foods are purchased at the store and that in turn determines what young children eat. The focus should not be that children are just small adults. Their nutritional needs are usually greater, especially for calories per pound of body weight, than adults need.

Does aspartame cause headaches? I think I get migraines from aspartame. I was on vacation in the Jamaica over Spring break and I didn't have any migraine headaches. The only thing different that I noticed was the pop had saccharin in it instead. I do drink several cans of diet pop a day.

Try eliminating all foods that contain aspartame from your diet for one month. Document on paper any headache. Also, document when your menstrual cycle starts and ends. Hormone levels can cause fluctuations in not only headaches, but other allergic reactions too. Reintroduce one aspartame containing food every three days.

Since you were on vacation, your absence of migraines may have been due to the lack of stress in your life. With the variety of foods and beverages a person eats, it is very difficult to pinpoint one specific food as the causative agent. Try the above elimination diet to see if aspartame is really the cause. Contact the NutraSweet Company in Skokie, Illinois if you think there is a relationship between aspartame and your headaches.

The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta did some studies of physical complaints and the use of aspartame. After extensive interviews with those persons having complaints, found no clear cut relationship between the complaints and ingestion of aspartame.

What is in NutraSweet? It tastes good and doesn't leave a bitter aftertaste like saccharin.

NutraSweet is the brand name of aspartame. Aspartame contains two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Together they make foods taste sweeter. Persons with PKU (phenylketonuria) cannot use aspartame because it would raise their blood levels of phenylalanine. PKU is an inherited disease and is tested for at birth.

There are many foods on the market today that contain aspartame. One quart of diet cola contains about 100 milligrams of aspartame.

Would you serve your children KoolAid with sugar or NutraSweet?

If you are concerned about sugar versus aspartame, unless your child is a diabetic, give them the sugar sweetened beverage. The sugar content of these powder mixes is about the same as carbonated beverages (9 teaspoons of sugar per 12-ounce beverage). I am not opposed to occasionally giving children, who are within a normal weight range, sugar-based beverages, fruit drinks or soda. Special occasions, like birthday parties, are those occasions when a sugar containing beverage is fine.

I am concerned about diet conscious adults putting children on diets however. Try to avoid feeding children "diet" foods. An adequate amount of calories and nutrients should be available to growing children to insure brain and physical development.

Why not offer other beverage choices to children. In hot weather, offer double diluted fruit juice, just plain cold water are good thirst quenchers or frozen fruit juice cubes.

Taste preference is something that is learned from birth through the age of six. If sweet foods are offered frequently, a child will be more likely to develop a preference for sweets. Don't give into children's pressure to buy sugar-sweetened beverage all the time.

What do you think about sugar-free hard candy and breath mints? They're good tasting, low calorie candies.

Most sugar-free candy, gum and breath mints taste good. Read the label to see which artificial sweetener is an ingredient. Sorbitol and mannitol are frequently used in these low calorie candies.

Sorbitol and mannitol are sugars derived from alcohol. They are readily converted to fructose and glucose. The problem with these sweeteners is that they are slowly absorbed from the intestines and may produce a laxative or gaseous effect. They are low in calories.

I would not suggest you eat a lot of sugar-free candy at a time. If gas or diarrhea bothers you, omit the sugar-free candy for one week and see if your symptoms go away. Try the sugar-free candy again and see if the symptoms return. This is an elimination diet that will help you identify any symptoms you may have.

Is saccharin all right to use? With all the cancer scares about artificial sweeteners, I want to know if it is safe to use.

Saccharin was thought to be one cause of bladder cancer in men. Because of a law called the Delaney Clause, any substance that is known to cause cancer in man or animals must be banned. At the time the Food and Drug Administration was considering banning saccharin, there wasn't any other artificial sweetener on the market. Since that time, any food with saccharin in it, has carried a warning label that the use of saccharin may be hazardous to your health.

The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta studied person's with bladder cancer. They did not find any higher incidence of bladder cancer among saccharin users as compared to non-saccharin users.

The numbers of foods in today's market with saccharin are fewer because of the increased use of aspartame. Aspartame does not leave a bitter aftertaste as saccharin does.

How much sugar is in a sucker?

The size of suckers vary, but in a clear, hard candy sucker, there should be about one to two teaspoons of sugar (four to eight grams).

Are your brushing your teeth after eating a sucker? Sweet sticky sugars like suckers or candy adhere to tooth enamel. The bacteria in your mouth feed on simple sugars. The bacteria increase the acidity of your mouth which in turn eats through the enamel covering on your teeth. This increases cavities (dental caries). Frequent brushing helps remove sticky sweets that adhere to teeth. Use of fluoridated toothpaste also helps reduce cavities.

I've started using honey instead of sugar since it is a more natural sweetener. I've been trying to cut down on sugar. I'm not fat or a diabetic. I just think it would be more healthy.

Well, you are still using sugar if you have switched to honey. Honey contains 40% sucrose (table sugar) and 60% fructose (fruit sugar).

Honey can be used to replace sugar in a recipe; 3/4 cup of honey can replace one cup of sugar in a recipe. You will have to reduce the liquid by one-half cup for each cup of honey you add to the recipe though.

If you want to cut down on your total intake of sugar, consider decreasing all sugars, white, brown, powdered, raw, as well as honey. You could limit your intake of foods high in sugar to once a week rather than eating sweets daily. Another significant reduction in sugar could be made by adding only 1/2 to 1/3 the amount of sugar or honey called for in a recipe. You will be surprised how good cookies taste with half the sugar.

Sugar is a natural food. It comes from sugar cane or sugar beets. It is considered an empty calorie since there are not any vitamins or minerals in sugar. Some advocates of honey claim that honey has vitamins and minerals. Honey does contain some nutrients, but one tablespoon of honey will provide less than 1/100 of your Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, calcium and iron. There is no vitamin A in honey. This is not a significant contribution to your diet nutrient wise and honey is adding calories along with those trace amounts of nutrients.

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