There is a new documentary out of Australia called “That Sugar Film”. In it a healthy young man, that had previously given up processed and sweetened foods decides to only eat ‘healthy’ processed foods for two months. In the show he does not eat candy, cake, sodas–he eats yogurt, health foods and other supposedly healthy choices. The stipulation that they all must be processed foods is the only one.
Eight out of ten processed foods contain hidden sugars. The labels aren’t required to say what percentage of the recommended daily allowance they contain–so they don’t. In the near future they might, but for now, sugar is only detailed in the hard-to-understand form of grams. Almost no one realizes that one teaspoon of sugar weighs about the same as four grams. When you see that your yogurt contains 10 grams of sugar you probably don’t automatically realize that that is about two and a half teaspoons per tube.
People in the market are likely to make buying decisions based on the marketing labels, the health claims on the labels, and to a lesser degree on the ingredients labels. This from the New York Times:
There was a study done in Australia that found that 55 percent of people get their nutrition advice from food labels, compared with only 25 percent who get their advice from a nutritional advocate. That’s where we need integrity. People are taking at face value what these products tell them.
People that see “gluten-free” on the label at the Whole Food store are going to assume that the food contained within that package is healthier than it would otherwise be. “Fat Free” foods are known to contain sugar to replace the fat. Eighty percent of foods are not ‘fat free’ though, so there is a lot of sugar added for some other reason. Yesterday at the hospital we were offered, for free, snack bags of Lays Oven Baked Potato Chips. The health claim on the label was that there was 80% less fat than potato chips. The label went on to inform me that the product contained 2 grams of sugar. Normal potato chips contain no sugar. The missing fat flavor of the normal potato chip was replaced by the addicting sweetness of a half teaspoon of sugar per one ounce serving.
Sadly, there is no actual scientific reason to avoid the fats in foods. Eating fats do not make people fat, they never have. Eating saturated fats do not lead to cholesterol in the blood, they never have. Eating fats do not lead to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, Fatty liver disease, insulin resistance. Eating sugars lead to each and every one of these problems. Low fat foods are just about guaranteed to make people fat and sick. Sugar is far worse as a chronically eaten food than just about any other ingredient. Sugar is in eight out of ten processed foods.
If only our nation had never been good at keeping our food supply safe and healthy people would be far more skeptical of the claims on labels. The fact that the nation from time to time makes a company change a label to comply with the truth makes the fact that they let just about every company crow about the nutritional value of foods that are, for all intents and purposes, candy, so misleading. People assume that if its for sale at least it won’t be dangerous.
Sugar is not dangerous. If you eat sugar when the fruit is falling off the trees in the summer and fall it’s not dangerous. If you eat sugar in your birthday cake every year it’s not dangerous. If you eat sugar in every bite of food you eat–at every meal and snack–if you eat sugar in every drink of liquid you take–it is as deadly as smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. It is more deadly than that–because two out of three of us are fat and getting sick from doing it. Two out of three smokers aren’t dying of cancer after only ten years of smoking. Grade school children are getting liver transplants from fatty liver disease. You can’t blame that on exercise. You can’t blame that on too many calories. You blame that on fructose in their chocolate milk, breakfast cereal, fruit juice, soda pop, and most of the processed foods they are fed by their loving and concerned parents. Nobody is trying to kill their children with too much candy. Nobody decides to fatten up their babies by giving them cake and ice cream at every meal. They are being tricked into doing it with clever labels, with used-to-be-healthy foods that are now adulterated with sugar.
And Coca Cola is funding studies that will show that all we need to do is exercise more and eat less non-coke calories to avoid poisoning ourselves with the fructose contained in their Vitamin Waters. Nice try Coke.