Weighing in on Added Sugar
Mar. 30, 2011 - The more sugar you eat, the wider your girth may be, the results of a recent study suggest.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health analyzed data on food intake and body weight collected on residents in Minneapolis-St. Paul over 27 years. Although the original data focused on heart health, the new study looked at what impact added sugar had on participants’ weight during that period.
Added sugar is sugar added to processed foods, as well as sweeteners added in home cooking and at the table.
Among the women in the study, consumption of added sugar rose by 51 percent from 1980-82 to 2000-2002 and then declined somewhat, according to the research. Men followed the same pattern, increasing their intake of added sugar by 38 percent.
The participants’ weight mimicked that fluctuation. When sugar consumption increased, so did the average body mass index (BMI). When sugar consumption leveled out, women’s BMI leveled off, as well. For men, it did not.
Women consumed less added sugar than men, and younger adults ages 25 to 39 ate more than older adults did. That younger age bracket also showed the greatest increase in BMI.
"Added sugars and body weight are increasing concurrently," said study author Huifen Wang, at the University of Minnesota.
What’s the limit on added sugar? Most women should eat no more than 100 calories of added sugars a day, according to the American Heart Association. Most men should consume no more than 150 calories of added sugars a day.
In addition to sweetened beverages, added sugar can be found in obvious foods like desserts, but also granola bars, many smoothies, and some trail mixes.
If you're trying to cut down on refined sugar without using artificial sweeteners, try fruits. They add flavor, as well as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fruit also contains calories, so keep that in mind if you are watching your weight.
Here are some ideas for adding fruit to your meals:
• Add banana slices or berries to unsweetened breakfast cereal.
• Top fresh fruit with a spoonful of yogurt for dessert.
• Use all-fruit spread on your toast.
Spices also can help bring out sweet flavor in foods without contributing calories:
• Mix ginger with a fruit glaze to top fresh fruit.
• Try cinnamon with hot cereal.
• Enhance flavor in cookies and rice with nutmeg.
• Add cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg to coffee before brewing.
• Sprinkle ginger over cooked carrots or cinnamon over sweet potatoes.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.