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Deflating the Calorie Myth – it is About the Sugar

Originally posted Oct 20th 2015 on Linkedin

I am a big Seahawks fan, so writing this in support of Tom Brady’s comments is a big deal for me. But I believe in our common cause – the truth about sugar.  I appreciate Tom Brady for championing the sugar conversation. I am disappointed in the responses by the Food Industry and the missed opportunity to have a real conversation about sugar.

I support what he said last week about cola and cereal and it is time for us in the food manufacturing industry to answer these nutritional questions with credibility. The consumer does not have full access to choice without transparency and education. What was conspicuously absent in the responses was the sugar conversation – just like the missing air in a football (sorry Tom, I just couldn’t resist). The plain truth is that leading nutritionists and health watch organizations such as WHO all have an abundance of evidence that sugar intake is leading to obesity.

Approximately 5200 people in North America are diagnosed with Type II Diabetes every 24 hours (Centers for Disease Control 2011 Fact sheet).  Today, 75% of our health care dollars (National Center for Health Statistics) go towards preventable diseases (obesity in  32.8% of adult population and 25.8% in Children – IDF), heart disease in 11.8% of adult population (CDC), diabetes in 10% of the population (CDC), high blood pressure in 11.4% of the population) associated with poor diet and nutrition resulting in $3 trillion in US Health Care expenditures (Health Affairs). Obviously each of these diseases have individual complexities but we all know food and proper nutrition education are definitely part of the answer. I believe it is the food industries’ job to produce food with responsible sugar levels and to educate the consumer so that they can be making the right choices.

WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines call for adults and children reducing our intake of free sugars to below 10% of our total energy consumption, approximately 50 grams or 12 teaspoons daily. A further reduction to 5% of our total energy intake which is 25 grams or 6 teaspoons would provide additional health benefits.

Dr. David Ludwig at Boston University sets out how our body processes sugar – I have attached a recent article. Sugar, especially refined added sugars and sugars consumed  without fiber, proteins or healthy fats, cause insulin spikes, which triggers fat storage, and can ultimately lead to obesity.

facts-about-added-sugars-frosted-flakes

Let’s look at Frosted Flakes. It has 1g of protein, less than 1g of fiber, and 10g of sugar in a 28g container with 100 calories. That one serving is 20% of your WHO recommended 50g allowance for sugar and 38% of your WHO 5% allowance. Eating Frosted Flakes with protein rich Greek yogurt and berries would improve the nutritional profile.

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Coke has 39g of sugar in a 12 fl oz can. No fiber or protein and calories of 140. This is 78% of your WHO recommended guidelines for daily sugar allowance.

There is currently no Daily Value requirement for sugar. Consumers need this information to be informed so they can make a choice for their health. I believe supporting USDA daily sugar requirement labeling is far more important than, for example the highly controversial non-GMO discussion which has overtaken the healthy food conversation. The evidence that sugar is harming our health is not controversial, it is just rarely discussed – especially by the food industry.

I would love to see an entire grocery store built around items with responsible sugar, sodium, 4 servings of produce, healthy fats and nutrition instead of non-GMO and Organic. It is not that I do not support those platforms, but we have been brainwashed into thinking that GMO is our biggest health concern. It is SUGAR and poor nutrition in packaged foods – manufactured by both conventional and natural/organic brands.

Nearly 80% of North Americans do not meet daily fruit recommendations (Poti, JM, Mendez, MA, et al AJCN, May 2015) and 90% of the population does not achieve veggie targets (Dietary guidelines 2015 Scientific Report). Nearly 100% of adults do not consume an adequate amount of whole grains (Dietary Guidelines 2015 Scientific Report). 90% of Americans consume more than the recommended amount of sodium each day. 75% of sodium in our diet comes from packaged foods. (American Heart Association). The vast majority of Americans are exceeding targets for added sugar consumption (Dietary Guidelines 2015 Scientific Report).

To be clear, I am not a Frosted Flakes or Coke hater. I enjoyed the occasional bowl of Frosted Flakes and banana’s growing up, but I was only allowed it on weekends. I fortunately have never been a pop drinker, but a cold pop on a summer day is a great treat. In our house, it was a treat and not a substitute for water, and was not served with meals on a daily basis.

My objection is to the responses given by Coke and Kellogg’s.  It is time to “deflate” the calorie myth, it is time to be responsible with sugar and nutrition messages and encourage the industry to design products that deliver on nutrition to encourage healthy eating. It’s time to put some air back into this conversation and inflate its importance. (OK Tom that’s the last one – I promise).

4 thoughts on “Deflating the Calorie Myth – it is About the Sugar”

  1. Gerry says:

    I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 6 months ago. With diet changes minimal sugar intake and salads not lettuce but leafy greens and tomatoes. My blood sugar went from 300 down to lower 100’s lose 30 pounds BP 137/76 from 160/90.

    1. Oli Maughan says:

      Congratulations Gerry!

  2. Cris says:

    Christine: I appreciate your comments and agree with you on its merit but you must remember that we are a free people and govt should not tell us what to or not do regarding eating. Recommendations and truth from food companies of course is good but your fine print seemed to be more socialistic in nature and that’s never a good thing.

    1. I believe in standards, transparency and education so the consumer has accountable choice. No where in the article do I say the government should tell us what to eat. My points are twofold. The first is a responsible industry creates standards. If the industry cannot, then the government should step in to create a standard that creates transparency for the consumer. The second point is choice of the consumer once they are educated – then they can be accountable.

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