The next time you reach for that sugary soft drink, consider this: it may contain even more of the sweet stuff inside than what the label claims. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California analyzed the chemical makeup of more than 30 popular soda and juice brands, and what they found is concerning.
A team of experts led by Dr. Michael Goran found that most of the beverages made with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained 50% more fructose than glucose, even though manufacturers insist that HFCS isn’t all that different from natural sugar (sucrose) which contains equal parts fructose and glucose. Moreover, many of the beverage labels failed to accurately represent the amount of fructose in each drink.
“We found what ends up being consumed in these beverages is neither natural sugar nor HFCS, but instead a fructose-intense concoction that could increase one’s risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver disease,” said Goran. “The human body isn’t designed to process this form of sugar at such high levels. Unlike glucose, which serves as fuel for the body, fructose is processed almost entirely in the liver where it is converted to fat.”
Now for the hard truth: Americans today are consuming more sugary beverages than ever before. And, like Goran said, the consequences are not good. Nearly half of all Americans drink soda on a daily basis—on average about 2.6 glassesi—and the result has been a significant rise in obesity and obesity-related health conditions. On top of that, a recent Arizona State University study found that a diet high in fructosemay increase the overall risk of death in both men and women. Specifically, the risk of death from all causes was 10% higher in women who ate the most total fructose and 6% higher in men.ii
ii Am J Clin Nutr May 2014 vol. 99 no. 5 1077-1088.
It’s scary, really, when you consider that one cup of the popular breakfast cereal Honey Smacks contains even more sugar than a Twinkie. This comes from a new report released by non-profit research and advocacy organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) after their experts examined more than 80 popular cereal brands marketed directly to children.
The report, titled Sugar in Children’s Cereals: Popular Brands Pack More Sugar than Snack Cakes and Cookies, also tells us many children’s cereals fail to meet the government’s proposed guidelines for sugar content, which recommend no more than 26 percent added sugar by weight. According to the study, over half of the cereals reviewed surpassed that number—packing more sugar than popular junk food desserts like snack cakes and cookies.
So what’s the problem with all that sugar? Let’s start with obesity. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years,i putting American children at an increased risk for developing obesity-related illness and disease. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In a recent statement, the American Heart Association revealed kids as young 1-3 years already consume around 12 teaspoons (roughly 48 grams) of sugar each day, and by the time they’re teens that number will nearly triple.ii According to the EWG report, kids who consume high-sugar breakfasts are more likely to have problems at school—including difficulty concentrating and paying attention in class. As a result, they are more likely to make mistakes on their work. They also have less energy and are hungrier throughout the day.
Because the manufacturers that develop and sell these high-sugar cereals and other processed food products continue to lobby for more lenient nutritional guidelines, parents need to be vigilant about proper diet and making sure children are getting the vital nutrients essential for their well-being. EWG’s report provides a list of the “10 Worst Children’s Cereals,” along with tips for choosing smarter breakfast options, to help parents make sure kids get a healthier start each day.