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A lot of folks these days are trying to make smarter choices about what they eat. Why? Because the reality is that everything is related to what we put on our plate—digestive problems, cholesterol, weight gain—and statistics show that as a country our poor eating habits have been the driving force behind a rise in obesity and obesity-related disease that has reached epidemic proportions.

In an effort to lose weight and improve their health, many Americans are paying more and more attention to food labels, and it seems their attentiveness is paying off. Experts recently analyzed data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that people who look at things like ingredients, serving size and nutrition facts are likely to be healthier than their non-label-reading counterparts.

Specifically, label readers consume fewer calories and more fiber in their daily diet, along with less sugar, sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol, and as a result they tend to be slimmer and in better shape overall. Health experts hope that as more and more people start paying attention to labels, food manufacturers will do their part and clearly display important nutrition information. So here’s to smart reading and smart eating!

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Americans love sugar. According to the USDA, each of us consumes more than 150 pounds of added sugar every year (or about 50 teaspoons daily), making the United States the largest consumer of sweeteners worldwide.

So where does most of this sugary goodness come from? Mainly from heavily processed snack foods, baked goods and soft drinks all loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS is a highly refined sweetener made from corn starch, and one that is widely used by food manufacturers because it is inexpensive to produce and transport.

The problem, experts say, comes with the health risks associated with HFCS and how it works in the body. Put simply, it affects healthy blood sugar levels and insulin regulation, which helps to explain why a diet high in HFCS has been linked to increased risk of obesity and obesity-related disease. And now scientists have found another reason to caution Americans against the common sweetener.

A recent study found that pancreatic cancer cells use fructose to multiply in the body, which supports previous studies that have linked a high-HFCS diet with higher rates of pancreatic cancer. It has to do with how fructose and glucose—the two main components of HFCS—are metabolized in the body, and scientists found that cancer cells had an easier time metabolizing fructose in order to thrive.

More research is planned to help scientists better understand the relationship between sugar metabolism and increased cancer risk, but experts hope that studies like this one will increase awareness about the dangers of eating too much sugar.

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