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Is Sugar Toxic?

Our columnist looks at whether you should eliminate sugar from your diet.

The latest hype on foods that are bad for you has risen to the level of toxicity. Is sugar toxic? Should it be eliminated? What forms of sugar are they talking about? What does this belief do to your eating plan?

Over the last several weeks news reports have indicated that sugar intake is connected to obesity, hypertension and obesity resulting in the label of “toxic” being assigned to added sugars, so what are the facts?

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we limit our intake of added sugars to between five and ten percent of our daily calories with some segments of the populations being able to consume up to 15 percent. Added sugars are defined as; high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, raw sugar, malt syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup, fructose sweetener, liquid fructose, honey, molasses, and agave nectar.

The Dietary Guidelines also state that the average intake of added sugars is 16 percent of total calories – so the majority of Americans consume too much added sugar. At the same time 35.7 percent of the added sugars we consume are sugar sweetened beverages, sports and energy drinks, fruit drinks contribute another 10.5 percent. These two groups contribute 46.2 percent of the added sugar consumed in the diet of the average American but contribute little in the way of good nutrition.

Studies have long shown that too much sugar can trigger diabetes in those with a genetic predisposition. Too much sugar is directly linked to dental cavities, it can increase blood cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease and of course, too much sugar can mean too many calories which can lead to an increased risk of obesity.

Recent studies that have been referenced to support the connection to toxicity have studied the impact of 25 percent of the day’s calories from sugar, well beyond recommended and even the average intake. When levels of any nutrient get this far out of balance the impact on overall health will be distorted, so what are you to do? Learn what you are eating that contains added sugar by reading food labels, if the amount adds up to more than 100 – 200 calories per day – remember 1 gram of sugar is 4 calories; it’s time to reduce portions.

Next, focus on foods that contain more nutrition than sugar and if you need some added sugar try to choose foods like sweetened whole grain cereal, flavored milk or yogurt or other nutrient rich foods.

Bottom-line – we eat too much added sugar and we need to lower amounts to between 5 and 10 percent of our daily calories or around 100-S200 calories per day.

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