Busting sugar

New FDA food labeling rules went into effect in July of 2018. When discussing nutrition with patients, I don't spend a lot of time on the food labeling portion since it only tells a small part of the story.  Most foods that we should be eating should not present in a labeled package anyway, and other variables such as source of product, ingredient list and overall nutrient density are probably more important.

I do however welcome this new labeling rule because it finally exposes a great villain that has been living below most of our radars for too long: sugar. Some foods have inherently more sugar than others in their naturally occurring forms ( fruit for example), and while the total amount of sugar we consume matters, the quality of our sugar intake also matters. A fruit will contain a variety of other nutrients that will slow the absorption of sugar and participate in the proper conversion of sugar to energy, while plain added refined sugar does not.

The new labeling law breaks down sugar into total sugar and added sugar and the latter can be very enlightening. I recently sat down with a gentleman who was living off granola bars, assuming those were healthy meal replacement options. His favorite bar contained a whopping 15 grams of added sugar ( not even counting a total 37 gr of carbs from mostly refined grain flour).  I ultimately had to convince him to switch to more whole food options such as plain nuts, fruit, boiled eggs etc... but we were also able to find some nut/fruit bars that had less than 5 grams of added sugar and were still palatable to him when grabbing something on the go.

The current recommendation is for less than 50 grams of added sugar per day. I would say that optimally that is even high and we should aim closer to 30-40 grams. But considering that most US adult get around 150 on average right now, I would be satisfied with just 50 grams