Extra Sugar Blamed for More Health Problems
Missy Dunnahoo, a registered dietitian at Parkview Medical Center who works with cardiac patients, says part of the problem is "We don't know when enough is enough. Soft drinks went from 12 ounces to 18 to 24, and now it's possible to get 32 or even 64 ounces."
Drinks like Gatorade, SoBe beverages, lattes and cappuccinos from a favorite coffeehouse all are contributing extra sugar to Americans' diets, Dunnahoo says. Even orange juice -- a portion size is 1/2 cup -- can be troublesome when drunk in large quantities.
"I tell people they're basically flushing their money down the toilet and adding calories to their hips," she says.
People are surprised to hear this message "because advertising says we need 'more.' It would be better if we got more from whole fruits and vegetables."
Dunnahoo discusses product-label reading with the patients she counsels, and says the ingredient listing is the important part for sugars. Manufacturers aren't required to distinguish between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars on their product labels, but if sugar is the second or third ingredient listed, it's a sweet product. Colorado State University Extension sounded the alert last spring about the link between consuming sweetened beverages and increased risk of heart disease in women. Its online Healthy Heart Beats column cited Boston-based researchers who, over a 24-year period, evaluated data from more than 88,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study and found that consuming two or more servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per day was associated with a 35 percent increase in the risk of coronary heart disease -- even after other risk factors for the disease or an unhealthful diet or lifestyle were accounted for. The women were free of coronary heart disease, stroke or diabetes at the start of the study in 1980.
Artificially sweetened beverages weren't associated with the heart-disease risk.