Understanding The Language of Sugar Claims

Understanding The Language of Sugar Claims

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Understanding The Language of Sugar Claims by Nancy Guberti, Functional Medicine Specialist & Nutritionist

Raising awareness about sugar claims is essential for curbing global sugar consumption, increasing the knowledge regarding nutritional claims of food products, and empowering you to become your best health advocate as well as a savvy consumer. Did you know that manufacturers add sugar to 74% of packaged foods like yogurt, energy bars, ketchup, bread, salad dressing, and pasta sauce? There are over 60 different names for sugar listed on labels. Common names used are sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, barley malt, dextrose, maltose, and rice syrup, among others. The daily average of sugar intake for children should be between 3 and 5 teaspoons, or approximately 12-21 grams. One gram of sugar is equivalent to a 1⁄4 teaspoon of sugar. Sugars are the smallest and simplest type of carbohydrate and easily digested and absorbed by the body. Nutrition claims can be misleading, and consumers need to understand the nutrition labels and terms to distinguish between correct and misleading claims. The sugar claims have been found to be confusing or misleading to consumers. Foods with sugar claims were "healthier," but almost half still had excessive sugars. 100% fruit juice is considered free of sugar, so if a product says "no added sugar," it still can be loaded with sugar from the beginning. 

Sugar claims can influence food purchase intentions if perceived as healthy, so let's review some commonly used terms to understand them properly. 

Low Sugar products contain less than 5 grams of sugar per 100 grams. 

Sugar-Free products contain less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving size. It cannot contain added sugar or foods that are known to contain sugar unless the ingredient is included in the ingredient list and accompanied by an asterisk and a statement saying something to the effect of, "adds an insignificant amount of sugar." 

No Added Sugar products cannot have any sugar substitutes that contain sugar, such as honey. This necessarily does not mean it is low in sugar just none was added in processing. It may contain natural sugar; for example, canned fruit. It may also contain artificial sweeteners. 

Added Sugar Some products will hide added sugar under other names, such as corn sweetener, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, maltose, sucrose, or high-fructose corn syrup. Foods like ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, and yogurt may contain added sugar lurking in their ingredient lists. 

Here's to becoming a mindful consumer. According to research, more than half of children's food products in the US, with healthy nutrition claims, were found to contain more than 20% of the calories from sugar. In the southeastern United States, 

children's foods with the most nutrition and child-friendly claims had the highest sugar content. 

Remember, your health is worth it because you are worth it. 

Nancy Guberti is a Functional Medicine Specialist, Nutritionist and passionate to empower others to become their health advocate. She is the founder of Total Wellness Empowerment Membership & Podcast, Look and Feel Great Method and Raising Achievers & Givers: Positively Powerful Parent program. Learn more & be empowered at nancyguberti.com. 

References: Colby S.E., Johnson L., Scheett A., Hoverson B. Nutrition marketing on food labels. J. Nutr. Educ. Behav. 2010;42:92–98. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2008.11.002. 

Lapierre M.A., Brown A.M., Houtzer H.V., Thomas T.J. Child-directed and nutrition- focused marketing cues on food packaging: Links to nutritional content. Public Health Nutr. 2016;20:765–773. doi: 10.1017/S1368980016002317. 

Berstein JT, Franco-Arellano B, Shermel A. et al. Healthfulness and nutritional composition of Canadian prepackaged foods with and without sugar claims. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2017, 42(11): 1217-1224. 

Ng, S.W., Slining, M.M., & Popkin, B.M. (2012). Use of caloric and noncaloric sweeteners in US consumer packaged foods, 2005-2009. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics , 112(11), 1828-1834.e1821-1826.