The sweet debate

Are food made with real sugar healthier?

By Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

You’ve probably seen those “made with real sugar” ads on TV and heard about food makers replacing high fructose corn syrup with “real sugar” in everything from ketchup to crackers. “Real sugar” may be the craziest comeback since platform sandals, John Travolta and the Red Sox, though those comebacks made people grin. Sugar has NO redeeming social value!
Food manufacturers want you to think that “real” or “natural” sugar is sweeter for your health. Don’t fall for it.
Regular readers of this column (love yah!) know we’re not fans of high fructose corn syrup. Like all added sugars and syrups, it pumps your body full of empty calories, sends your blood sugar soaring faster than the express elevators at the Empire State Building, and gums up proteins in ways that load your arteries with lousy LDL cholesterol (hello, heart attack and stroke). High sugar levels also increase blood fats called triglycerides, which threaten your ticker, skin and sex life. And HFCS has been poured into all kinds of food, from salad dressings to chili. Since 1960, we’ve gone from zeropounds a year of HFCS to more than 50 pounds per person.
Even though we’ve cut back some, Americans are still in sugar shock: We down 22 teaspoons of added sugars each day. That’s average! And it’s two to three times what your body can handle. The American Heart Association wants women to top out at six to seven teaspoons a day, and men at 10. Personally, we eat less than that. Whether added sugars come from table sugar, organic brown sugar or raspberry syrup, they subtract from your health. Our goal for you is our goal for ourselves: zero added sugars and blood sugar below 110. Anything higher ages your arteries, which ultimately ages every part of you. That’s why the new pro-sugar ads make us itch (Mehmet) and twitch (Mike).
Oh, one more thing: If the fructose in HFCS indeed turns out to excel at making you gain weight, know that table sugar contains almost as much: Both it and HFCS are about half fructose. Yep, the same sugar found in fruit. But while the small amount of fructose in an apple or mango is fine because fruit’s fiber slows down its absorption (so your blood sugar doesn’t rocket up), the large amounts in sodas, candy, desserts and candy-topped yogurt aren’t. Here’s what they do to your heart, bloodstream and belt size:
Added sugars spell double trouble for your waistline. First, there are the extra calories. Second, a big hit of fructose makes you overeat by revving up ghrelin, your body’s “I’m hungry” hormone, and turning down two hunger-controlling hormones, insulin and leptin.
They invite diabetes. Chugging one to two regular sodas, sweet iced teas or fruit punch drinks a day raises your diabetes risk 26 percent. Why? Excess fructose drives up blood sugar levels by indirectly telling muscle cells to resist insulin’s orders to absorb blood sugar.
They raise your blood pressure. Downing lots of added sugars doubles your risk for hypertension. The top blood pressure numbers for people in one test who consumed the fructose in just 2.5 sodas a day were as high as 160. You (and your heart) want that number to be 115!
Added sugars aren’t just where you’d expect to see ‘em (soda, dessert, candy). They’re also hiding in deli meat, ketchup, soup, bagels, crackers, cereal and even some baby food. Thanks to a loophole, manufacturers aren’t required to list added sugars separately from those found naturally in fruit, grains and dairy foods (which your body knows how to handle). You have to outsmart three food-industry tricks to find ‘em:
Trick 1: “Natural” and “organic” sweeteners. Unrefined brown sugar, unrefined dehydrated cane juice, raw sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, barley malt, rice syrup and agave are still added sugars. A few of these have a smidgeon of other nutrients, but not enough to compensate for the smack down sugar gives your body.
Trick 2: Disguised names. The ingredients list may not say “sugar” or “HFCS.” But there’s added sugar if any of these are on the label: brown sugar, cane sugar, confectioners’ sugar, corn sweetener, corn or other syrups, honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, cane juice, invert sugar, malt sugar or anything ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose).
Trick 3: Multiples. Food makers are splitting up the sweeteners, so you may not spot ‘em till you’re halfway down the ingredients list. Keep reading, and look for more than one. Don’t be fooled — we know you’re too smart for that.

The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, are authors of  “YOU: On a Diet.” Want more? See “The Dr. Oz Show” on TV (check local listings). To submit questions, go to
(c) 2011 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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