10 Health Lessons Learned

By Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D., "What We’ve Learned," July/August 2012

Find out how nutrition science has evolved in the past decade. Here's what we know now—and didn’t then.

"Such a well sourced article Karen! It's very interesting to see how the common-knowledge assumptions change over time, thanks for the read! "

9. We’re eating too much sugar
In the past 40 years, the amount of added sugars in our diets has skyrocketed. Today, the average American eats about 420 calories (28 teaspoons) a day—essentially a meal—from added sugars. That’s a 12 percent increase from 25 teaspoons in 1970. All that sugar spells bad news for our waistlines. Although experts aren’t sure of the exact mechanism, sugar has also been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. No wonder leading health organizations, such as the AHA, World Health Organization and USDA, have recently started urging us to slash the added sugar in our diets.

But if you think switching from white table sugar to a more natural sweetener, such as agave or honey, would be better for you, think again. Whether added sugars come in the form of white sugar, honey or high-fructose corn syrup, to our bodies they’re exactly the same, supplying empty calories that provide little or no nutrition.

The big picture isn’t the type of sugar we’re eating, it’s where we’re getting it. “About 75 percent of all consumer packaged foods and beverages contain added sugars,” says Barry Popkin, Ph.D., a distinguished professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina. “But the major shift is the increase in sugar in beverages rather than foods.” Over 35 percent of the added sugar in our diets comes from soda, sweetened drinks and sports drinks. The easiest way to trim your added-sugars intake is to banish all sweetened drinks.

Next: 10. Our bodies don’t want us to lose weight for good »

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