Entries in Sugar (18)


Coca-Cola Sugar Hiccup: Soda Giant on the Defense

Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Coca-Cola has been a staple in American lives for more than 100 years and its iconic advertisements have shaped the soda industry from its 1930s depictions of jolly ol' St. Nick to its recent polar bear commercials.

One from 1961 even advertised Coke as a diet beverage -- "There's no waistline worry with Coke, you know," the pitchwoman said.

Most studies and experts agree that claim is not true -- but now, a new ad from Coke claims its low-sugar and sugar-free beverages can to be part of the obesity solution. The two-minute commercial was set to air on national cable news stations starting Monday night.

It may be the company's reaction to a full-fledged assault on sugary sodas that has included school bans, proposed taxes and an often-mocked New York City effort to eliminate the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces.

Coca-Cola said in a news release that the goal was to "highlight some of the specifics behind the company's ongoing commitment to deliver more beverage choices, including low- and no-calorie options, and to clearly communicate the calorie content of all its products."

The commercial, called "Coming Together," included facts about the company's initiatives, noting, "Of over 650 beverages, we now offer 180 ... low- and no-calorie choices."

The average American drinks 45 gallons of sugary soft drinks a year, equivalent to one-and-a-half barrels of soda pop. In fact, sugary sodas are the single largest source of calories in the American diet. Even the smallest can, the eight-ounce size, has the equivalent of approximately six sugar cubes. The 20-ounce size has around 14 sugar cubes and the 7-Eleven "Super Big Gulp" more than 30.

Critics argue they are not ordinary calories, either, but are empty of nutrition and don't tell the body it is full.

"With beverages, we'll drink the calories and then consume more foods on top of those calories," Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), told ABC News. "When the body eats a steak or asparagus, it senses that it consumed calories and then will reduce its caloric intake later in the day. It doesn't happen with soft drinks."

CSPI published a video that went viral just this past fall called "The Real Bears," which graphically depicted the health effects of over-consumption of sugary beverages.

Coca-Cola, the world's largest beverage company, also promotes exercise programs to work off what you drink. A second new spot debuting Wednesday during American Idol, called "Be OK," according to a news release, will make "it perfectly clear right up front that a can of Coca-Cola has 140 calories. This spot also encourages people to have some fun burning those calories off."

Coca-Cola declined comment to ABC News on the commercials but referred reporters to Russell Pate, a professor with Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. He told ABC News that the changes made by the food and beverage industry should be "supported, and more improvement is to be encouraged."

He added that a major origin of the obesity problem is "declining physical activity over recent decades."

"I think we have millions of Americans trying to eat down to their level of inactivity, and it's not working well," Pate said. "I believe strongly we will have to increase the physical activity level of our population if we want to overcome the obesity epidemic that we are currently challenged by."

Coke is not the only soda company getting heat. Pepsi hired Beyonce for undisclosed millions to promote its product at the Super Bowl and in new TV ads.

Mark Bittman, food writer for The New York Times, said the superstar is making a "bad decision" to work with the beverage company.

"She has associated herself with Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign -- a campaign to eat better [and] move more ... and now [she is] pushing Pepsi, really quite the opposite of that," he said. "She might consider giving some or all of this money to charity."

Both Beyonce's public relations team and PepsiCo, the maker of Pepsi, declined to comment to ABC News.

A spokesman for the American Beverage Association, which represents the non-alcoholic beverage industry, told ABC News that it has partnered with Michelle Obama on her "Let's Move" campaign, as well as Bill Clinton to encourage a "meaningful impact on the complex issue of obesity."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Study: Sugar Makes You Feel Fuller than High Fructose Corn Syrup

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you're looking to drop a few pounds this year, consuming foods made with sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup may help, a new study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests.

While the makers of the syrup have argued that the sweetener, which is commonly found in soft drinks, isn't any different than sugar, researchers at Yale University say fructose can make you feel hungry because unlike glucose, which is regular sugar, fructose doesn't produce as many of the hormones that make you feel full.

The study, while relatively small -- only 20 participants -- follows others linking fructose to type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Researcher: LeBron James' Ads Could Sell Billion Spoonfuls of Sugar

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- NBA star LeBron James' ads might be responsible for selling a billion spoonfuls of sugar through his endorsement deals with Coca-Cola and McDonalds, according to a Columbia University researcher, who suggested James drop the ads that are largely aimed at his legion of young fans.

And since megastar Beyonce just signed a $50 million deal to be the face of Pepsi, social epidemiologist Abdul El-Sayed suggested she also reconsider.

"We all know Beyonce and Lebron aren't walking around eating McDonalds and drinking soda every day," El-Sayed told ABC News.  "They couldn't perform the way they perform night in and night out.  The companies take full advantage of it."

El-Sayed penned an open letter to James earlier this week on The 2x2 Project, a health news website run by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

He broke down James' $16 million, six-year deal with Coca-Cola and determined that if Coca-Cola recoups its investment in him, at minimum, then he will have been responsible for having sold 54.4 million 20-ounce Sprites over the course of his contract.

"Now, each one of those 20-ounce Sprites has 16 spoons of sugar in it, so LeBron, you're responsible for selling over a billion spoons of sugar.  Not to mention all of the McDonald's grease you're selling," El-Sayed wrote.

He cited a study in the journal Obesity Reports that found a clear link between watching advertisements for unhealthy foods and the number of snacks children ate on a daily basis.  A second study, from the European Journal of Public Health, found that eliminating unhealthy advertising to children could reduce the obesity rate by as much as 18 percent.

"If you have someone as famous as Beyonce saying, 'I recognize these products are causing harm in society and I don't want to be a part of it,' it would raise the conversation about these products," El-Sayed said.  "If we were to take away these endorsements, in the end I would hope it would be the kind of thing where their sales wouldn't grow in the way they do and in the long term, these fall out as mainstays in our society."

Pepsi declined to comment.  A representative of James referred comments to his sponsors.  Representatives for Knowles, along with Coca-Cola and McDonald's, did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sweet Nothings: Making Sense of Artificial Sweeteners

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The average American has about 22 teaspoons of sugar daily, the equivalent of about 335 calories, according to the American Heart Association.  While there's no question we should cut back on sugar, are artificial sweeteners part of the solution?

Here's a rundown on six common sugar substitute options:

1.) Aspartame

Also Known as: NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure

Origin: An accidental byproduct discovered in 1965 during experiments to develop a peptic ulcer drug.

Found in: More than 6,000 products including diet beverages, dairy products, desserts and tabletop sweeteners.  Consumed by more than 200 million people worldwide.

The Skinny: Even though it has been extensively studied, controversy swirls around this sweetener.  Though Internet message boards are loaded with accusations linking aspartame to various illnesses -- including headaches, memory loss, depression, cancer and more -- there's little hard evidence to back up such claims.  Governments all over the world have repeatedly declared it safe in moderate amounts; in 2007 the Food and Drug Administration revisited the question by reviewing over 200 studies (some industry funded) and found no reason to issue warnings or pull it from the market.

2.) Stevia

Also known as: Stevia Extract In the Raw, SweetLeaf, Only Sweet, PureVia, Truvia

Origin: Stevia is derived from the leaves of a South America and Central American shrub that's now grown all over the world, even in potted house plants.  It's been sweetening things up worldwide for decades but was only approved for use as a food additive -- not a sweetener -- in the U.S. in 2008.

Found in: In Japan, more than 40 percent of artificially sweetened products contain stevia.  Here in the U.S. it's slowly been added to over 600 food items including candies, soft drinks, sports drinks and soy sauce.

The Skinny: On the upside, studies, including a 2010 investigation published in the journal Appetite, show stevia lowers glucose and insulin levels more readily than other sweeteners, making it a good choice for diabetics.  On the downside, some animal studies suggest an association with infertility; claims it causes cancer appear unsubstantiated.  Once again the Internet is rife with complaints about disagreeable, albeit short-term, side effects after consumption such as dizziness, muscle pains, numbness, nausea, gas and bloating.

3.) Sucralose

Also Known as: Primarily marketed as Splenda and less commonly as Sukrana, SucraPlus, Candys, Cukren and Nevella.

Origin: Another accidental lab creation, this sweetener was discovered in 1976 by scientists in search of new insecticides.

Found in: Used in 4,500 food and beverage products, most commonly candy, sodas and cereal.

The Skinny: The FDA also says it's safe to consume and unlike most of the other sweeteners, it can be used in cooking and baking.  Its marketing implies sucralose is natural and "just like sugar," but it's actually cooked up from chlorinated hydrocarbons.

4.) Saccharine

Also Known as: Sweet'N Low

Origin: In the late 19th century a chemist noticed the bread he was eating at dinner was unusually sweet.  By licking his hands and clothes, he was able to trace the taste back to a spill in the lab.  By 1907, this coal tar derivative was being used as sugar substitute marketed to diabetics.

Found in: In little pink packets on the counters of diners everywhere; also, in beverages and other low-cal products.  

The Skinny: If you're a male rat, steer clear.  Numerous studies have shown saccharine causes bladder cancer in rats, but scientists have determined it poses no threat to human safety.  In 2000, saccharin was removed from the list of chemicals that cause cancer in humans.  Out of the five FDA-approved artificial sweeteners, saccharin is often deemed to be the safest.

5.) Neotame

Also Known as: Sunett, Sweet One

Origin: Invented (intentionally) by the makers of Nutrasweet.

Found in: There's no labeling required for this additive so it's hard to know.  It's reported to have been found even in certified organic baked goods.

The Skinny: One of only two artificial sweeteners ranked as "safe" by the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest -- the other is sucralose -- and its makers claim it's even harmless enough for pregnant and breastfeeding moms.  There's too little research on this sweet additive to make a judgment call.

6.) Acesulfame-K

Also Known as: It is listed in the ingredients on the food label as acesulfame K, acesulfame potassium, Ace-K, or Sunett.

Origin: Yet another 1960s lab blunder made by a German chemist with a penchant for tasting his own concoctions.

Found in: Name just about any type of sweetened product and you might find Acesulfame-K, even in gum, mouthwash and toothpaste.

The Skinny: When this sweetener is cooked up in the lab, methylene chloride, a solvent otherwise used in the production of paint stripper, degreaser and propellant gas, is used.  Needless to say, this is a contentious point with consumer groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who say concerns over cancer and other worrisome effects have gone unaddressed by the FDA.  The FDA has resisted additional long-term studies.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tiny Treats: America’s Favorite Desserts Seem to Be Shrinking

Baked By Melissa(NEW YORK) -- The icing on the cake. The cherry on the sundae. For many of us, nothing tops desserts.

But something confounding is happening to our confections: Our tarts are now tiny. Our Danish is downright diminutive.

And just when you didn’t think your favorite sweet treat couldn’t get any smaller, there’s New York City’s trendy micro-cupcake maker, Baked by Melissa.

Standing an inch tall and an inch and a half wide, these tiny cupcakes, stuffed with flavors like peanut butter and jelly or s’mores, pack between 38 and 45 calories each and sell for about $1. Owner Melissa Bushell said the size of her cupcakes appeals to her customers because they get the best of both diet worlds.

“Everybody’s health conscious these days and we like to indulge,” Bushell said. “I think that when we started the company it was the beginning of the economic decline and people were feeling like they want to save their money but indulging in a bite-size stuffed cupcake for just a dollar or 12 for $10, it’s not a lot.”

Of course, the concept is not entirely new. Dunkin’ Donuts has offered munchkin doughnut holes for decades. But with the new focus on portion control and serving size, all kinds of sweets are downsizing.

Cinnabon introduced mini-buns -- alongside its 730-calorie classic roll. Starbucks has stocked its shelves with petite treats, such as the cake pop. Dairy Queen now offers a mini-blizzard, and at Baskin Robbins, cake bites.

And then there’s your grocery aisle, filled with “two-bite” bags of cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels and more.

Still, if America’s sweet tooth is robust as ever -- we just spent an estimated $2.1 billion on Easter candy -- why aren’t our desserts? Bon Appetit magazine’s chef Mary Nolan said it’s all about bakers giving the customer what they want.

“They’re thinking people might not commit to say, the whole pie, but if we can sell them a tiny miniature pie that’s just so cute, who’s going to pass up on that?” she said.

Maybe the health conscious can have their cake and eat it too and if you have a little self-discipline, and that’s a big “if,” perhaps we no longer have to worry about our eyes being bigger than our stomachs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tips for Cutting Sugar Consumption in Your Daily Diet

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The average American ingests 34 spoonfuls of added sugar a day.

That’s 12,480 teaspoons a year or a whopping 130 pounds.

Experts say the presence of sugar -- and high fructose corn syrup -- in many foods leads to the excessive consumption that causes serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Below are some tips from ABC News Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser on how you can reduce sugar in your daily diet:

Tip 1

“If you’re going to cut out one item from your diet, it should be sugary drinks,” Besser says.  “This is sodas and sports drinks, but I would add to that fruit juices.  As far as I’m concerned, giving a child fruit juice is not that different in terms of sugar than soda.”

Tip 2

“A lot comes down to reading labels.  There are a lot of places that sugar hides,” Besser says.

He adds that just like salt, sugar can “sneak” into a number of foods -- and the only way to find it is to read the nutrition labels.

Tip 3

Besser says that scrutinizing options considered to be “healthier” is also important.

“Sugar-sweetened cereals, everyone knows about that.  But don’t forget about granola.  While this is healthier than a lot of the sugar-sweetened cereals because of the whole grains and the fiber, there’s a lot of sugar in there,” he says.

Tip 4

“When you are dealing with children, clearly diet soda does not provide the same sugar load as regular soda, but even diet sodas tend to encourage a taste for sweetness,” he says.

It’s much better to get young children used to drinks that are not so sweet so they are used to getting the fluids they need without the sugar they don’t.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: One Sugary Drink Per Day Raises Risk of Heart Disease for Men

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- The evidence linking sugar-sweetened beverages with an array of health problems -- including obesity and diabetes -- keeps piling up. And a new study adds one more potential risk to the list: coronary heart disease.

According to a new study, men who drink one sugar-sweetened beverage daily have a 20-percent higher risk of coronary heart disease than men who drink none.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health tracked nearly 43,000 participants in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which included male dentists, pharmacists, physicians, veterinarians and other health professionals ages 40 to 75, almost all of whom were of European descent.

For 22 years, the men filled out surveys about their diets and other health habits. The researchers also collected blood samples from more than 18,000 men who were demographically similar to those in the survey.

The results, published Monday in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation, found that drinking 12 ounces of regular soda, fruit drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages daily was associated with a higher risk of heart disease, even after taking into account other cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol use and a family history of heart disease.

Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and the lead author of the study, said the findings were notable because even relatively modest consumption of sugary beverages -- just one drink per day -- was associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

"These drinks should be treated as a treat, not for all the time," Hu said.

Sugar-sweetened beverages include regular soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and sugar-sweetened water.

A 2011 report from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 25 percent of Americans drink the equivalent of more than one can of soda each day. The study also found that men who drank daily sugar-sweetened beverages had certain markers of cardiovascular disease in their blood, including higher levels of lipids like triglycerides and lower levels of HDL, or "good," cholesterol.

Hu said increases in these markers could give some clues about the biological mechanisms that may connect sugary drinks and heart disease.

Previous research suggests that the link between sugary drinks and heart disease may exist for women as well. The current study's findings mirror those of a study of nearly 89,000 women, the Nurses' Health Study, which Hu and his colleagues published in 2009. That study found that women who drank one or less than two sugary drinks per day had a 23-percent increased risk of a heart attack.

The current study didn't find an association between diet drinks and cardiovascular disease, and previous studies have failed to link diet drinks with an increase in diabetes risk or weight gain. This may be because people who choose diet drinks might be more likely to develop better diets and healthier lifestyles overall. In the current study, the men who drank diet soda often got more exercise and smoked less.

But some nutrition experts hesitate to suggest that people simply replace sugar-sweetened beverages with diet drinks because of inconclusive evidence about the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners. Some research also suggests that diet soda can condition the taste buds to crave sweets, leading to higher sugar intake in other parts of the diet.

A growing body of research connects sugary drinks with increased risk of diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure and a number of other chronic diseases. But nutrition experts note that the current study doesn't show that sugar-sweetened beverages cause heart disease. Consuming sugary drinks every day may simply indicate less healthy lifestyles that could lead to heart disease.

Nutrition experts emphasize that making any single ingredient out as the bad guy is a mistake.

"Attempting to blame or pinpoint any one cause for disease risk or overweight, fails to recognize that overall lifestyle is the key to health," said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.

The American Beverage Association, a trade organization representing the beverage industry, disputed the study's findings.

"Drinking sweetened beverages does not cause an increased risk of heart disease -- not based on this study or any other study in the available science," the ABA said in a statement, adding that a healthy weight, balanced diet and physical activity are the real keys to reducing the risk of heart disease.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sweet Tax? Is Sugar as Dangerous as Alcohol and Tobacco?

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Is sugar as dangerous as cigarettes and booze?

One group of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, says so. And they are urging a tax on sugary treats and some action by the government to get Americans to cut back on sugar.

In an editorial published Wednesday in the journal Nature, the UCSF doctors, Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis, said the ballooning rates -- and costs --  of obesity, diabetes, and other diseases, mean it’s time for regulators to lump sugar into the same category as booze and cigarettes and put similar restrictions on its sale and availability.

They write that the healthcare community needs to find a better way to get the message out about sugar’s corrosive effects, “So far, evidence shows that individually focused approaches, such as school-based interventions that teach children about diet and exercise, demonstrate little efficacy.”

The authors say the government should consider taxing any processed foods that have added sugar, including soda, juice, chocolate milk and sugared cereal.

Other efforts, they say, should aim to make sugary foods and drinks hard to get, like imposing age limits for buying soda and controlling when and where sugary foods are sold. They also envision something like a sugar-free zone around schools.

The bans shouldn’t be on consumers only, the authors argue. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should consider removing sugar from its Generally Regarded as Safe list, a designation that allows companies to add as much of an ingredient or nutrient as they want to processed foods.

The authors point to the success of similar “supply-side” restrictions on alcohol and tobacco in preventing some of the health harms from those substances.

Wider control of sugar is already being considered by a number of policymakers across the country. U.S. health and government officials have been debating a penny-per-ounce tax on soda. Other attempts to limit the inclusion of soda and sugary foods from federal food stamp programs or control the availability of soda and chocolate milk in schools have caused uproar across the country.

But support for those measures -- even from the health community -- have been mixed. In 2011, the American Medical Association declined to give support to a national sugar-sweetened beverage tax, saying it needed more information on the topic before weighing in.

Some nutrition experts note that sugar is not the only culprit in the skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes and other diseases that consume billions of dollars health care costs each year. Others note that the sources of these chronic diseases are more complex than just the foods we eat.

Experts agree that the current approaches to addressing chronic diseases aren’t working very well. But they say the solutions will need to go beyond regulating one aspect of the food supply.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Kids’ Cereals Loaded With Sugar, Study Finds

Tom Starkweather/Bloomberg News(WASHINGTON) -- Would you ever think about giving your child Twinkies or chocolate chip cookies for breakfast? According to a study done by the Environmental Working Group, many kids’ cereals are just as sugary as dessert.

Covered in colorful packaging and plastered with words like “whole grain” or “great source of Vitamin D” the children’s cereals seem to promote health.  However, one serving of cereals like Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, Post Golden Crisp, and General Mills Wheaties Fuel contains more sugar than the 18 grams packed into a Twinkie.  A shocking 44 children’s cereals like Apple Jacks and Cap’n Crunch contain more than the 11 grams of sugar in three Chips Ahoy cookies.

In an effort to fight the increasing rates of childhood obesity, a panel of scientists and experts met in Congress and created nutritional guidelines for foods marketed to children.  Only one in four cereals met these proposed guidelines, meaning that three in four kids’ cereals should not even be marketed to children.  Cereal, food and beverage companies have been lobbying against these guidelines, which are to take effect in 2016.

Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, believes child obesity should not be blamed on cereal: “Cereal is a great vehicle for whole grains, low-fat milk, and fruit- something that is lacking in children’s diets.”  He suggests adding more protein to a cereal breakfast with a hard-boiled egg, and eating whole fruits instead of juice, which can be loaded with sugar.

Ayoob points to research indicating that cereal eaters tend to have lower body weights and tend to do better in school and says, “There is no one single food that contributes to obesity, what contributes to obesity is excess… which is created by eating too much.”

Click here to see the Environmental Working Group’s full report and list of sugary cereals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Half of Americans Consume Sugary Drinks

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Half of all Americans aged 2 and older consume sugary drinks on any given day and at least 25 percent of Americans drink the caloric equivalent of more than one can of soda a day, according to a new report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Consumption of sugar drinks in the United States has increased over the past 30 years among both children and adults," wrote the report's authors, led by Cynthia Ogden of CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

Most people drink their sugary beverages -- defined as fruit drinks, sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened bottled waters -- in their own home. About 36 percent of sugar drinks are consumed in restaurants and fast food establishments. Children drink only 2 percent of these beverages in schools or day care centers.

The data, gathered from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2005 and 2008, also show that males get about twice as many calories from sugary drinks as females, and 70 percent of boys between the ages of 2 and 19 drink sugary beverages on any given day.

African Americans are the biggest consumers of sugar drinks, and lower income Americans also drink more of these beverages than their wealthier counterparts.

Nutrition experts say while it is somewhat encouraging that about half of Americans don't drink sugary beverages on a daily basis, many people are still not making the right choices when they go out to stores or restaurants.

While the report does not look at how the consumption of sugar beverages affect a person's health, previous studies have suggested a link between certain health problems and these types of drinks.

"Sugar drinks have been linked to poor diet quality, weight gain, obesity, and, in adults, type 2 diabetes," the authors wrote.

Additionally, the American Heart Association recommends an intake of fewer than the caloric equivalent of three 12-oz. cans of soda per week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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