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Common sense, studies say we eat too much sugar

Published August 10. 2013 09:02AM

After a particularly taxing training ride on a Saturday this spring, a training buddy of mine said, "After I shower and eat everything in sight, I'm not leaving the La-Z-boy until I eat again."

When I told him that I planned to read research, so I could start a column Sunday morning, he said, "The weekend's to relax and have some fun, not read stuffy research."

While he may have a point, reading certain articles is definitely not stuffy. In fact, it can be an absolute blast.

Take the research done at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and published in Neurology last May.

For almost four years, researchers tracked over 1,100 senior citizens who had no form of dementia. At the onset of the study, 109 of these seniors reported some prior form of skin cancer.

At the conclusion of the study, those who previously had all but the most serious type of skin cancer, melanoma, were compared to the rest, and it was found that the selective skin cancer group was 80 percent less likely to have developed Alzheimer's disease than those who had never had basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas.

So what was such a blast about reading this article? It included the following statement from the director of research and development for the Alzheimer's Society: "We do not recommend that people stop taking measures to protect themselves against sun exposure [to prevent Alzheimer's]."

Can you believe that? He feels the need to warn against willfully getting one disease to limit the likelihood of getting another.

I know in this lawsuit-laden society in which we now live, issuing a statement like that may be prudent, but, my god, does it ever tickle my fancy.

But another official and painfully obvious statement doesn't amuse me. It came from the Centers for Disease Control about two weeks before the Alzheimer's Society's. At this time, the CDC declared that Americans are still consuming far too much added sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup.

Really? Look around, CDC. See all the waddling, bulbous people at the supermarkets loading up their carts with all sorts of processed, sugar-laden foods? Did you really need to tell us they're buying too many junky items jam-packed with added sugars?

Based on data gathered from 2005 to 2010, the CDC estimates that American adults receive 13 percent of their daily caloric intake, not from total sugar intake (which would take into account the natural sugars in fruits, fruits juices, dairy products, and certain vegetables), but from only the sugar added to processed foods or spooned into coffee, tea, or cereal.

To illustrate just how high that percentage is consider that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend ingesting no more than 5 to 15 percent of total daily calories from both added sugars and the solid fats consumed in meats or added to foods to lend flavor.

To concretely illustrate typical sugar excess, let's create John, an athletically active, 185-pound, 25-year-old male. To maintain his weight, he probably needs to eat 3,200 calories a day.

If he's eating like the typical American, he'll ingest 416 calories of added sugars each day.

The American Heart Association recommends adult males consume no more than 150 of their daily cals from refined sugars.

What's really surprising is that our hypothetical 25-year-old example, is far from extreme. In a related Washington Post article, Natasa Janicic-Kahric, an associate professor of medicine at Georgetown University Hospital, said, "Many Americans eat about five times the amount of sugar they should consume."

So that means that there are real men out there getting about 750 calories a day of sugar, which translates to about seven ounces a day, three pounds per week, and 155 pounds per year.

The long-term health prognosis for someone like that can't be good, especially in light of research published this spring in Diabetologia, a journal from the United Kingdom that publishes original and clinical research within the field of diabetes. Using information on more than 28,000 people, researchers at Imperial College found that simply drinking one can of soda a day increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by 22 percent.

Additionally, a 2012 study of 641 normal-weight children ages 5 to 12 found that those who drank eight ounces of a sugar-sweetened beverage every day for 18 months gained two more pounds than those who had an artificially sweetened beverage instead even though the diet and exercise regiments of all subjects were similar in virtually every other way.

These studies and common sense lead you to believe that sugar, especially when consumed as a beverage, is something to avoid, yet many Americans seem unable to break the habit.

Next week's column will review past studies that suggest why and introduce a brand-new evidence that may be the best explanation yet.

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