Sugar, Sugar Everywhere

Much love to John Oliver and his writing team for this:

The amount of sugar in our diets is outrageous, and that there is any dispute to this being a bad thing is just insane.

Here’s a test. If you’re over 30 years old, go up to your grandmother or grandfather and ask her/him this question – “Is too much sugar bad for you?” Now grandpa or grandma doesn’t have to be a biochemist, a doctor or a nutritionist to be able to answer this question. And I’d be willing to bet that 100% of the answers received by any of my readers who actually do this experiment will be something along the lines of, “Of course. What kind of stupid question is that?”

See, like a lot of things that have gone a bit wrong in our modern world the place of sugar in the grand scheme of food is one of them. My own parents were not paragons of healthy living, but the assessment of Lucky Charms, Captain Crunch, Frankenberry, Trix, Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes in our household fell solidly along the lines of, “That stuff is garbage, I’m not buying it.” And when I complained that my friends’ parents bought them such stuff I heard this, “Well, then your friends’ parents aren’t very smart.”

Things we almost never had in my house as a kid:

  • Sugary cereals
  • Soda
  • Candy

Why? Because even my not-particularly-health-conscious parents knew that these things were full of sugar, and too much sugar was not good for you.

But here’s the problem – what is full of added sugar was obvious when I was a kid. It isn’t now. Like John Oliver points out in the video above, Clamato juice has sugar added to it. Pick up pretty much any processed or packaged food item in the supermarket today and you will see some form of sugar on the ingredients list. Here’s a few of it’s aliases:

  • Agave Nectar
  • Barley Malt
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Cane Juice Crystals
  • Cane Juice
  • Caramel
  • Carob Syrup
  • Corn Sweetener
  • Corn Syrup
  • Corn Syrup Solids
  • Crystalline Fructose
  • Dextran
  • Diastatic Malt
  • Diatase
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit Juice Concentrates
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Malt Syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Maple Syrup
  • Molasses Syrup
  • Oat Syrup
  • Panela
  • Panocha
  • Rice Bran Syrup
  • Rice Syrup
  • Sorghum
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Tapioca Syrup

And obviously anything that outright calls itself sugar.

So, what’s going on here? Well, it’s actually pretty simple. We’re programmed to like sweet tasting food. Heck, put enough sugar in it and we’ll apparently even enjoy tomato and clam juice (*bleah*). Basically, our food system is broken, and it’s broken mostly because the average consumer knows next to nothing about nutrition or what the stuff on the labels they’ve got actually says and means.

Here’s Jamie Oliver talking about how broken our food system really is:

As Jamie point out, in six years of elementary school if a child is drinking two cartons of sweetened, chocolate milk per day they will consume a wheelbarrow full of sugar in that time. And that’s just the chocolate milk. Add in the sugar that’s added to their chicken nuggets (a whole separate topic of wrongness), to their pizza and all the rest of the processed stuff they eat and you’re looking at maybe three of those wheelbarrows. Top that with Froot Loops for breakfast most mornings, a can of soda in the afternoon and a bag of Halloween candy once a year and, well, is it any wonder we’re dealing with attention deficit problems, inability to concentrate, anger management issues and other social, psychological and emotional problems that were pretty close to unheard of in children 30 years ago?

This ain’t good.

We should all take the time to let the FDA know that we support the proposed labeling change that will call out added sugar amounts in our food. We should also learn to read those labels, because the government cannot save you (nor should it) from yourself. I won’t wade into the debate about public interest related to rising health costs due to lifestyle-related illnesses. I will say though that if you don’t want a nanny state then don’t behave like a child who needs a nanny to care for him.

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