Stories about: sugar

Sugar and vice

Despite it being an ingredient that no one needs on a daily basis, sugar plays a starring role in many of our diets. The American Heart Association suggest that kids eat no more than three teaspoons (12 grams) of sugar a day, but Sara Yen, registered dietitian at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Martha Eliot Health Center, says most kids are probably exceeding that. And with the many sugar variations and substitutes, there seems to be confusion about what sugar and its spinoffs really are, and what they mean for our bodies.

Yen demystifies the situation without sugarcoating it.

“The reason we tell patients to avoid sugar is because it provides calories and refined carbohydrates, but not much else,” she says. “It’s what we call empty calories: You take them in, but in terms of fiber, vitamins and minerals, it’s not beneficial.”

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Artificially sweetened beverages: Is it nice to fool Mother Nature?

LUDWIG_2343David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of Children’s Optimal Weight for Life Program, just published a commentary in JAMA expressing concern about the widespread use of artificial sweeteners in soft drinks. Below, he offers some insight about why humans naturally crave sweetness, and the potential danger of confusing our ancient biological pathways of hunger and satiation with fake sugars.

Ever since our distant ancestors crawled out of the ocean, animals have been trying to eat plants. In this conflict, animals would seem to have a distinct advantage: we can move about, they can’t. But plants are by no means defenseless against our predations. They protect themselves with thorns, bark and tough fibers; stash their starches in tubers that are difficult to digest (at least when uncooked); encase their most prized possessions, high energy nuts and seeds, in impervious shells; and lace their leaves with bitter, toxic chemicals.

In fact, plants have long taken advantage of animals to help them reproduce. To entice us to serve them, plants have created seed-bearing fruits and infused them with sugar, the gold standard of energy metabolism.

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