By Daphne Baldwin Kornrich, MS, RD, CDN

We all know instinctively that too much sugar is not a good thing. There has been an increase in education and awareness that advises us of the importance of decreasing our sugar consumption.  So why do we crave this “natural” substance? Sugar consumption triggers a chemical in our brain called serotonin to be released. A serotonin surge gives us a feeling of euphoria, but that feeling does not last long and is followed by feelings of fatigue. The more sugar we eat the more we crave, and we develop a higher tolerance just like an addictive drug.

American’s consumption of sugar has increased dramatically over time. Currently, the average person consumes about 130 pounds of sugar per year compared to 6.3 pounds per person in the early 1800s.  Our  increase in sugar consumption is such a wide spread health concern that for the first time the US Dietary Guidelines has specified a recommendation for sugar consumption. The 2015 US Dietary guidelines recommends that we should not consume more than 10% of our calories from sugar and no more than 50 grams of simple sugar.

Studies have shown that eating a diet high in sugar may increase the incidences of the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Inflammation

Why are we consuming so much sugar in our diets? We consume large amounts of sugar from refined and processed foods.

  • Sport drinks, soda, juice, and fruit drinks comprise 50% of our sugar consumption.
  • Breakfast cereals, sweets, barbeque sauces, dressings, marinades, and ketchup comprise 50% of our sugar consumption.

To rid our diet of sugar we need to start identifying where sugar is hiding. It’s important to read food labels and ingredient lists. If you see the following ingredients in the first five ingredients than the item is high in sugar and not an optimal choice of nutrition

  •  Sugar, nectar, high fructose corn syrup, cane juice, molasses, honey

Remember, enjoying the occasional treat is fine, but we need to increase our awareness and preparedness so we can all decrease our sugar consumption and help improve our health.

Daphne Baldwin Kornrich has been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for the past 30 years, working in a wide variety of clinical and outpatient settings.  Daphne currently specializes in Bariatrics and Weight Management.