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Health Effects

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Sugars are categorized into two groups namely simple and complex sugars (carbohydrates). The simple sugars are further subdivided into mono- and disaccharides and include fructose, galactose and glucose; and sucrose, maltose and lactose respectively. On the other hand, complex sugars are polysaccharides like starches. Naturally occurring monosaccharides include fructose in milk products, vegetables and fruits. Naturally occurring sugars are sometimes referred to as intrinsic sugars while added sugars are also known as extrinsic sugars (Howard & Wylie-Rosett, 2012). This paper though will focus on the added sugars and their impact on the health status of individuals. Extrinsic or added sugars are normally used to sweeten food and are different from the sugars naturally occurring in foods such as milk and fruits. The recommended intakes for energy are 45- 65% for carbohydrate, 10- 35% for protein and 20-25% for fat. Maintenance of these consumption benchmarks has been linked to reduced risks of conditions like coronary heart diseases, diabetes and obesity.

However, majority of people lack information on the deleterious health ramifications brought by consumption of added sugars (Canadian Sugar Institute, 2004). According to Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CFSII) conducted in 1994- 1996 by USDA, an average of 20.5 teaspoons (approximately 3 ounces) of added sugars are consumed each day in the U.S. This figure is thought to be low due to underreporting; Shanty Bowman of the USDA-ARS Community Nutrition Research Group says, “about one-third of our added sugars come from no diet soft drinks…Next are bakery products—cakes, cookies, pies, and other pastries—which contribute about 13 percent” (Sorensen, Raben, Stender & Astrup, 2005). The high quantities of added sugar consumption is not confined to the U.S. alone but is a problem that many on the global front grapple with as can be noticed in the skyrocketing prevalence of noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, obesity and heart diseases. In addition, globalization has paved way for international trading resulting into exportation and importation of products with added sugar to other nations.

Sources, Examples and Uses of Added Sugars

Added sugars are instrumental in several ways, and this perhaps could be one of the factors attributable to its high and widespread consumption. Added sugars enhance the flavor and texture of foods, prevent spoilage of jellies and jams, retain moisture in baked goods, thus, lengthening the duration of freshness and browning of the crust of baked products, and serve as a basis of yeast during leavening. Added sugar can be subtly obtained from an array of sources including tabletop sugars, candy, fruit drinks, baked foods, sweetened milk, dairy desserts like ice-cream and soft drinks which are highly culpable for the supply of extrinsic sugar. Generally, foods that contain a large quaintly of added sugar have few nutrients but provide a large amount of kilocalories (Drummond & Brefere, 2010).

High- fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is one of common added sugars, which are used industrially. It is manufactured through the conversion of some glucose, present in corn syrup, to fructose and is used mostly in regular sodas, fruit drinks, sweet pickles, jams and jellies, and sweetened teas. Glucose is converted to fructose because it is sweeter.  Therefore, this paper will focus much on the health implications of the high consumption of fructose, since most of the studies surround the ramification of its use. This paper will also use the term “added sugar” to refer to the other category of sugars that include sucrose, molasses, honey, corn sweeteners, maple sugar and corn syrup.

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