Sugar, Sugar, Who Ate the Sugar?

AMERICANS consume 102 pounds of refined sugar per person per year. This averages 32 teaspoons of sugar each day for every man, woman, and child. And that is a lot of sugar!

-Consultant dietitian for nursing homes in the Walla Walla, Washington, area at the time this article was written

AMERICANS consume 102 pounds of refined sugar per person per year. This averages 32 teaspoons of sugar each day for every man, woman, and child. And that is a lot of sugar!

"Oh," but you say, "I do not consume that much sugar. I may put sugar in my hot drink, on my cereal, or eat an occasional dessert, but I do not eat that much sugar. Someone else must be eating my share!"

Wait a minute. When was the last time you had a soft drink? In an average 16-ounce bottle of soda pop there are eight and one-half teaspoons of sugar. Consumption of only one bottle per day will hurl you one-fourth of the way to your 32-teaspoon quota of sugar. Per capita drinking of soft drinks in 1970 was 22.1 gallons or one glass per day, up 3 percent over 1969.

And what about candy bars? There are seven teaspoons of sugar in the average ten-cent chocolate candy bar. If you add the sugar in the candy bar to that in the soft drink, you will be almost halfway to the 32-teaspoon mark. The annual candy bill is more than one billion dollars and has increased one thousand percent in the past sixty-five years.

Then there is gum, with five teaspoons of sugar per pack of ten pieces; Lifesavers with three teaspoons per roll; and jam, which is almost 100 percent sugar. We think of these things as little "extras" during the day, forgetting that they also contain sugar and calories.

But what about less obvious things like cookies (4 1/2 tea spoons per chocolate chip cooky), doughnuts (4 teaspoons in each one), or pie (14 teaspoons in one-sixth of a pie)? We know these items are eliminated on a weight reducing diet, but do we consider the harmful effects of the sugar even for people not watching their weight?

Sugared breakfast cereals are a big offender. Not only are they refined, thus eliminating many of their vitamins and minerals, but they contain six teaspoons of sugar per ounce of cereal, or three-fourths of a cup. This has led one nutritionist to comment that there is more nutrition in the box than in the cereal packed therein. Some may argue that cereals are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals, which is true, but the sugar is still there and not all of the vitamins and minerals are replaced.

Though honey is not a refined sugar I include it to point out that it is a concentrated sweet. The same sugars that make refined white sugar are found in honey, date sugar, and raw sugar. It is all sugar. Honey, brown sugar, raw sugar, and so-called "natural sugar" contain small amounts of minerals, but we cannot justify using large or even moderate amounts of honey, brown sugar, or any of the others because they are all still sugar and have a potentially harmful effect on the body. In two tablespoons of honey there are 8 1/2 teaspoons of sugar, which shows that it is more concentrated than refined white sugar (2 tablespoons = 6 teaspoons).

We also tend to forget that jello has sugar in it. In a one-cup serving there are 8 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. And pancakes with syrup, a Sunday morning ritual in some homes, can be lethal when considering the sugar content. There are 15 teaspoons of sugar in one-fourth cup of syrup and approximately two teaspoons of carbohydrate in each pancake, depending on the recipe. How much better it would be to substitute thickened fruit or fruit sauce for the sweet syrup. Even fruit syrups such as boysenberry or apricot syrup contain a great amount of sugar as you probably know if you have ever made them at home.

Americans consume more sweets than citizens of any other country in the world. In Europe the favorite dessert is a beautiful piece of fresh fruit, but in this country prepared desserts are more popular. When was the last time you had guests for dinner and spent a great deal of time making a lovely cake or pie? Think of the time that could be saved and the health improved by serving wedges of fresh pineapple (available year round in most supermarkets) or fresh frozen peaches or strawberries still slightly frosty.

The king of all offenders in the sugar line is the banana split, which contains 25 teaspoons of sugar. When you consider all of the toppings and ice cream it is not hard to see why there is that amount of sugar. Nor is it hard to see how quickly 32 teaspoons of sugar could accumulate during the course of a day. Perhaps you and your family are consuming more sugar than you realized, and not from ten-pound bags of sugar carried into the house but from hidden sources in convenience foods and prepackaged items.

Harmful Effects of Sugar

Let us now turn our attention to some of the harmful effects of consuming large amounts of sugar.

Inspiration tells us that--

Far too much sugar is ordinarily used in food. Cakes, sweet puddings, pastries, jellies, jams, are active causes of indigestion, --Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 327.

Sugar is not good for the stomach. It causes fermentation and this clouds the brain and brings peevishness into the disposition. --Ibid.

Sugar clogs the system. It hinders the working of the living machine. --Ibid.

I would prefer a meat diet to the sweet cakes and pastries so generally used.--Ibid., p. 334.

As we survey the question of sugar in the diet, science has shown us several good reasons to reduce the amount of refined sugar in the diet.

1. Dental Disease. Dental decay is the most prevalent disease in America today. It is not only the nutrient content of the diet but the extent to which sticky carbohydrates are allowed to stay on the tooth that makes the difference. And especially is this true with the candy taken be tween meals.

2. Lowered Ability to Combat Infection. Did you know that if you eat sugar when you are sick, it will be harder for the body to rid itself of the infection? The average phagocyte, or white blood cell, has the ability to destroy 14 bacteria in a given time. If, however, an adult consumes six teaspoons of sugar at one time, this will lower the number of bacteria destroyed to only ten. If he consumes 24 tea spoons of sugar, a white blood cell can destroy only one, or its efficiency is reduced 92 percent the same type of effect that there would be in an uncontrolled diabetic.

3. Increased Incidence of Atherosclerosis. Scientists are finding that saturated fats and cholesterol are not the only offending substances in a person's diet. Sugar too may have damaging effects. William Kannel in Nutrition Today, May-June, 1971, says, "There is much indirect evidence that a diet too rich in saturated fat, cholesterol, sucrose, and calories is a prominent feature of our current life style contributing to the high death rate."

Helen Andrews Guthrie in her nutrition textbook, Introductory Nutrition, states: "Carbohydrate in the form of sugar rather than the more complex starches is more likely to stimulate cholesterol synthesis." --Page 47.

And still another source from Nutrition Today, Spring, 1969:

In several species, diets with sucrose induce a diminished rate of growth. . . . In some circumstances, sugar produces a fatty liver and may also produce kidney damage. Many of these changes have been demonstrated with diets containing proportions of sugar that are no higher than those found in human diets that are accepted as normal.

Thus there are definite reasons for us to watch our consumption of sugar.

But does this mean that we can never satisfy our sweet tooth? No! The Lord must have known how much pleasure we would derive from sweet things because He gave us such a bountiful supply of luscious fruits from which to choose. Let your mind picture a lovely basket of freshly picked peaches, blackberries, or grapes. Don't get me wrong, there is sugar in these items too, but there are vitamins, minerals, and roughage in abundant supply to make our bodies healthy.

What a wonderful heavenly Father we have to have given us so many delicious things to eat. And what a beautiful way to satisfy our sweet tooth.


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-Consultant dietitian for nursing homes in the Walla Walla, Washington, area at the time this article was written

May 1973

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