Boost Your Metabolism – Part 2: The Case Against Too Much Added Sugar

Sugar CubesIn my continuing series “Boost Your Metabolism,” I’m going to post multiple articles on food, not just the types to avoid and the types to eat, but also how to time your exercise with your eating to maximize your efforts.

Too Much Added Sugar
If you are like most Americans, according to the 2001–04 NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), you will consume 22 teaspoons (355 calories) of added sugar today.  Most of that comes from soft drinks, sweetened beverages, and other processed foods.

Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. Milk and fruits have their own sugar (lactose and fructose, respectively); however, these are not added to the natural product.

Hidden Names for Added Sugar
Here are some ingredient names that are added sugars (most of the list comes from Dietriffic):

  1. Barbados Sugar
  2. Barley malt
  3. Beet sugar
  4. Brown sugar
  5. Buttered syrup
  6. Cane juice
  7. Cane juice crystals
  8. Cane sugar
  9. Caramel
  10. Confectioner’s sugar
  11. Corn syrup
  12. Corn syrup solids
  13. Confectioner’s sugar
  14. Carob syrup
  15. Castor sugar
  16. Date sugar
  17. Demerara sugar
  18. Dextrin
  19. Dextrose
  20. Diastatic malt
  21. Diatase
  22. Ethyl maltol
  23. Evaporated cane juice
  24. Free Flowing Brown Sugars
  25. Fructose
  26. Fruit juice
  27. Fruit juice concentrate
  28. Galactose
  29. Glucose
  30. Glucose solids
  31. Golden sugar
  32. Maize syrup
  1. Golden syrup
  2. Grape sugar
  3. High-fructose corn syrup
  4. Honey
  5. Icing sugar
  6. Invert sugar
  7. Isoglucose
  8. Lactose
  9. Levulose
  10. Malitol
  11. Malt
  12. Maltodextrin
  13. Maltose
  14. Malt syrup
  15. Mannitol
  16. Maple syrup
  17. Molasses
  18. Muscovado sugar
  19. Panocha
  20. Powdered sugar
  21. Raw sugar
  22. Refiner’s syrup
  23. Rice syrup
  24. Sorbitol
  25. Sorghum syrup
  26. Sucanat
  27. Sucrose
  28. Sugar (granulated)
  29. Treacle
  30. Turbinado sugar
  31. Yellow sugar
  32. Xylitol

Empty Calories
Sugar (which contains no nutritional value so is full of empty calories) breaks down quickly in the body, spiking your blood sugar (glucose) level.  If your body cannot use all the sugar in your bloodstream, it will convert the extra to fat. Your favorite yogurt, corn flakes, or ketchup may be adding inches to your waistline.

Even though brown sugar is less refined than white sugar, it still is sugar and has little nutritional value.

Simple Carbs Create Cravings
Refined or simple carbohydrates in general create cravings, which are thought to be the result of nutritional deficiencies in the body. When you eat, the easiest foods to break down are the refined carbs because they are little better than eating a bowl of sugar.  Most refined carbs convert to glucose quickly and spike your blood sugar level.  Once your glucose level drops, you may feel hungry again and run down.

On the other hand, complex-carbohydrates take a lot longer for your body to process, contain much-needed fiber and nutrients, and they don’t spike your blood sugar so easily.  Also, that fiber keeps you fuller longer.  (Proteins and fats take even longer to break down with fat taking the longest, so they both keep you fuller longer.)

Is it a coincidence that many processed foods are high in sugar and fat?  On January 29, 2006, The Chicago Tribune reported that documents from the tobacco litigation indicated that Kraft and Philip Morris shared expertise on how the brain processes tastes and smells.  A Tribune series on obesity the previous year detailed Kraft’s interest in brain science, including how the brain is rewarded by sweet and fatty foods.  Is it also a coincidence that the more of them you eat, the more you want?  Most processed foods are calorie-dense with relatively few nutrients and fiber.

How Much Should I Eat?
Eat as little added sugar as possible.  In 2009, the American Heart Association issued new guidelines recommending that most women should get no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons) of added sugar and men no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons).  However, the percentage of calories is important.

The USDA has guidelines, which may be more helpful since they are based on calorie level.  A woman on a 1200-calorie diet and one on an 1800-calorie diet should not both be eating 100 calories from sugar (equivalent to 6 teaspoons).

Discretionary calories that remain at each calorie level
Food Guide calorie level 1,600 1,800 2,000 2,200 2,400 2,600 2,800 3,000 3,200
Discretionary calories1 132 195 267 290 362 410 426 512 648
Solid fats2 11 g 15 g 18 g 19 g 22 g 24 g 24 g 29 g 34 g
Added sugars3 12 g
(3 tsp)
20 g
(5 tsp)
32 g
(8 tsp)
36 g
(9 tsp)
48 g
(12 tsp)
56 g
(14 tsp)
60 g
(15 tsp)
(18 tsp)
96 g
(24 tsp)
Discretionary Calorie Allowance in the USDA Food Guide

Sugar Listed on Food Labels
Unfortunately, food labels do not give a breakdown of sugars, so a carton of skim, low-fat, or whole milk might have 12 grams of sugar, which comes from lactose, not added sugars.  Unlike milk, a can of fruit may be more complicated.  It may contain added sugar or syrup, but it also contains fruit, which has natural sugar.  It can be difficult to tell just how much natural sugar versus added sugar is in a product.  If sugar is one of the first few ingredients listed on the item, look for another brand or don’t buy the product.

The Dangers of High-Fructose Corn Syrup
If high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), also called isoglucose, maize syrup, or glucose-fructose syrup in the UK and glucose/fructose in Canada, is in the ingredient list, don’t buy the product.  HFCS is a common sweetener and preservative made by changing the sugar (glucose) to fructose (another type of sugar) and then adding pure corn syrup (100% glucose) to produce the desired sweetness.  Because it is cheaper than sugar, HFCS has become a popular ingredient in sodas and flavored drinks, fruit yogurts, ketchup, and many other processed foods.

In the past, HFCS was considered beneficial to diabetics because it is absorbed into the bloodstream only 40 percent as quickly as glucose, so it causes only a modest rise in blood sugar.  However, other research on hormones suggests that it causes other health problems, like cirrhosis of the liver, diabetic complications, heart disease, and other serious problems.

There’s a great article detailing these problems “The Double Danger of High Fructose Corn Syrup” at the Weston A Price Foundation website.

The Bottom Line
Don’t be fooled by claims of great nutrition on a package.  (I’ve made that mistake before.)  Carefully, check the nutrition label and the ingredient list of all products you buy.  Only buy products with 12 grams of sugar or less and those without HFCS.

Related Articles:
Boost Your Metabolism to Help Lose Weight – Part 1
Boost Your Metabolism – Part 3: Proper Hydration Is Essential


  1. Jason Gronert says:

    thanks for the great post very informal