Sugar was always meant to be a treat, a reward. "The last time I checked, birthday cake was for birthdays, and birthdays come once a year," says endocrinologist Robert Lustig, MD, author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. But added sugar is infiltrating the food supply, and we're not just talking soda here. Food manufacturers pump excess sugar into an array of foods—even "health foods"—creating catastrophic health results. Learn where this type of sneaky sugar hides, along with these surprising sugar side effects.
You're Overdosing On It
The Facts: Americans swallow a whopping 13 percent of their daily calories from added sugars. That adds up to about 130 pounds per year. Break that down to the daily level, and we're way over the limit, downing the equivalent of 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day. According to the American Heart Association, women should max out at the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of added sugars daily; men should stop at 9.
We can't completely blame the fast-food industry, either. A recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey report found the majority of added sugar intake—67 percent—occurred at home.
Where Sugar Lurks: Salad dressings may not taste sweet, but the food industry often adds sugar to low-fat versions to make them more palatable. Try vinegar and olive oil instead. While shopping, look for brands like Organicville that are made with no added sugars.
It Tricks Your Brain
The Facts: Eating too much added sugar allows the fructose found in sugar and high-fructose corn syrup to send your hunger hormones into a tailspin. The hormonal messages that tell your brain you're full aren't properly triggered, tricking your system into thinking you haven't eaten, Dr. Lustig explains.
Where Sugar Lurks: Surprisingly, in bread—and not just white bread, either. Multigrain and whole wheat generally contain about 2 grams of added sugar per slice.
It Accelerates Aging
The Facts: "Sugar is a primary contributor to the aging process," Dr. Lustic explains. He says fructose, the sweet molecule in sugar, is seven times more potent than the glucose portion of sugar, forming oxygen radicals, leading to higher rates of cell damage and death, and contributing to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It speeds along the aging process in general.
Where Sugar Lurks: You wouldn't guess it, but added sugar hides out in most tomato sauces. "The problem is that the Institute of Medicine, United States Department of Agriculture, and Food and Drug Administration refuse to list a Dietary Reference Intake—a maximum—for sugar consumption," Dr. Lustig says. "That gives the food industry license to put any amount into any food they want. With no Daily Recommended Intake, you can't know if you're over the top."