We’ve all heard of a beer belly, but how about a “Sugar Belly”? It sounds crazy, but new evidence has shown that the fructose in added sugars may have a role in creating a “bulge” around your middle where your waist used to be. For years, research has found that if you consume a diet high in sugar-sweetened foods you’re more at risk for, heart disease, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, gout, type 2 Diabetes and of course, weight gain. But interestingly enough, new studies now suggest that sugary beverages, not just sugary-sweetened foods are more to blame for our nation’s out-of-control waist circumference. Sugary beverages such as soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sweet tea, and specialty coffee drinks are just a few examples.

Clearly, too many calories from ANYTHING will put on extra pounds, but the research has been looking at the link between sugary drinks and increased visceral fat accumulation around the mid section. One Study at the University of Minnesota showed those who drank the most sugar-sweetened beverages had more visceral fat and larger waists. Another study focused on teenagers. They found those who consumed the most sugary beverages had the most visceral fat, as well as the most insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and higher blood sugar levels.

Current recommendations for added sugar consumption are 6 1/2 tsp. for woman, and 9 1/2 tsp for men. On average Americans consume roughly 22-28 tsp. a day. Way above the current recommendations. This is equal to an extra 350-440 empty calories.  Keep in mind that it only takes an extra 500 calories per day above what your body needs in order to gain a pound of weight in a week.  

What you should do:

n Shoot for 100 calories (6 1/2 tsp.) per day of added sugars if you are a woman and 150 (9 1/2 tsp.) if you’re a min. In this case less is even better.

— Don’t drink sugar-sweetened beverages. Limit fruit juices to no more than ? cup per day.

— Limit all added sugars, including high-fructose corn syrup, can or beet sugar, evarporated can juice, brown rice syrup, agave syrup and honey.

— Don’t worry about naturally occurring sugar in fruit, milk and plain yogurt. Focus your attention on added sugars.

— If a food ahs little or no milk or fruit (which contain natural sugars), the ”Sugars” number on the package’s Nutrition Fats panel will tell you how many grams of added sugars are in each serving. To find out how many CALORIES from sugar the product has multiply the GRAMS of sugar by 4, and in order to determine how many TEASPOONS the product has divide the GRAMS of sugar by 4.

For example:

A large Sweet Tea from your favorite hamburger joint has 280 calories and 69 grams of sugar . Since this product is not made from milk or fruit, I know that the grams of Sugar listed on the label are all added sugar. To find out how many calories are coming from sugar, multiply 69 by 4, which equals 276. To determine teaspoons, take 69 divided by 4 which equals 17.25, or a little less than 6 TABLESPOONS.

Take home message: Think before you drink! Read Labels and watch out for these terms in the ingredient list: corn syrup, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, evaporated cane juice, raw sugar, sugar, honey, orange juice concentrate, grape juice concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, and apple juice concentrate just to name a few.

If you have a nutrition question you’d like answered in this column or if you like to schedule an appointment. Contact the office at (706) 473-5801 or email us at oconeenutrition@yahoo.com

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