Hidden sugars: Helping to grow obesity rates

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Sugar is in almost everything we eat, from granola bars and bread to sweet tea and orange juice. Too much sugar can put our body at a higher risk for diabetes. In Georgia, roughly one out of 10 people have diabetes and here in the Columbus region, we have a significantly greater risk for diabetes than the rest of the state.

Sugar is in almost everything and most of us eat way too much of it. According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of daily sugar women should consume is 25 grams or six teaspoons. For men, 37.5 grams of sugar or nine teaspoons. But that’s not happening and it’s creating an obesity epidemic in our country.

“The more sugar we consume,the harder our pancreas has to work to put out insulin, which makes us more insulin resistant which in turn puts us at risk for type 2 diabetes,” says Katherine Hines.

According to Katherine Hines, a registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with St. Francis Hospital, diabetes is a real concern, especially in our community.

“It has increased over the last 20 years significantly. Here in Georgia it’s a higher percentage rate than the country,” says Hines.

The Columbus region is at a higher risk than the other parts of the state. In fact, according to the Georgia’s Department of Public Health, 12.9 percent of our community, or roughly 34,800 adults are struggling with diabetes. Only Valdosta is higher at 13.4 percent. Hines says the reason is because of hidden sugars in our food. Like ketchup, granola bars, BBQ sauce and drinks. Some drinks have more than three times the amount of daily recommended sugar in just one can.

We wanted to put our co-workers, Ashley, Diana, Ty-Nice, Greg, Justin and Crystal to the test. Which drink has the most sugar? The challenge was to put a variety of drinks in order. The most amount of sugar to the least amount of sugar.

The drinks were: Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey, orange juice, pomegranate ginger-ale, Coca-Cola, Arizona’s Sweet Tea, Crystal Pepsi and Sobe’s Pina Colada. Let’s start with the Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey.

It contains, “51 grams of sugar. ‘in that one can… woah!’ omigosh!” That’s right. 51 grams of sugar or 13 teaspoons of sugar. More than double the daily recommended consumption for women.

Next the orange juice. “33 grams of sugar…this is #7.” That’s right, this 100 percent pure OJ has 37 grams of sugar or 9 teaspoons of sugar.

“It’s surprising to think that something like orange juice would have that much sugar because when you think OJ, you think oranges – you’re doing something good,” says Greg.

This pomegranate ginger-ale with antioxidants. It has 37 grams of sugar or 10 teaspoons.

Then there’s Coca-Cola. 39 grams of sugar or 10 teaspoons. “That’s how much sugar is in there.”

Then there’s the Arizona Sweet Tea. “If it’s sweet and tea, and delicious – it’s got to be bad for you,” says Greg.

Well, it is. 69 grams of sugar and 17 teaspoons in the drink. The label says it only has 23 grams but if you look more closely. This has three servings.

According to Katherine, there will be changes to the FDA guidelines soon so this won’t happen.

“The manufacturers will be required to have on the label one serving instead of trying to trick us instead of saying there are 3-4 in that serving,” says Hines.

Then there’s Crystal Pepsi. Looks healthier doesn’t it? Well this drink has 69 grams of sugar or 17 teaspoons, nearly three times the daily recommended amount of sugar and by far the most sugar in these drinks because it’s a smaller container than the sweet tea.

“69! Wha? hello heart attack,” says Ashley.

The Sobe Pina Colada has 62 grams of sugar or 15 teaspoons.

The winners of this challenger were Ty-Nice and Diana.

Hidden sugars are in so much of our food these days. Take for instance this yogurt. It’s gluten-free, probiotic, raspberry flavor. It has the same amount of sugar as these two ding dongs.

“Well why don’t we just eat the ding dongs?”

According to Katherine, don’t eat the ding dongs. Eat the yogurt because it has more nutritional value. She suggests slowly decreasing your sugar intake transition from sugary drinks like regular cola to diet then work your way to water. If you want something sweet, eat some fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The drink with the most sugar from our quiz was Crystal Pepsi. It has 69 grams of sugar which is nearly three times the daily recommended amount for women, which is 24 grams per day. The daily recommended amount for men is 36 grams of sugar.

If you are feeling guilty about your sugar intake, you’re not alone. Most Americans consume 90 grams of sugar each day.

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