A Gram of Sugar by Any Other Name…

September 9, 2014

Poster in Mercy Hospital Springfield's cafeteria

It’s easy to go overboard on sugary foods and drinks; the hard part is being able to tell just how much sugar you’re consuming. That’s why Healthification leaders at Mercy have taken new steps to educate co-workers and patients about the not-so-sweet statistics.

At Mercy Hospital Springfield’s cafeteria, you’ll get an education while filling up your cup with ice. Through bold, red letters, a poster makes it abundantly clear that one 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew contains 19 packets worth of sugar. That’s 77 grams. Mercy’s cafeteria in St. Louis takes it one step further by displaying baggies of sugar to demonstrate what we’re drinking.

Too much sugar may be the cause of many chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease.

“It’s everywhere in processed food,” said Mercy dietitian Donna Webb. “Anything you get in a box, bag or can – it’s very difficult to find foods that don’t have added sugars. The food industry knows that the more sugar they put into foods, they more we’ll buy it. It’s definitely a marketing strategy.”

Webb says there’s no doubt sugar is addictive. “Studies on brain and pleasure sensors – the same pleasure sensors that are activated by drugs like cocaine – are triggered when we have large amounts of sugar. I didn’t always think that, but now we know it’s an addiction.”

You can find sugar everywhere – even in bratwurst, chicken and sausage. “And it has so many different names,” Webb continued. “You can find one food that has sugar listed seven different ways. Just reading the nutritional facts alone isn’t good enough anymore. You need to read the ingredients to get the full picture.”

As an educational tool, Webb has begun listing out the following sugar synonyms to clients:

  • Glucose-fructose syrup
  • High- fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Polydextrose
  • Raw sugar
  • Sugar
  • Agave nectar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Corn sweetener/solids
  • Corn syrup
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose

“The way the body metabolizes sugar, specifically fructose, it actually increases triglycerides and insulin resistance, and starts the pathway for hypertension,” Webb added. “We really want people moving away from processed food and getting it from more natural sources.” Webb suggests using honey or 100 percent maple syrup to lightly sweeten foods.

"The bottom line is that we all need to drink more water,” Webb said. “Kids mimic what their parents and peers do, so we can start the movement. It’s going to be tough in the beginning, but we can do this.”