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A Critical Step in the Right Direction

The nation’s top nutritional advisory panel has made an important move to help address what it calls the “enormous cost” of chronic disease in the United States.  This welcome news comes in the form of dietary recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

If adopted in the upcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we will be the first generation of Americans to have a science-based, federally recommended limit on added sugar and, potentially, nutrition labels that tell us how much sugar has been added to the products we consume.  These are tremendous steps forward that SugarScience wholeheartedly supports.

The new scientific advisory report, which has been 18 months in the making, eases off on some of the more outdated USDA restrictions around fat, refocuses the discussion toward a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and provides much-needed recommendations on how to help us get our added sugar consumption down as a nation.

The report recommends removing sugary drinks from schools and creating a separate line on food labels listing added sugars, so that we can know how much added sugar we’re eating. 

Most importantly, the expert panel focused on how these critical changes in our diet will impact rates of chronic disease in American children and adults, and rated the evidence on added sugar’s role as a risk factor in type 2 diabetes to be “strong,” using rigorous scientific review criteria.  Our SugarScientist team is in full agreement.

“About half of all American adults – 117 million individuals – have one or more preventable chronic diseases that relate to poor quality dietary patterns and physical inactivity, including cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and diet-related cancers,” the committee wrote in submitting the new guidelines.

“These devastating health problems have persisted for decades, strained U.S. health care costs, and focused the attention of our health care system on disease treatment rather than prevention. They call for bold action and sound, innovative solutions.”

Bold action, indeed.

The next step is for the USDA and DHHS to formally adopt the panel recommendations into the upcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Members of the public are encouraged to read more about the guidelines at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov and can share written comments until April 8, 2015 at midnight Eastern time.  Stay tuned as we follow this critical debate affecting your health – and feel free to join in.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes mellitus, formerly called Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM) and Adult Onset Diabetes (AODM), is a disease in which our body acts as if it does not have enough insulin to keep our blood sugar levels down at normal levels. This is likely a combined effect of the body not being normally sensitive to the insulin the pancreas does make combined with the pancreas not making enough insulin for the circumstances. There is a genetic component to this disease. The body uses insulin as a signal to store glucose in liver, muscle, and fat cells. High blood glucose causes many changes in the body that lead to damage to many parts of the body over time

SugarScience Glossary

Added sugar

Any sugar added in preparation of foods, either at the table, in the kitchen or in the processing plant. This may include sucrose, high fructose corn syrup and others.

SugarScience Glossary

Sugary drinks

Means the same as sugar-sweetened beverages or liquid sugars.

SugarScience Glossary

Diabetes mellitus

Usually shortened to just diabetes. Sometimes called sugar diabetes. Look at Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes for more information

SugarScience Glossary

Chronic diseases

Diseases which last months or years, do not go away on their own, and are usually managed and not cured. For the first time in history diseases that are not caused by infection (non-communicable diseases) are causing more injury and death worldwide than are those caused by infection. In the US this has been true for decades but the rest of the world is catching up as our diet and lifestyle are becoming more common globally.

SugarScience Glossary

Sugars

Sugars are chemicals made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen found which taste sweet and are found in food. They are an important part of what we eat and drink and of our bodies. On this site, sugar is used to mean simple sugars (monosaccharides) like fructose or glucose, and disaccharides like table sugar (sucrose). Sucrose is two simple sugars stuck together for example (see Table sugar). Sugars are a type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are energy sources for our bodies Sugars enter the blood stream very quickly after being eaten.

SugarScience Glossary

Fat

One of the three major groups of nutrients we eat. Much of this website is related to problems associated with too much fat storage in the body. Each gram of fat produces 9 calories of energy if burned by the body as fuel. Fat can be stored in many places in the body. We generally think of fat as under the skin (subcutaneous), but the fat that may be most damaging to us is the fat stored in the liver and around the organs of the abdomen (intrahepatic and visceral or abdominal or intra-abdominal)

SugarScience Glossary

SugarScience is the authoritative source for evidence-based, scientific information about sugar and its impact on health.

Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH

Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, is a professor in the UCSF School of Medicine. She has dedicated her career to intervening on the social determinants of health and to understanding how lifestyle risk factors, such as alcohol and poor diet, influence chronic disease and health inequality.

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