The Sweet Life Costing Americans Body and Wallet

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Obesity in America is becoming a costly epidemic to the body and the wallet.

Doctors say obesity can cause heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and possibly even autism.

It also costs an obese person almost $3,000 more per year on medical costs than a regular weight person.

Much of this could be avoided if we would de-sweeten our diet.

The Sweet Life

Americans literally live the sweet life! Our diet contains enormous amounts of sugar and often we don't even know we're eating it.

That's because it's hidden in places you'd never suspect. It's now added to everything from salad dressing to peanut butter, even bread. 

In 1800, the average American consumed about 18 pounds of sugar the entire year. In 1900, it jumped to 90 pounds.

Today most of us consume 156 pounds a year. Cardiologist Steven Sinatra said all this sugar causes the insulin in our bodies to go haywire, often leading to heart disease, America's number one killer.

"Sugar does damage to the body and it's one of the major factors for insulin resistance syndrome we're seeing in this country, especially  in young kids," Sinatra said.

Over the years, not only has the amount of sugar we eat changed, so has the type of sugar. More than 40 different varieties of sugar flood our food supply.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

But the granddaddy of them all is high fructose corn syrup.

"The problem is it's in everything today," Sinatra lamented. "You know those soups you get in restaurants? And they give you those little crackers? It's in crackers. It's in spaghetti sauce. It's in ketchup. It's everywhere."

Sinatra joined with a number of scientists who warn that high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is even worse than table sugar.

"Well it's foreign to the body," he said.

Sinatra explained that our bodies metabolize HFCS differently than other sugars, which over time can poison the liver.

"I really worry about high fructose corn syrup," he said. "It's becoming part of our culture and it just shouldn't be."

Dr. Dana Flavin agreed. Flavin, who specializes in toxicology, said HFCS disables our brain's "off switch," causing us to always want more.

"And what happens is, when you have high fructose corn syrup, and you're consuming it over several days, you start to get a whole change in what they call leptins and gherelins," she explained. "Those are regulators of appetite."

"So you're wondering why you're still hungry? And your body's not saying, 'Oh, I'm full. I can't eat any more'? It's because of this change in the leptins and gherelins," she continued.

"They've been measured and measured and they've found this without a doubt. We know that it really alters satiation so you eat more, you drink more," Flavin said.

Worse than Table Sugar?

HFCS manufacturers object, saying their product is no worse than table sugar. They hope to improve their product's image and change its name to corn sugar.

According to one of their commercials, "Whether its corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can't tell the difference."

Dr. Arthur Frank concurs.

"They're biochemically, metabolically, nutritionally equivalent," he said about the comparison between HFCS and table sugar.

Franks is also a member of the Corn Refiners Association Advisory Panel.

"High Fructose Corn Syrup is every bit as bad for the diet as sucrose, table sugar. It's every bit as bad. But it's not worse," he said.

"It's the equivalent of. It's not a good food, it's not something you want to encourage people to eat, but it serves an important purpose in the American diet because it's a sweetener," he said.

Franks pointed out that sweet foods are a form of entertainment and comfort in our culture.

The American Medical Association appears to agree with Dr. Frank's assessment of the HFCS/sucrose debate.

"It's unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity" than table sugar, the doctor organization stated.

On the other hand, Princeton University researchers found that lab rats with access to HFCS gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even though both groups took in the same number of calories.

"Some people have claimed that High Fructose Corn Syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn't true," they said.

'De-Sweet' Life

So while there's no definitive answer about the value of high fructose corn syrup versus other sweeteners, one thing is certain: Regardless of the type of sugar, we're consuming too much of it.

Most of us eat 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The AMA recommends only 6 teaspoons a day for women and nine for men.

How much is that? Just one 12-ounce soft drink contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar.

A good rule of thumb would be to check a product's list of ingredients. If a sugar is one of the first three ingredients, put it back.

And remember, all sugars are high in calories, so even healthy ones, like honey, should be consumed in small amounts.

Here is a list of sweeteners to help you identify sugar in products:

• Agave (this is like sugar - a fructose, glucose mix. Often higher on fructose rather than glucose)
• Amasake
• Aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet) AS
• Ace-K (or Acesulfame potassium) AS
• Barley malt
• Barley malt syrup
• Beet sugar
• Cane juice
• Cane sugar
• Carbitol
• Carmel coloring
• Carmel sugars
• Concentrated fruit juice
• Corn sweetener
• Corn syrup
• Cyclamate AS
• Dextrin
• Dextrose (very common in meat products>
• Diglycerides
• Disaccharides
• D-tagalose
• Erythritol AS (Sugar Alcohol)
• Evaporated cane juice (just a fancy name for sugar)
• Florida crystals
• Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
• Fructose
• Fruit juice concentrate
• Galactose Glucitol
• Glucoamine
• Gluconolactone
• Glucose
• Glucose polymers
• Glucose syrup
• Glycerides
• Glycerine
• Glycerol
• Glycol
• Hexitol
• High-fructose corn syrup (or HFCS)
• Honey
• Inversol
• Invert sugar
• Isomalt
• Karo syrups
• Lactose
• Lactitol AS (Sugar alcohol)
• Levulose
• Malitol AS (Sugar alcohol)
• Malt dextrin
• Malted barley
• Maltodextrins
• Maltodextrose
• Maltose
• Malts
• Mannitol AS (Sugar alcohol)
• Mannose
• Microcrystalline cellulose
• Molasses
• Monoglycerides
• Monosaccarides
• Nectars
• Neotame
• Pentose
• Polydextrose
• Polyglycerides
• Raisin juice
• Raisin syrup
• Raw sugar
• Ribose rice syrup
• Rice malt
• Rice sweeteners
• Rice syrup solids
• Saccharides
• Sorbitol AS (sugar alcohol)
• Sorghum
• Splenda (sucralose) AS
• Stevia AS
• Sucanat
• Sucanet
• Sucrose
• Sugar cane
• Treacle
• Trisaccharides
• Xylitol AS (sugar alcohol)
• Zylose

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Lorie  Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about health and wellness. Since medicine is constantly changing, she makes sure CBN News viewers are up-to-date on what they need to know in order to live a healthy life.  Follow Lorie on Twitter @LorieCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/LorieJohnsonCBN.