Hidden Sweeteners Conceal a Bitter Truth
Breakfast cereals turned out to be less of a problem than anticipated, Guthrie says. "Less than 5% of total intake of added sweeteners is coming from cereals. They're not really as bad as people think. They are highly fortified, good sources of nutrients, and some can also be good sources of fiber."
Look at your total diet first when cutting back on sweeteners, says Guthrie. "We're not saying you have to rule any food out. If you have candy or cookies or birthday cake and you are a normal, healthy person, this is not a problem. You have to look at in the context of your total diet."
Ronald Krauss, MD, nutrition researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and chairman of the nutrition committee for the American Health Association, tells WebMD, "The study put numbers behind what we've felt was true ... sugar intake does constitute a significant portion of calories, especially in younger age groups."
Use moderation but also choose foods that have high nutrient value, says Krauss.
Obesity is "an epidemic" in this country and it's particularly affecting children, Krauss says. "The incidence of childhood obesity is skyrocketing, as is the incidence of diabetes."
While diabetes used to be almost unheard of in children, it is now becoming a "fairly significant issue," says Krauss. "We're now seeing adult-onset diabetes appearing in younger individuals, teen-agers and younger, in numbers that have never been reported in the past. We feel it's related not just to eating habits but to a tendency to eat more than they're burning up. Certainly the consumption of calories in the form of foods that this survey has identified is a major source of calories ... wasted calories that provide nothing but weight-building fat and no other nutrients."
Eating only 100 or so excess calories daily from sweetened foods -- when you don't burn it off -- can result in 10 pounds of weight gain per year, he adds. "All it would take is a 20-minute walk to burn that off."