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Attention Sugar Sleuths!

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"No Added Sugar" or Reduced in Sugar claim doesn't automatically mean healthier

Food shopping can be a confusing task, especially if you’re focused on reading labels and making healthy food choices for your family.  Walking down the aisles of your local market, you’re easily met with hundreds of claims from “low sodium”, to “heart healthy” to “no added sugar”.  These are intended to communicate key product attributes, however regarding claims like “no added sugar” and “reduced sugar”, new research from the University of Toronto finds that they may not always be the “healthier” option. 

Researchers hypothesized that often claims like “no added sugar” could be misleading, often implying “better for you” or to have reduced calories over standard products without the claim.  They reviewed over 3,000 products and found that many items with sugar claims had excess amounts of free sugars, or sugars, syrups and fruit juices that have been removed from their naturally occurring sources, AKA added sugars.  Their key finding is that though items were “lower in sugar” as the claim implied, items did not always have comparable reduction of calories, which does not align with consumer expectation. 

What does that mean for us, the consumer?  It means that we can’t make assumptions.  Though front of pack claims like “no added sugar” are helpful, they’re not a substitute for turning the package over and reviewing the entire nutrition facts panel and ingredients line.  Sugars can take several forms and it’s important to become familiar with them, especially if you’re trying to reduce them!  And if keeping it simple is your preference, stick to whole, single ingredient foods (hint: fruits, vegetables, whole grains) so you don’t have to be a detective while your stocking your pantry.   

Published December 1, 2017

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