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Pull That Sweet Tooth

Oct 15, 2012 06:51PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds

Why does something that tastes so wonderful do us so much harm? That’s one of life’s great mysteries, when it comes to the sugary treats we love. But perhaps the question is, why are we so enamored with the taste of sweets? According to Dr. Robert Lustig, a well-known California endocrinologist who appeared on 60 Minutes this year, it’s practically in our DNA. The good doctor (and vocal anti-sugar crusader) explained it like this to Dr. Sanjay Gupta: “We love it. We go out of our way to find it. I think one of the reasons evolutionarily is because there is no food stuff on the planet that has fructose that is poisonous to you.

It is all good. So when you taste something that’s sweet, it’s an evolutionary Darwinian signal that this is a safe food.” Whoa. That’s a mindblower. Fruits and mints and such that grow naturally will never hurt us. Our cavemen ancestors faced daily annihilation from such threats as injury, disease, exposure, or predators. Imagine the comfort and safety they must have felt when at least one fear was lifted while consuming a fructose-filled meal. Alas, they also lived a life of massive calorie burning so even if they ate an inordinate about of berries, it wasn’t apt to show up on their waistline or clog their pancreas and liver.

And it goes without saying that no Neanderthal ever sat down in front of the TV and polished off an entire quart of Haagen Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond. (BTW: Did you know that if you can’t find a particular Haagen Dazs flavor, the company will send you an email alert each time there is a new delivery to your favorite store? Honest, it’s their Flavor Finder® service.)

If you are a victim, however, of all these tempting treats and clever marketing ploys, but really want to eat healthier, we’ve found some information that just might give you some willpower.

The April 2012 issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, contained a sobering chart which listed the amount of added sugar (by teaspoons) in many popular sweet treats. For instance, who knew that three Oreos contained 3.5 teaspoons of added sugar? That’s more than a teaspoon per cookie. According to the Nutrition Action Healthletter, a four-ounce box of Junior Mints (theater size) contains 22.5 added teaspoons of sugar (and racks up 480 calories). Other not too surprising (but equally depressing) counts include 12 fluid ounces of Coca-Cola with 10 added teaspoons of sugar, a Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Doughnut’s 2.5 teaspoons, and a Cinnabon Classic Roll with a whopping 15 teaspoons and 880 calories.

Moreover, there were also several unanticipated entries. Schweppes Tonic Water, 12-ounce size, contains 8 added teaspoons of sugar. That’s more sugar than six Oreos! Nutella, that odd spread from Italy that’s touted as wholesome and natural, has 5 added teaspoons of sugar per 2 tablespoons of Nutella. Twenty fluid ounces (granted, a pretty big bottle) of Gatorade Perform Lemon-Line has 9 added teaspoons of sugar. And that Haagen Dazs? About 3 teaspoons per 3.7 ounces.

Finally, it’s nice to know that there is truth in advertising out there: McDonald’s Sweet Tea (large size, 32 fluid ounces) contains 17.5 added teaspoons of sugar. Sweet indeed.

-S.H.

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