Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Living section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.
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Sugar, sugary drinks and government regulations
A health advocacy group is calling on the government to limit the amount of sugar that beverage makers can put in drinks. The Center for Science in the Public Interest submitted a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration yesterday, urging the FDA to determine and set safe limits for how much added sugar drinks can contain.
“As currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, in a statement posted on the CSPI website. “The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease.”
What’s likely to come of the request? Probably nothing right away. The CSPI has a history of requesting action from the FDA. The groups’ efforts have sometimes yielded results — on things like trans fats — but usually after years of pressure, consciousness-raising and study.
“The lesson from these things is that it takes forever to move things in Washington,” CSPI’s Jacobson said, according to a story in Reuters.
The group’s petition grabbed my attention because just yesterday, I blogged about a new Mountain Dew breakfast drink, Kickstart, that will be available in stores later this month. The drink is made up of 5 percent fruit juice, so it’s considered a “fruit drink,” not a soda. It’s definitely got its share of sugar.
Food writer Emily Freehling, of our Front Burner blog, sent me a link to Kickstart’s nutrition information today. A 16-oz can of Orange Citrus Kickstart has 20 grams of sugar (along with things like sodium hexametaphosphate, yellow 5 and gum arabic.) It’s sweetened with sucralose, an artificial sweetener, and high fructose corn syrup.
Is 20 grams of sugar anything to worry about? It’s less than most sodas contain, but it’s the equivalent of about 5 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that women get no more than about 6 teaspoons of sugar a day, and men consume no more than 9 teaspoons, according to the association’s website.
If you’re a soda drinker, it’s hard to stay within those limits.
“Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar, or 130 calories and zero nutrition,” the association says.
I like a can of Coke occasionally, or a glass of ginger ale. There’s nothing good about it beyond the taste, and for me, the first few sips are really the best ones. Soda can lose its appeal if you think of it as a can of liquid with teaspoon after teaspoon after teaspoon of sugar dumped in it.
To read more about CSPI’s efforts to limit added sugars in beverages, click here. To read American Heart Association guidance on sugar intake, click here. To read another story about CSPI’s efforts to limit sugars, click here.