Are You Eating HIDDEN SUGAR?
Updated: Oct 26, 2021
Sugar is a silent killer and is linked to causing almost all lifestyle-related diseases, including diabetes, heart problems, accelerated ageing, cancer, obesity, fatty liver, etc. Although there is a lot of awareness of the ill effects of sugar, many products we eat daily are brimming with sugar. So how do food brands load sugar in their products and still claim the product to be free of sugar? How are we being fooled using different terminologies like no added sugar, zero sugar, no sugar, sugarless, reduced sugar, naturally occurring sugar etc.? Let’s put these terms under the microscope of science & understand if we are eating hidden sugar. Make sure to check the bonus chart at the end of the article, which enlists different names for sugar using which food brands hide sugar in their product.
The CUNNING Words:
Most food brands will not lie but may deliberately use confusing words to show that their products do not contain sugar. Let us try understanding this with the help of an example:
A biscuit brand X mentions No Added Sugar in bold on their packaging. It means the brand has not added any sugar in the biscuit manufacturing process. What the brand ably does not mention is the Total Sugar in the product. In this example, the brand is not lying but selectively highlighting some information while hiding some data. As consumers, we tend to be impressed with the claim No Added Sugar while skipping the data on Total Sugar and eventually consuming the hidden sugar. Thus, food brands use cunning words to add sugar to their products, and unfortunately we end up ingesting the hidden sugar.
A food brand can legally sell TABLE SUGAR and still claim - NO ADDED SUGAR in the product.
The CONFUSING Nomenclature:
Let us look at how food brands try hiding sugar in their no-sugar products, misrepresent the nutrition information and how we end up consuming the hidden sugar:
ZERO SUGAR: Zero Sugar does not mean there is no sugar. Sugar refers to Sucrose, and Sugars (plural) refers to sugar syrups, honey, jaggery, sugar concentrates, dextrose, fructose, lactose etc. So, Zero Sugar means there is no presence of table sugar - Sucrose, but it does not give us any information on the presence of Sugars.
NATURAL SUGAR or NATURAL INGREDIENTS: Everything created by nature may not always be good for us. All sugars are associated with insulin spikes, and each type is marginally worse than the other. Whether obtained from nature or produced in a factory, natural or artificial, organic or inorganic, genetically modified or GMO-free, sugar is not suitable for health.
NO ADDED SUGAR: No Added Sugar means there is no sugar added to the product and does not give any idea of the total sugar content. The cunningly used ingredients may be so damn high in sugars that there is no need to add more sugar. No Added Sugar does not mean - no sugars. Hence, we must look at total sugars rather than just added sugar.
SUGAR-FREE: Sugar-Free is an ambiguous term that makes us believe the product does not contain any Sugars at all. However, Sugar-Free is increasingly used to highlight that no sugar has been added to the product. Unfortunately, just like the No Added Sugar claim, the cunningly used ingredients may be extremely high in sugars, or the product may be laced with equally worse table sugar substitutes. All sugar substitutes like honey, corn syrup, palm sugar, jaggery, agave nectar, coconut sugar, rice syrup, invert sugar etc., are high glycemic sugars and are bad for health.
Of course, the four points mentioned above do not cover all the terms that brands use to mislead us but will undoubtedly help set our thought processes in the right direction and help make informed decisions. Thus, unfortunately, confusing nomenclature makes us consume the hidden sugar.
Whatever the claim is, it is vital to check for Total Sugars rather than anything else.
Use the CHART below to check if the product you use has HIDDEN SUGAR.
Sugar may be - organic, non-GMO, natural, factory-produced etc., but it is equally bad for health.
All sugars give us insulin spikes responsible for lifestyle-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer etc.
An ethical brand will never hide anything in their product nutrition profile and always declare the Total Sugars content.
Sugar in any shape or form (including natural sources like jaggery, honey, fruits etc.) is highly detrimental to health.
Now we understand how food brands load sugar in their products using terminologies like no added sugar, zero sugar, no sugar, sugarless, reduced sugar, naturally occurring sugar etc. which we end up consuming.