• Anatomy Of Fitness

No SUGAR - a lie!

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

How do brands load SUGAR in their products and still claim the product to be free of SUGAR? How are consumers 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. Make sure to check the bonus chart at the end of the article which enlists different names for SUGAR.

The BRAND lie:

Most brands will not lie but may cunningly use confusing words to give an impression that their product does not contain any 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. What it means is 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 NO ADDED SUGAR claim while skipping the data on TOTAL SUGAR.

A brand can legally sell TABLE SUGAR with the claim that there is NO ADDED SUGAR in the product.


Let us look at how brands try hiding sugar in their product claims and misrepresent the nutrition information:

  1. 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.

  2. NATURAL SUGAR or NATURAL INGREDIENTS: Everything created by nature may not always be good for us. All types of sugars are associated with insulin spikes and each type is marginally worse than the other is. Whether obtained from nature or produced in a factory, whether natural or artificial, whether organic or inorganic, whether genetically modified or GMO-free, any sugar is bad.

  3. NO ADDED SUGAR: No added sugar simply means there is no sugar added to the product but it 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 additional sugar. No added sugar does not mean - no sugars. Hence, we must look at total sugars rather than added sugar.

  4. SUGAR-FREE: Sugar-free is an ambiguous term to make us believe that the product does not contain any sugars at all. However, sugar-free is increasingly used to highlight that no sugar has been added in the product. Just like 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 like honey, corn syrup, palm sugar, jaggery, agave nectar, coconut sugar, rice syrup, invert sugar etc. all of which are different types of sugars.

Of course, the four points mentioned above do not cover all the terms that brands use to mislead us but will certainly help in setting our thought processes in the right direction and in taking informed decisions.

Whatever the claim is, it is important to check for total sugars rather than anything else.

Use the chart below to check if the product you use has SUGAR.

Different names for SUGAR.
Different names for SUGAR.

Now we understand how brands mislead us with NO SUGAR claims.

Key takeaways:

  1. Sugar that is - organic, non-GMO, natural, factory-produced etc. is equally bad for health.

  2. All kinds of sugars give us insulin spikes. Insulin spikes are primarily responsible for lifestyle-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer etc.

  3. An ethical brand will never hide anything in their product nutrition profile and will always declare the TOTAL SUGARS content.

  4. Sugar in any shape or form (including natural sources like jaggery, honey, fruits etc.) is extremely detrimental for health.

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