Hidden Added Sugar Found In Two-Thirds Of Canadian Packaged Foods

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If you aren't reading nutrition labels yet, you really need to start.

A new study published in CMAJ Open finds two-thirds of packaged foods in Canada contain added sugars, including infant formulas and baby food.

The study, which analyzed more than 40,000 packaged goods at a major Canadian grocery chain found 66 per cent of food analyzed have at least one type of added sugar in its ingredient list.

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Added sugars were defined as sugars added by the manufacturer including honey, syrups and fruit juice concentrates. Sugars found naturally in ingredients like fruits, vegetables and meats were excluded.

Unsurprisingly, 99 per cent of snacks and sweets were found to contain added sugar though in a smaller dose than expected. Meanwhile 74 per cent of "healthy" foods like yogurt contained as much as 4.5 teaspoons of added sugar per 225 gram serving. The product with the highest amount of added sugar per serving was fruit juice with a whopping 9.5 teaspoons of sugar per 450 ml.

Excessive consumption of added sugar is not only linked to weight gain: researchers at Harvard Medical School say it can also lead to heart disease in people who aren't overweight.

In 2015 the World Health Organization lowered the recommended daily consumption of sugar to less than 10 per cent of an adult's total energy intake (approximately 12 teaspoons). They also noted reducing sugar consumption to 25 grams a day would provide additional health benefits.

“Canadian adults and children are eating two to three times more added sugar than what the WHO recommends,” the study's co-author Erin Hobin told CTV News.

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While Hobin admits it's tricky keeping track of added sugars, she suggests looking out for terms like fructose, sucrose, corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, barley malt, carob and ethyl maltol, which are all added sugars.

In 2016 Health Canada revealed proposed food label changes regarding sugar information. The new labels may take a few years to roll out, but eventually they will list a per cent for daily value of sugars making it easier for consumers to see if a product has excess of sugar in it.

The packages will also be required to include a footnote explaining what percentage constitutes a lot versus a little.

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