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While buying juices, I came across two options, one with no added sugars, one with added sugars. The one with no added sugars had 11 grams of sugars, the one with added sugars had also 11 grams of sugar.

Hence my wonder, does it matter what is the source of your sugar intake, whether it is naturally occurring or artificially added?

I generally don't worry about how sweet something is as long as it’s natural, like mangoes are very sweet, but my mind tells me it’s a fruit hence healthy and I am neither diabetic nor fat, so mangoes are ok for me. But still I don't eat candies or other man-made sweet stuff because my mind says it’s artificial. Is my mind right or wrong?

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5 Answers 5

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One of the ways to measure the impacts of sugar in different foods is with the glycemic index, which is a measure of how quickly blood sugar rises after eating. Faster rises in blood sugar are thought to contribute to the development of diabetes and possibly contribute to weight gain, though as with most nutrition science the specifics are very difficult to study due to the difficulty of conducting true randomized trials over a long time period (people just won't stick to eating what a study assigns them to eat) and a vast array of potential individual differences in digestion and metabolism.

Generally, the glycemic index for a piece of fruit will be low despite containing sugars, because fruit also contains other things like fiber which slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed. Adding just sugar to any food will always increase the glycemic index, because added sugar isn't coming with anything to slow it down.

Sugar in juices are typically going to be absorbed quickly, whether the sugar came from the fruit (like an apple juice) or is added (like a lemonade), because you're typically removing the parts of the fruit that slow digestion (the fiber) when you make juice. If you have some hypothetical glass of juice, process it to magically remove just the sugar, and then add that much sugar back in, no, it won't matter that the sugar is now considered "added" versus not.

Labeling of added sugars is just intended to help you identify foods that have extra added sugars; it does not help you identify if the natural occurring sugars in something are going to contribute to a rapid increase in blood sugar or not. Manufacturers can use different tricks to avoid their sugars being considered "added", such as blending apple juice with a more sour fruit (the apple juice is mostly there to add sugar, yet isn't considered "added sugar" because it isn't added as sugar, it's added as sugary juice).

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  • $\begingroup$ Sugar doesn't cause diabetes. However, being overweight is a risk factor for diabetes, and weight gain is caused by consuming to many calories. The biggest concern from added sugars should be consuming too many calories, since sugars are caloric, and manufacturers like to add a lot of sugar when they add sugar. If you're already diabetic, both added and natural sugars need to be regulated. $\endgroup$
    – Vaelus
    Sep 30, 2023 at 13:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Vaelus Ultimately diabetes is an insulin dysfunction; type 2 diabetes specifically is insulin insensitivity. Peaks in blood sugar result in peaks of insulin; not necessarily the same effect as total sugar in the diet. The cause and effect structure of weight gain and diabetes is not entirely clear. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 30, 2023 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ Excess weight is not known to cause insulin resistance, but it's know to be a risk factor. None of the reputable health information websites I've searched (government health agencies, diabetic association's, etc.) even list sugar consumption as a risk factor. I do not regularly read literature on the topic, however, and perhaps you do. Are you saying you're aware of recent literature on the topic strongly indicating the possibilty of a causal link between sugar intake (binging, I suppose) and insulin resistance? $\endgroup$
    – Vaelus
    Sep 30, 2023 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Vaelus Like I said in the answer, it's hard to identify causality because of difficulty in doing experimental research and co-occurrence of potential risk factors. doi.org/10.2337%2Fdc10-1079 is an example paper that purports a link with sugar specifically beyond weight. I would not call this idea recent. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 30, 2023 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ That particular study explicitly does not control for excess weight, and right in the conclusion, it says: "These data provide empirical evidence that intake of SSBs should be limited to reduce obesity-related risk of chronic metabolic diseases" (emphasis mine). To completely clear, I assert that government health agencies are competently communicating the best current scientifict concensus of risk factors for diabetes, and sugar intake independently from obesisty is not one of them. Therefore this answer would be improved by removing the focus on risk of diabetes. $\endgroup$
    – Vaelus
    Sep 30, 2023 at 15:05
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The label is so you know how much sugar has been added, and juice just has issues with the label in the US.

It is put on the label so you can see how much sugar the companies are adding, compared to how much it contains normally. Most people would not have any idea how much sugar, say bread or juice, contains naturally, so it is important to know how many empty calories companies are adding.

Your mindset is the very issue. A loaf of bread or bottle of juice may have more than a candybar's worth of sugar added just to make it easier to sell. So you are eating lots of candy without knowing it. A bottle of juice may have just as much sugar as soda or other drinks we think of as "sugary". This is an issue in the US, because the US has little regulation on adding sugar (due to a powerful lobby), so many things are loaded with extra sugar. Your body does not care whether the added sugar is in a candy or or bread, or juice. This is one reason the US consumes 5 times the recommended amount of sugar.

From the FDA and CDC

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting calories from added sugars to less than 10 percent of total calories per day. For example, if you consume a 2,000 calorie daily diet, that would be 200 calories or 50 grams of added sugars per day. Consuming too much added sugars can make it difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits. Added sugars are listed on the Nutrition Facts label so that you can make informed choices, based on your individual needs and preferences.

If both juices had the same amount of sugar one was likely lying, again US crap regulation. They can put "no added sugar" on the label while still adding lots of sugar in forms like extra concentrate or honey, or agave nectar. Other countries are a lot more strict about what counts as added sugar. Added sugar is not bound in fiber or other things that slow the absorption.

To be accurate, the causes of diabetes are still being deeply studied because the complete mechanisms are not known. But one thing we have good evidence for is rapid absorption of sugar likely contributes to diabetes. Added sugar is essentially always rapidly absorbed and thus is a contributor to insulin resistance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3836142/#:~:text=Diets%20with%20high%20glycemic%20index,risk%20of%20type%202%20diabetes.

There are other factors as well. Excess sugar is basically always turned directly into fat and for actual diabetics, added sugar is an even bigger deal, so knowing how much added sugar is present is important for making knowledgeable choices.

A final consideration: Much of the sugar in candy is made from vegetables (beats, corn, or cane), so just because it comes from something healthy does not make it healthy.

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    $\begingroup$ Your last sentence goes the other way too. Just because a sugar source is a fruit or vegetable (e.g. sugar cane) does not imply it is healthy to eat much of it! $\endgroup$
    – user21820
    Sep 30, 2023 at 6:54
  • $\begingroup$ @user21820 of course, as I said, the body does not care where the sugar comes from but how fast it makes it into the blood stream. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Sep 30, 2023 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ @John by that logic it seems that I could come up with a balanced diet that consisted of candy (or raw sugar) combined with various nutrients and fiber. Regarding excess sugar "always" being turned directly into fat I'm wondering if that is "always" true - have there been any studies done on people who eat an excess of calories (even considering activity) but never seem to gain weight to see if they may be eliminating some of the calories unprocessed? $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Oct 2, 2023 at 9:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael sure if you added the other macronutrients, and mixed it to get the benefit of the fiber, artificial compiled food sources similar to that exist. Also such people don't exist outside a few fatal cases, some people just burn more calories through higher basal metabolic rates. often through less efficient mitochondria. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5786199 and ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4535334 $\endgroup$
    – John
    Oct 2, 2023 at 22:33
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Natural sugars are mostly glucose, fructose, and saccarose. Added sugars can be anything, from glucose to a variety of syrups. There isn't much difference, although caramelized sugars (brown syrups) also contain longer carbohydrates, and if the caramelization process is not good, other complex molecules can form. Industrial sugars also contain extra additives, colorants, and stabilizers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anticaking_agent , https://infinitabiotech.com/blog/sugar-processing-chemicals , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_syrup , https://hummingbirdmarket.com/blogs/news/what-are-the-chemicals-in-white-sugar). In theory, all safe substances. In practice, only time will tell... The calories are the same.

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  • $\begingroup$ Can you please add some references for stabilizers in industrial sugar? The plain sugar you buy in the store is something like 99.9% saccharose. It is of biological origin, so not, there is not difference. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Sep 29, 2023 at 11:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Chris I have added a few links $\endgroup$
    – alec_djinn
    Sep 29, 2023 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ @alec_djinn: All those links seem to be about agents added to table sugar not to sugars added in industrial sugar production. $\endgroup$ Oct 1, 2023 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ @JackAidley, it is a general overview of sugar production. Not only table sugar, but in general powder sugar and syrups. $\endgroup$
    – alec_djinn
    Oct 2, 2023 at 7:54
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If you live in the E.U., a beverage labeled "juice" may not contain added sugar. If both beverages you compare are 100% juice from the same fruit, adding sugar to one would lead to it having a higher overall sugar content than the unaltered one. So let's assume that the drinks are from the same fruit, but the one with added sugar is diluted.

It is typical that the taste of diluted juices is improved with added sugars. The resulting overall sugar contents may add up to be the same as for the original juice, but obviously only half of the more desirable fruit components are present together with it.

Thus, the added sugar is not a bad thing in itself but rather an indicator for a bad thing: It indicates that the beverage contains less of the more desirable constituents; it is an inferior product.

That can be the case with many processed foods: Ketchup with more added sugar was made from inferior tomatoes, a ready-made meal with a lot of added sugar wouldn't have much flavor without it etc.

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The FDA explains the nutrition label requirements.

https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-facts-label/added-sugars-nutrition-facts-label

Total Sugars include sugars naturally present in many nutritious foods and beverages, such as sugar in milk and fruits as well as any added sugars that may be present in the product. There is no Daily Value* for total sugars because no recommendation has been made for the total amount to eat in a day.

Added sugars include sugars that are added during the processing of foods (such as sucrose or dextrose), foods packaged as sweeteners (such as table sugar), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices. They do not include naturally occurring sugars that are found in milk, fruits, and vegetables. The Daily Value for added sugars is 50 grams per day based on a 2,000 calorie daily diet.

For most Americans, the main sources of added sugars are sugar-sweetened beverages, baked goods, desserts, and sweets.

Notice the order of ingredients (high to low) in Ocean Spray's Cran-Apple juice:

  1. Water
  2. Sugar
  3. Cranberry juice
  4. Apple juice

You can assume that the 23 (out of 26 total) added sugars are literal sugar added to the juice to make it more palatable. The other 3 are cranberry and apple sugars.

enter image description here

Aside from the Vitamin C, there is no reason for this food item to exist. It is literally an excess sugar beverage.

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