These days, sugar is pretty much everywhere in the American diet. A new initiative from the University of California, San Francisco spells out the health dangers of this glut of sugar in clear terms.
For the project, called SugarScience, a team of researchers distilled 8,000 studies and research papers and found strong evidence that overconsumption of added sugar contributes to three major chronic illnesses: heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and liver disease.
Here are some key facts from the SugarScience website.
Added sugar is hiding in 74 percent of packaged foods. (Proposed changes to the nutrition label would change this by including a separate line for added sugars.)
#Fructose, a common type of sugar, can damage your liver more than other kinds of sugar — just like too much alcohol can.
One 12-ounce can of soda a day can increase your risk of dying of heart disease by one-third.
The site also includes tips on concrete steps that people can take to cut down on sugar. The most straightforward way is to stop drinking sugar-sweetened drinks, like sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks, the researchers say. More than one-third of added sugar in the diet comes from sugary drinks.
Dean Schillinger, a professor of medicine at UCSF and a primary care doctor at San Francisco General Hospital, is also part of the SugarScience team. He first came to San Francisco in 1990 at the peak of the AIDS epidemic. “At that point, 1 out of every 2 patients we admitted was a young man dying of AIDS,” he says. At that time, there were no treatments, little any doctor could do.
Today, he says, there are good treatments, and it’s rare to admit someone to the hospital dying of AIDS.
Instead, Schillinger says, that same ward, Ward 5A, where young men died of AIDS is now filled with diabetes patients.