By Kim Farmer

There is so much confusion surrounding the myriad of diets that are available to us that it is no surprise that the health effects of various types of sugar is also perplexing. Does eating too much sugar cause diabetes?  Is it always better to eat sugar from natural foods? Read the following points to clear up the sugar confusion.

  • Overconsumption of sugar is not the direct cause of type II diabetes. The main cause of diabetes is overweight and/or obesity and an over assumption of any food causes that including sugar. However, according to a JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) study, the prevalence of diabetes increases by 1 percent for every additional 150 calories of added sugar which indicates that there may be a more direct impact but it is not the primary cause. Bottom line: Eating excess calories including sugar increases your chances of weight gain which could lead to a higher chance of contracting type II diabetes.
  • Hidden sugar counts toward your caloric intake even though it is hiding! Surprisingly, sugar can be found in packaged oatmeal, peanut butter and many beverages, and to make it more confusing, food labels aren’t always clear. Many packaged foods contain both naturally occurring and added sugars. Nutrition labels currently combine both types of sugar although the FDA may eventually require food manufacturers to split the two so we will know how much of each type we are getting.  But unless or until that happens, it is up to us to be label detectives and figure it out on our own. A good rule of thumb is to look at the label and find the amount of sugar grams and the names of any type of sweetener. If you see anything listed such as cane juice, corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, and malt syrup then that is an added sugar. If the ingredient is at the top of the list then there is more of it than the other ingredients listed. Bottom line:  Become a food label detective and avoid foods with added sugar.
  • Some types of sugar are better than others. The type of sugar that is found in fruits, vegetables and dairy products is naturally occurring sugar meaning that it is not manufactured. These types of foods are healthier for you because of the abundance of nutrients naturally found in them, especially the fiber. Natural fruit juices contain a lot of sugar and even though it is naturally occurring, the high amounts of it are enough to take note of. For example, an 8 ounce serving of apple juice contains 26 grams of sugar and the same size serving of orange juice contains 24 grams. By comparison a 16 ounce bottle of coke contains 39 grams of sugar. The extra sugar intake from any beverage should be added to the sugar that you’ve already consumed through the foods that you typically eat, potentially contributing to overconsumption. Bottom line:  Eating whole foods like fruits and vegetables also contain sugar but eating these types of food is healthier for you since they contain other vitamins and minerals that contribute to heart health. 
  • The average American consumes and overabundance of sugar. More specifically, there are 4 grams of sugar in one teaspoon and one teaspoon of sugar contains about 16 calories. Most of us consume about 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day and most of this added sugar comes in the form of processed and prepared foods and sugary drinks. The American Heart Association suggests an added sugar limit of no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons) for most women and no more than 150 calories per day for men (about 9 teaspoons).

We can take control of the amount of added sugar that we eat by simply reading the labels on our food and making better choices. Focus on eating whole foods like fruits and vegetables which do contain sugar but it is naturally occurring and comes with a myriad of other benefits that are good for your body.

Editor’s note: Kim Farmer of Mile High Fitness. Mile High Fitness offers in-home personal training and corporate fitness solutions. For more information, visit or email