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Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
A Starbucks barista prepares a drink at a Starbucks Coffee Shop location in New York. Ramin Talaie / Corbis via Getty Images

By Cathy Cassata

Are you getting your fill of Starbucks' new Almondmilk Honey Flat White, Oatmilk Honey Latte, and Coconutmilk Latte, but wondering just how healthy they are?

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One of the easiest and most sustainable ways to improve overall health is to eat more whole foods. ThitareeSarmkasat / iStock/ Getty Images Plus

By Jillian Kubala

A new year often signifies a fresh start for many people. For some, this means setting health goals, such as losing weight, following a healthier diet, and starting an exercise routine.

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Obesity poses a number of issues for public health. SIphotography / iStock / Getty Images Plus

One of America's already widespread health issues is projected to worsen over the next decade, as new research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that almost half the adult population in the U.S. will be obese by 2030.

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According to a new study, sugary drinks make up 34 percent of the added sugars in the American diet. Marlith / CC BY-SA 3.0

Sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks may taste great, but research has increasingly linked them with obesity and potentially fatal health issues. Now, for the first time, a new study has shown the surprising health benefits of banning the sale of these sugary drinks in the workplace.

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Some fruit drinks may appear to be healthier, but many can have high levels of added sugars. d3sign / Moment / Getty Images

By Kristen Fischer

Though the science has shown sugary drinks are not healthy for children, fruit drinks and similar beverages accounted for more than half of all children's drink sales in 2018, according to a new report.

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Some coffee drinks contain more sugar than a quarter-cup of Skittles. homedust.com / CC BY 2.0

By Ginger Vieira

Reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes may be as simple as changing what's in your glass.

Recent research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reports that people who drink increasing quantities of sugary beverages (including soda and 100 percent fruit juice) face a "moderately" higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

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By Dawn Undurraga, Nutritionist and Nicole Ferox, Manager Foundations Relations and Sydney Swanson, Associate Database Analyst

Parents are trapped in the Halloween guilt vortex: going full-scale green mom, handing out whole walnuts or pennies or dental floss to avoid loading kids with sugar and additives but thereby making their kids cringe and giving them stories to stockpile about their ridiculous hippie childhood.

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By Katie O'Reilly

Just two months after a tax of $0.015 per ounce of soda, energy drinks and other sugary beverages went into effect in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphians were already reaching for the sweet stuff significantly less often than their counterparts in nearby cities. A study published Thursday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows a 40 percent decrease in Philadelphians' consumption of soda, and a 60 percent drop in that of energy drinks.

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By Genna Reed

It might not shock you to know that the sugar industry doesn't have our best interests in mind. But would you be alarmed to find out that they consciously manipulated science in order to increase sugar consumption? And that they did so in the face of scientific evidence that sugar consumption was associated with chronic disease?

Next year will mark 50 years since the sugar industry initiated and funded a literature review absolving sugar of its association with chronic heart disease, without disclosing the industry's role in the study.

What we now know as the Sugar Association began as the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) in 1943. Researchers Cristin Kearns, Laura Schmidt and Stanton Glantz of the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) combed through hundreds of SRF documents and found evidence that the sugar industry had manipulated the science to exonerate sugar as a dominant cause of heart disease—an action that shifted the direction of scientific research for decades.

One particularly jarring quote they found was from the president Henry Hass's 1954 speech to the American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists in which he said, "if the carbohydrate industries were to recapture this 20 percent of the calories in the US diet (the difference between the 40 percent which fat has and the 20 percent which it ought to have) and if sugar maintained its present share of the carbohydrate market, this change would mean an increase in the per capita consumption of sugar more than a third with a tremendous improvement in general health."

The sugar industry was interested in increasing sugar consumption by funding science that would urge Americans to decrease calories from saturated fats and hopefully replace them with sugar.

The UCSF analysis reveals that SRF employed the following tactics the Union of Concerned Scientists previously identified in Added Sugar, Subtracted Science in order to undermine public health policy on sugar. Our work shows that SRF's successor the Sugar Association and its counterpart in the corn syrup industry, the Corn Refiners Association, took pointers from SRF:

Attacking the Science

Just as the Corn Refiners Association planned to "bury the data" when it was inconvenient, when the sugar industry got word that researchers like John Yudkin at Queen Elizabeth College were challenging the maxim that sugar calories were more desirable than fat calories, the SRF's vice president and director of research called on the organization in 1964 to "embark on a major program" to counter the science coming from Yudkin and others representing "negative attitudes toward sugar."

This program would include issuing a public opinion poll to find out what messages would resonate with consumers and decision makers, opening up a venue to publicly call out scientists for their undesirable results regarding sugar, and finally, pushing out studies funded by the sugar industry that look at the causes of chronic heart disease.

Spreading Misinformation

Similar to the sugar industry's recent misinforming in order to fight labeling policies, as a part of its campaign to increase sugar consumption in the 1960s, it began to fund its own literature review on sugars, fats, and chronic heart disease in an obvious attempt to dispel the rumors that calories from sugar were at least part of the problem. The SRF paid Dr. Mark Hegsted and Dr. Robert McGandy, under the supervision of Harvard University's Fredrick Stare, a total of nearly $50,000 (in 2015 dollars) for their work. And the SRF was heavily involved throughout the review process, urging the scientists to focus on the perils of fat consumption.

The SRF vice president and director of research, John Hickson, emphasized in 1965, "Our particular interest had to do with that part of nutrition in which there are claims that carbohydrates in the form of sucrose make an inordinate contribution to the metabolic condition, hitherto ascribed to aberrations called fat metabolism. I will be disappointed if this aspect is drowned out in a cascade of review and general interpretation."

The study authors discounted research showing sugar's impact on chronic heart disease in a number of ways, focusing especially on possible bias within individual studies instead of looking at the consensus across studies. The conclusion of the literature review was that there was "no doubt" that the one way to prevent chronic heart disease was through a reduction of dietary cholesterol and replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats. And the SRF was content with these findings, telling the lead authors, "this is quite what we had in mind."

Deploying Industry Scientists/Influencing Academia

Just as the Sugar Association and Corn Refiners Association today work with academic scientists to advance their talking points, when the literature review was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, the authors did not disclose the funding or close involvement of the SRF in the review. Dr. Fredrick Stare, the founder and chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, had an extended history of funding from the sugar and food industry: over 30 papers authored by members of his department were funded by the SRF just between 1952 and 1956. Stare's department at Harvard is a key example of how industry funding can influence academic science, with dangerous consequences for public discourse and public policy.

Undermining Policy

The manipulation of science doesn't happen in a vacuum. Often, it serves to change the conversation and impact policy, as well. Similar to today's efforts by the sugar industry to undermine public health policies, in 1986, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Sugars Task Force assessed the scientific evidence around sugar, leaning heavily upon the industry's 1976 review, titled "Sugar in the Diet of Man." The FDA report said that "no conclusive evidence on sugars demonstrates a hazard to the general public when sugars are consumed at the levels that are now current." The agency's study was influenced by industry sponsorship, as the chair of the study later went on to work at the Corn Refiners Association, a trade group that represents the interests of high-fructose corn syrup manufacturers.

This agency study, which had clear influence form the sugar and food industry, has been responsible for the determination of GRAS status for several added sugars, and has largely set the precedent for the resulting years of denial about the health impacts of sugar-laden diets.

The Sugar Industry's Role in Today's Chronic Disease Epidemic

It is no wonder that even today, our food policies are only just beginning to adequately address the association between added sugars and chronic disease. The sugar industry has magnificently managed to delay the inevitable knowledge about the dangers of excessive sugar consumption for a half century. And they are still employing this same behavior. Just last month, the American Heart Association released added sugar consumption guidelines for children, recommending that children under two consume no added sugars and that all other children consume less than 10 percent of calories from sugars, because "there is minimal room for nutrient-free calories in the habitual diets of very young children." The Sugar Association responded by accusing the American Heart Association of a lack of scientific integrity.

Luckily the tide is beginning to turn in spite of the industry's best efforts. FDA's label will soon include added sugars information on food packages. More and more local resolutions are popping up to place taxes on sugary beverages. School meal policies are adding variety and improving the nutritional quality of kids' diets. And exposés like this one are revealing the truth about how the food industry has manipulated science to influence our diets for the worse.

Still, the aforementioned research points to some interesting scientific integrity issues that remain today, including the rigor of conflict-of-interest policies at scientific journals and the ethical questions involved with the ability of decision makers to use industry-funded research to shape policies. My colleague, Gretchen Goldman, explains more about how we should be dealing with conflicts of interest in science funding here. We need greater transparency around the sugar industry's role in scientific studies, including funding but also identification of the nature of the relationship between the industry and the science. Independent science should inform policies that protect public health from the adverse impacts of added sugar.

Genna Reed is a science and policy analyst in the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

By Michelle Schoffro Cook

The neon-colored Gatorade loved by many sports enthusiasts will soon be available as an organic option. PepsiCo Incorporated announced that it will soon launch its new organic Gatorade throughout the U.S. The company's strawberry, mixed berry and lemon beverages have already been tested for consumer interest in some Kroger Co. supermarkets.

Gatorade

But how healthy will it be? Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic certification, the beverage will definitely be a step up from its additive-laden counterpart, but it still won't be a healthy beverage option for anyone looking to fuel up after a workout … or for anyone else for that matter.

Gatorade has long been criticized by nutrition experts because of its less-than-healthy ingredients, which in a traditional bottle of the beverage include:

"Water, Sugar, Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Monopotassium Phosphate, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium and Color"

The organic Gatorade ingredients include:

"Water, Organic Cane Sugar, Citric Acid, Organic Natural Flavor, Sea Salt, Sodium Citrate and Potassium Chloride"

The move away from sucralose, which goes by the brand name of Splenda, is definitely an improvement as sucralose has been linked to many serious health concerns, ranging from anxiety and allergies to headaches and weight gain. Sucralose is a chlorinated artificially-created sweetener, despite what the manufacturer may claim. So, PepsiCo Inc. gets one star for removing this undesirable ingredient.

The company also gets another star for eliminating colors which have been linked to many diseases and for the move from "Natural Flavors" to "Organic Natural Flavors" since the latter is much more restrictive. Both of these ingredients can include many less-than-desirable components, such as dried beaver's sac, sheepskin excretions or insect excretions, but the term "organic natural flavors" at least minimizes possible unwanted ingredients like solvents and pesticide residues.

And, while Monopotassium Phosphate and Acesulfame Potassium may sound like harmless minerals—they are not. While the study results have been controversial, the latter substance has a dubious reputation as being linked to cancer. So PepsiCo gets another star for making the switch to potassium chloride.

But, organic Gatorade falls short when it comes to the amount of sugar found in each bottle. That's because every 16.9-ounce bottle contains a whopping 29 grams of sugar. No health expert or nutritionist could claim that this constitutes a safe amount of sugar because it is excessive, particularly for any beverage company that claims it is a healthy post-workout option for rehydration.

Out of a possible 5-star rating, I couldn't give organic Gatorade more than 3 stars due to its high amount of sugar. While there are definitely some improvements to the product over its predecessor, it's still not a healthy option and is best avoided.

By Beth Buczynski

A very good friend recently confessed to me that sometimes her subconscious sugar cravings are so powerful, she gets out of bed in the middle of the night to eat sweets.

This is what sugar—dubbed "sweet poison" by NY Daily News—does to us. We've become a generation of zombies that seek sugar at any cost, even if it means interrupted sleep, expanding waistlines and poor emotional health. The worst part is, we don't even realize it's happening.

Cookies and candy get a lot of criticism, but at least these sugary foods are honest about what they contain. The real danger lies in foods that hide their sugary nature behind fancy monikers and mile-long ingredient lists.

These hidden sugars make it possible for the average American to consume 152 pounds of sugar each year, despite filling their grocery carts with savory staples and so-called health foods. Once ingested, sugar affects the brain almost exactly like another powdery white substance we know and fear—cocaine—triggering an intense addiction that compels us to seek more.

The first step to getting off the sugar addiction roller coaster is exposing hidden sugar. There are literally thousands of foods that conceal this sweet poison behind savory labels, but these 10 are the worst and most surprising.

Condiments

Yogurt

Pasta Sauce

Dried Fruit

Granola Bars

Bread

Boxed Cereal

Peanut Butter

Deli Meat

Tomato Soup


Note: this list refers to the conventional and store brands many of us buy. Different rules apply to organic, artisan and homemade varieties.

A Sweetener by Any Other Name

The morals of this story are: Always read the label and avoid processed foods at all cost. However, even if you do these things, sugar can still sneak in. That's because it's not always called sugar.

Check out this helpful post to learn how to spot other names for sugar on food labels.

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.

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