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Diet Quality Is Not Affected by Added Sugars

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We've all been there. Somewhere along the line we've come to believe that added sugars in the food we consume have a great deal to do with how good or bad our diets are.

Not so, according to a study published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition," which said that added sugars are relatively unimportant when it comes to overall diet quality.

"Our study shows that focusing on added sugars to improve diet quality is impractical. It's like trying to bail water out of your bathtub with a teaspoon," said Maureen Storey, Ph.D., associate director at the Georgetown Center for Food and Nutrition Policy and co-author of the study. "Emphasizing added sugars just won't make a big difference and won't get the job done for improving diet quality.

The government defines added sugars as those that are added during the processing or preparation of foods, but not the naturally occurring sugars in fruits and milk.

In reality, this distinction is meaningless to the body, according to the study, because added and naturally occurring sugars are the same chemically. The results show that added sugars have little or no association with the diet quality of all individuals over two years of age, children or adolescents.

Moreover, said the study, the weak association between added sugars and important food groups, vitamins and minerals demonstrate that very large, unrealistic changes in people's behavior would be needed to have any practical effect or be of clinical significance.

The study also demonstrated that the importance of examining the entire diet of an individual, rather than a single ingredient like added sugars. An individual's diet quality is affected by all of their food choices, not simply by one or two foods or ingredients of foods.

For more information about the study, contact Maureen Storey of the Washington, D.C.-based Georgetown Center for Food and Nutrition Policy at (202) 965-6400.

Lyn Wagner

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