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Sugar consumption not so sweet for health

Ohio State students might want to take a closer look at the food they consume on campus, as reports of sugar being a toxin have recently been debated.

A YouTube video called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” has generated more than 2.4 million views, which highlights concerns from Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatrics professor at University of California-San Francisco. The video discusses Americans’ abundant sugar consumption, and Lustig said excess sugar has many harmful affects.

Reports show that Americans consume about 130 pounds of added sugars per person, per year, which comes out to about 59,000 grams of sugar.

People have a natural affinity for sweeter foods, and over-consumption can begin at a young age and stay with someone throughout his or her entire life.

Julie Kennel, program director for the OSU’s Department of Human Nutrition, said the threat of sugar overconsumption leads to health complications from obesity, but said she does not think it is necessarily “toxic.”

“One of the major issues with obesity is its link to Type 2 diabetes,” Kennel said. “It can then lead to further complications like kidney disease, amputations and blindness. Eventually it will lead to increased risk of heart disease and cancer.”

Christine Kaiser, a first-year in communication, said she knows the threats of diabetes all to well because it runs in her family. She said she tries to make healthier choices when visiting her lunch spot at Union Market.

“Diabetes runs in my family, I personally don’t have it, but some of my relatives do,” Kaiser said. She said she tries to limit the sweets she consumes.

Healthy sugars from natural sources like fructose in fruits and lactose in milk are the sugars that people should be consuming, and not the refined sugars like sucrose that is in table sugar.

Kennel said she is reluctant to call sugar toxic, but recognizes that excess amounts lead to health problems. She said most Americans are probably not aware of how much sugar they consume and thinks nutritional labels for restaurants, especially on campus, might be beneficial.

“We have some evidence that providing nutritional information at the point of purchase is beneficial in terms of people making healthier choices,” Kennel said. “I know that you can look it up on an app, but that does involve some forethought.”

She recommends that people consume no more than 5 to 15 percent of their total calories from added sugars and solid fats. Reports show that people have 35 percent of their calories from these sources, which needs to be cut down by more than half to reach Kennel’s dietary guidelines.

Sarah Hetterscheidt, a first-year in food science, said students need a good balance between diet and exercise to stay healthy.

“(Students should) try to eat one less sweet than you normally would in a day and drink less soda,” Hetterscheidt said.

Kennel said she wants to work with OSU dining services to facilitate an overall healthier campus.

“I think there is still room on this campus to improve the offerings (of healthier food choices),” Kennel said. “Our department works with dining services and is continuing to kind of bridge that relationship to continue to offer ways in which that can be done or supported.”

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