‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gimme Some (Added) Sugar

Thanks for returning to Pie Hole! I'm back from "maternity leave" and will continue posting articles every month rather than every two weeks. This blog is like my baby and I want to ensure the ongoing quality of work, research, and love that goes into each article, as well as devote time to my actual beautiful new baby girl!

Following on from the insane excitement that was the release of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans comes the new-look nutrition facts panel (NFP), coming to food packaging near you. The new NFPs boast several changes, which Pie Hole groupies will recall from the article "Label Warfare", back in 2015 when the proposed changes were announced. Let's zero-in on one particularly provocative permutation: Added sugars.
Every American not living in a cave knows we're eating too much sugar. The new Dietary Guidelines oh-so boldly and balls-ily broadcast a new guideline relating to sugar: Out of one's total daily calorie 'bank', <10% of calories should come from added sugars. Pie Hole enthusiasts will recall that from the earlier article "Dietary Guidelines: Better Late than Never".
Figure 1: FDA new proposed food label
So it seems like a great idea to add an "added sugars" item to the new NFP... Right? Well, not really, and here's why: A new study found that people who read food labels actually misinterpreted the meaning of the new "added sugars" line... Because that's what people need, a more complex food label.
Added Sugars on the label
Take a look at the new food label (figure 1). Locate the "added sugars" line (highlighted in yellow). Now, that line is indented under "total carbs", meaning that this product has 37g of carbs per serve and of that 37g, 12g are sugars (see "total sugars") and 10g of those 12g are added sugars.

Study findings 
Study participants, and I suspect many other shoppers, misinterpreted the "added sugar" line as needing to be added to the total carbs number. Who can blame them? The rules of addition are that the "total" goes at the bottom, not the top.

How to correctly interpret "added sugars"
"Added sugars" are a component of the total carbs (just like fiber and total sugars.) In other words, this product has 37g of carbs total, and of that 37g:
- 4g are fiber
- 12g are sugars
- Of the 12g that are sugar, 10g (that's 10g out of 12g) are added to this product

The bottom line (Get it? Because "added sugar" is the bottom line under carbs... You love it!)
  • It's not complicated, you don't need to do addition when reading the label (yay)
  • For the most part, avoid products with a lot of sugar and added sugar (just like trans fat)

The good news is the aforementioned study found 78% of participants reported actually reading the NFP when buying or eating food. With a little help (like this fabulous article, for example), everyone can easily and accurately decode the new label.
Additional resources: