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The Problem

The Problem : Added sugar

We all eat too much sugar!

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Well if you had 2 slices of whole meal bread, a low-fat yogurt and a cranberry juice, you probably got a lot more than you might think! According to the USDA database for the Added Sugars Content of Selected Foods, this very reasonable breakfast may bring you about 22 pounds of added sugars, if you eat it every day for a whole year. It is thus not surprising to learn that a typical diet brings over 130 pounds of added sugar every year!

Of course, getting a fair amount of sugars every day is essential to maintain proper body functions. But just how much sugar do we need? The American Heart Association recommends that we limit our intake of added sugar to about 22 pounds per year. In light of the breakfast example, we may all be well over this healthy recommendation.

Most sugars are composed from glucose, fructose or galactose, either alone (monosaccharides) or linked together in small (sucrose, lactose, maltose) or longer chains (maltodextrins, starches). Since only monosaccharides can be absorbed by our intestines, most of the sugars that we eat need to be digested before getting in our bloodstream. Digestion is a two-step process involving the enzymes α-amylase and α-glucosidases. After ingestion, large sugars are broken down into smaller oligosaccharides by α-amylase. Then, α-glucosidases convert those oligosaccharides, sucrose, maltose or lactose into monosaccharides that can finally be absorbed.