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The not so sweet truth about the impact of sugar on employee health

By Amanda Clark, Product Manager

The average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day—in other words, nearly 330 calories with no nutritional value. This is substantially higher than the American Heart Association’s recommended daily consumption of added sugar: no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories) of added sugar a day for women; no more than 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men.

What does this mean during the hot summer months when we are more likely to turn to lemonade and sweet tea during the backyard BBQs and picnics at the beach? It means employees likely need some tips to help them navigate the summer’s sugary temptations.

The not so sweet truth about sugar
The Food and Drug Administration is proposing changes to food labels that would include added sugars and, for the first time, provide consumers with information similar to what they currently see for nutrients such as sodium. The label changes would be based on a daily limit on added sugar—of no more than 10 percent of daily calories. Sugar makes up about 13.5 percent of Americans’ daily caloric intake; therein lies the sweet spot, especially considering an employee selecting one sugary drink (one 12-ounce soft drink has about 9 teaspoons of sugar) is near the daily limit with that one choice alone.

Added sugar, added risk
Not all sugars are created equal. Natural sugars are those found in fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products, while added sugars are sugars or syrups added to prepared or processed foods and beverages. Foods with added sugars typically have fewer nutrients than foods with natural sugars—and added sugars are associated with added risks.

A recent study linked too much added sugar to an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The study found that individuals who consumed 21 percent or more of their calories from added sugar more than doubled their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Additionally, added sugars have long been cited for contributing to other risks, including:
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Inflammation
  • Obesity
Help employees manage sugar
There are several ways to help employees manage sugar, including our easy-to-implement Mind Your Health (MYH) educational seminar, Sugar Savvy—Get the Scoop. This one-hour seminar teaches employees:
  • What sugar is and its effect on health
  • Sugar myths vs. facts
  • Tips for choosing foods and beverages with less sugar
  • The pros and cons of sugar substitutes 
Our dedicated on-site staff also conduct 10- to 15-minute What’s What meet-ups on a variety of health and wellbeing topics—including the topic of Sugar. Employees will get the facts on sugar, reasons for cutting back and helpful tips.

The benefits of health coaching
In addition to educational resources, consider offering health coaching to your employees. We have found that among our clients, health coaching boosts employee health and wellbeing. In fact, health coaching participants are 6 percent more likely than those who only took a health assessment to improve their sugary drink risk scores.
Learn more
Please contact us to learn more our educational resources and to partner with HealthFitness to inspire and engage employees in their health and wellbeing.
About the author: 

Amanda Clark is a registered dietitian and a certified health education specialist, and is a product manager with HealthFitness. She brings more than 10 years of industry experience, and previously focused on coaching participants toward their goals for weight management and overall health, including those with diabetes. She has a Master of Arts in health studies/health promotion.


Posted on July 16, 2017