The vision of the 1922 founders of the American Sugar Cane League was to seek out the best scientific research available.
They forged a partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture and Louisiana State University. Louisiana’s sugarcane industry found new vigor after the establishment of this “three-way agreement.” Because of this scientific cooperation we’ve managed to increase raw sugar production many times over since the birth of the League.
Louisiana’s sugarcane growers and millers are also part of the Sugar Association. The organization is the scientific voice of the U.S. sugar industry, and its goal is to enhance consumer understanding and confidence in the role that sugar plays in a nutritious, balanced and enjoyable diet.
by Jim Simon
American Sugar Cane League
Why is it necessary to have a “scientific voice for sugar?” American society changed rapidly after World War II and so did the way food is delivered from the farm to the table. Modern food production companies grew larger to serve the growing affluent American population. The population “grew” in more ways than one: our caloric intake went up and our physical activity went down. Obesity became a problem. It became trendy to blame one food ingredient, sugar, for our weight gain.
In 1970, people were consuming 2,054 calories each day., but we increased our calorie count 20% by the time 2010 rolled around. But added sugars didn’t make up a very big percentage of the increased intake. Over that same period, added sugars consumption increased by 34.5 kcals/day, a 10% increase, but calories from added fats and oils increased by 229 kcals/day, a 66% increase, and calories from grains have increased 42%.
Sugar.org, the Sugar Association’s website, provides the scientific data the consumer needs to make informed decisions about diet. Sugar is a natural ingredient made from plants: sugarcane and sugar beets. In Louisiana, we squeeze the juice out of a cane stalk and boil it until it crystallizes into sugar. Sugar is sweet and it tastes good, and it makes many foods taste great. But sugar also does a lot more than sweetening our food. Have you been surprised to find it in foods that don’t necessarily taste sweet? There’s a reason. Sugar has many functions ranging from balancing acidity or adding bulk to preventing spoilage. It’s been used in recipes for generations, often for reasons that have little to do with its sweet flavor.
There is no substitute for sugar. With all these valuable functions, sugar can’t simply be replaced by another single ingredient. Its versatility is unmatched—and that’s just one of the reasons why we love sugar.
Now, how do we enjoy our food and the great taste of sugar without feeling guilty? The Sugar Association’s message is simple: keep it balanced. A balanced diet is a healthy diet.
Balance, by definition, means “not extreme” and is an important component to a healthy lifestyle. Taking a balanced approach to eating and physical activity, making room for indulgences and avoiding anything in excess, are keys to a healthy lifestyle. The Sugar Association supports the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and shares the goal of moving us toward healthier dietary patterns.
Sugar has a place in a balanced diet by adding flavor and functions that help people enjoy a wide variety of foods. Because of this, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations allow for up to 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of added sugars per day as part of a healthy dietary pattern.
You may see the “Life is sweet, keep it balanced” social media campaign on the Leagues’ social media outlet www.Facebook.com/LouisianaSugarcane. The messaging was created under the leadership of Dr. Courtney Gaine, the CEO and president of the Sugar Association. Dr. Gaine began her career in academia as an assistant professor at East Carolina University. A native Washingtonian, Dr. Gaine obtained her Ph.D. in nutritional sciences and biochemistry and bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Connecticut, where she was also a co-captain of the UConn women’s basketball team. She knows her food science.
Scientists are continuously researching the health effects of food choices. It’s crucial to consider the level of evidence each study provides when documenting the relationship between food choices and the development of certain disease states, says Dr. Gaine. Separating the contributions of specific foods from related dietary and lifestyle factors is difficult. It’s a constant challenge for researchers. The majority of research suggesting an adverse effect of sugar consumption has involved excessive caloric intake and high intakes of added sugars.
The Sugar Association will continue monitoring the results of nutritional science research, but it will also keep an eye on the many outrageous claims the latest “food guru of the month” float about sugar. In the meantime, the science is simple: when practicing moderation and portion control, there’s room to include an appropriate amount of sugar in a healthful lifestyle.