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Is Sugar Bad for You?

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of sugar. But eating a lot of sugar can cause problems.

Why Is Too Much Bad?

The bacteria in your mouth love sugary foods. They turn sugar into acid that is strong enough to drill holes in your teeth, causing cavities.

Some sugary foods also tend to be high in calories and fat—but low in nutrients. If you fill up on sugar-rich foods, you’ll crowd out healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Too much sugary food can lead to weight gain and increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. 

What to Watch

Experts recommend eating sugary foods in moderation. You can begin by limiting major sources of added sugar. These include:

  • Non-diet soft drinks

  • Sports and energy drinks

  • Cookies, pies, and cakes

  • Candy

  • Fruit juice or fruit drinks with added sugar

The Nutrition Facts label on foods will only list the total sugar in a food. This includes both added sugars and natural sugars, such as those found in fruit.

There are many different types of added sugar. These include corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, syrup, molasses, invert sugar, and table sugar.

If a food or beverage has a lot of added sugar in it, you’ll see one of these names listed as the first or second ingredient. Or the ingredient list will include several of these sugars.

“Diet and Dental Health.” American Dental Association. www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/diet-and-dental-health. Accessed 2016.

“Dental cavities.” Medline Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, February 25, 2014. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001055.htm. Accessed 2016.

“Added sugars” United States Department of Agriculture. January 7, 2016. www.choosemyplate.gov/added-sugars. Accessed 2016.

“Eating Healthier and Feeling Better Using the Nutrition Facts Label.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, August 2006. www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/UCM275412.pdf. Accessed 2013.

"Diabetes Myths." American Diabetes Association. www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/myths/. Accessed 2016.

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