The hidden sugar in food

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One of the questions which is regularly posed in our group meetings is whether sugar plays a part in our clinical picture. Affected persons then ask if they contracted cancer or diabetes because they ate too much cake, sweets or merely sugar.

We don’t always have an answer to that, but we have established that it is an important topic, which doesn’t only have to do with our illness, but has to do with people of all ages.

That was the reason for us to devote ourselves to this topic and write about it. We know from the media, medical reports etc. that far too much sugar is consumed nowadays and that we do not even know what sugar is in all of our products. (hidden sugar).

We can see and feel the effects today, e.g. excess weight, increase in diabetes and other illnesses. Whether sugar constitutes a high risk for the onset of cancer, has not yet been clearly proven.

The World Health Organization recommends that adults consume 5% – 10% of their daily calories in the form of sugar – at the most. In the stricter interpretation that’s 25 grams per day or 6 teaspoons or 8 cubes (of each 3 grams).

But be honest, do you make sure that you save sugar in your daily life, by drinking coffee or tea without sugar, or eating less chocolate, sweets or cake or doing without soft drinks? Unfortunately there’s also lots of sugar in other foods, which taste sour or savoury and you eat without considering the sugar they contain.

Sugar is often used in the industry of today instead of high-quality ingredients. That’s not only cheap, but provides flavour and fullness and entices us to eat more than our bodies need. Sugar is addictive and cravings can develop.

Consumer associations have established that sugar is contained in many foods in which we would never expect it to be. For instance, in powdered gravy (500g packet) there’s approximately 19 cubes of sugar and in a raspberry yoghurt there are 10.

We also know that barbecue sauces, tomato sauce, salad dressings and several ready-made seasonings contain a lot of sugar. We can avoid this sugar if we stop using ready-made products, or reduce our use of them. It’s often difficult for consumers to detect how much sugar is really in a certain product. For that we have to check the list of ingredients and the nutrition details.

All the ingredients of a certain food product are listed in the list of ingredients. The nearer an ingredient is at the top of the list of ingredients, the more it contains. However, only conventional household sugar needs to be listed in the nutrition table. But there are some other sweeteners in the list of ingredients. These are known as dextrose, glucose, glucose syrup, grape sweetener, apple sweetener or barley malt extract.

In total there are over 70 different names and substances. That’s why they are not recognisable for many consumers as sugar.

The nutrition table indicates how much fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugar, protein and salt the food contains per 100g or 100ml. However, only simple sugar (monosaccharides) and disaccharides need to be shown in this table. Simple sugars include, for example, glucose, fructose or galactose. Disaccharides include milk sugar (lactose), malt sugar (maltose) and cane or beet sugar (sucrose), the so-called household sugar.

Some products from different manufacturers advertise that they contain less sugar or no added sugar. However, this does not mean that they do not contain sugar. In most cases, fruit juice concentrates or concentrates are added which are not considered to be the usual added sugar, but nevertheless lead to a high sugar content.

It’s not the amount of food we eat, so much as the type – the wrong foods can cause obesity and chronic diseases. Therefore our motto should be to cook using fresh ingredients if possible and to use sugar sparingly. Replace the sweet TV snack with a vegetable stick, that saves sugar.

If we eat a lot of food with hidden sugar, it also means that we consume more calories than we actually need and we constantly gain weight.

We don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of sweet things with our report, we merely want to explain what to look out for in daily life.

Eating and drinking is part of what makes life enjoyable: and we should try to nourish ourselves healthily in order to retain that quality of life. That means that we can eat everything, in moderation.

Especially people with pancreatic cancer should eat a high-calorie diet with a lot of fat, and sugar is a part of that.

Therefore we want to make it clear that we are not damming sugar, we are trying to encourage you to create a varied menu for yourself.

Too much of anything could be bad for you.

Mechthild Maiß / Katharina Stang


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