Imagine your favorite candy. Say, a box of Nerds or a Kit Kat or a Butterfinger or that 100 Grand Bar (often heard about, but never seen). Now, would it still be your favorite if it had half the sugar?
Nestlé hopes so, because the food and drink company will be cranking out the above candy and confectionary products with 40% less sugar beginning in 2018 (the same year nutrition labels on packaged foods will be required to list total sugars and added sugars).
Before you mean-tweet @Nestle, know that its scientists say your treat will taste just as sweet.
“Using only natural ingredients, researchers have found a way to structure sugar differently,” Nestlé said in a statement. “So even when much less is used in chocolate, your tongue perceives an almost identical sweetness to before. The discovery will enable Nestlé to significantly decrease the total sugar in its confectionery products, while maintaining a very natural taste.”
So that’s great for your tastebuds and your snack buds. It’s also pretty good news for your gut, given sugar is a leading cause of obesity, and health overall. A longitudinal study published in the American Medical Association’s journal of internal medicine found that sugar will kill you.
“Over the course of the 15-year study on added sugar and heart disease, participants who took in 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets included less than 10% added sugar,” says Julie Corliss, summarizing the study in the Harvard Heart Letter.
One in 10 Americans gets more than a quarter of their daily calories from added sugar, so that’s particularly troubling.
“Overall, the odds of dying from heart disease rose in tandem with the percentage of sugar in the diet—and that was true regardless of a person’s age, sex, physical activity level, and body-mass index (a measure of weight).”
Added, refined sugar is everywhere, from yogurt to marinara sauce and of course soda, which pushes the average American to eat 126 grams of sugar per day, as Fast Company’s Michael Grothaus reported last year. That’s well above the daily recommended limits suggested by both the American Heart Association (37 grams for men and 20 for women) and the World Health Organization (25 grams).
A mini box of Nerds has 14 grams of sugar. A single Kit Kat bar has 20. So, it’s pretty clear to see why Nestlé’s 2018 move to cut sugar matters. Other food and drink companies really ought to follow their lead. A strawberry frosted donut from Dunkin (my fave) has 14 grams of sugar. A bottle of so-called Mexican Coke has 39. The very basic Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks has 49.
(It’s worth noting that using less sugar could also deliver “colossal savings” for food and beverage companies, too.)
Perhaps the best move is to get over sugar altogether, and fall in love with something else. Like coffee flour or fungus powder, both of which block the natural bitterness of chocolate in sustainable, pleasantly flavorful ways.
Our brains won’t be able to tell the difference. But our bodies, and our health care bill, will.