General

General

Question 1

Is the consumption of sugar a personal responsibility?

Answer

Consumers, industry, the government and public health officers share responsibility for how much sugar we eat.

Suiker Unie and Kenniscentrum suiker & voeding (Knowlegde centre sugar & nutrition) agree that overconsumption of sugar is undesirable. But this holds true for all foods, not just sugar. Sugar can play a role in a healthy and balanced diet. It is important to reduce overweight and obesity in society. Every calorie counts, also the calories of sugar. A wide range of food products is available in stores, also foods that contain few or hardly any calories. Consumers decide which foods to buy, but must be given proper information. Therefore, nutritional information on the packaging, including the amount of sugars and calories, is provided to consumers.

Question 2

Do sugary soft drinks make you fat?

Answer

Sugar in soft drinks does not make you fat by itself. Only when calorie intake is higher than calorie output, you gain weight.

The difference between sugary drinks and solid foods is that sugary drinks are less satiating (the feeling of fullness) than solid foods. For example, it is easy to drink a glass of orange juice but it takes more time and effort to peel and eat three oranges. So in a short period of time a person can ingest a lot of energy. Therefore, one should be critical towards the use of sugary soft drinks.

Question 3

What are the functions of sugar?

Answer

Sugar is a sweetener, flavour enhancer, preservative and gives firmness and structure, colour and volume to products.

Sugar is used as a sweetener in coffee, tea, chocolate, cakes, sweets and desserts.

Sugar is a flavouring agent and flavour enhancer to emphasize and improve the taste of sour and bitter products (such as redcurrants and chocolate respectively).

Sugar is used as a preservative in jams and candied fruit. Bacteria cannot survive with sugar concentrations higher than 60%.

Sugar gives many products firmness and structure. For example, sugar makes biscuits crunchy and lowers the freezing point of ice cream to make it softer.

When heated, sugar can give products colour and aroma. This browning property is used to glaze petit fours and crème caramel for example. It also gives it its typical taste.

In cakes, sugar provides not only sweetness but volume as well.

Question 4

Is naturally occurring sugar healthier than granulated sugar?

Answer

Naturally occurring sugar is not healthier or unhealthier than granulated sugar.

Naturally occurring sugars, including granulated sugar (saccharose), can be found in fruit, fruit juice and honey. Large amounts of granulated sugar occur naturally in sugar beet and sugar cane. It is extracted from the cane and the beet in sugar factories. No distinction between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars is made in the body. They all provide 4 kcal of energy per gram, are broken down by the body in the same way and can be part of a healthy diet as long as they are eaten in moderation. Excessive use can lead to the intake of too many calories and should be avoided. However, this holds true for all foods.

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Source: Dutch Food Composition Database (NEVO 13-03-2014) and Danish Food Composition Database* (DFCD 13-03-2014)

Question 5

When can a product be called a ‘light’ product?

Answer

A product can be named a 'light' or 'diet' product when it contains at least 30% fewer calories, 30% less fat or 30% less sugar than the regular product.

A ‘light’ or ‘diet’ soft drink contains few calories because (some of) the sugars have been replaced with artificial sweetener. Not all light or diet products contain fewer calories. In light biscuits, for example, sugar is often replaced with other carbohydrates to maintain volume. In this manner, the difference in calories between the regular and the light product is negligible. As all carbohydrates, including sugar, contain the same amount of energy. Sugar also provides volume in many products, which makes replacement with artificial sweeteners difficult.

Question 6

Is fructose unhealthy?

Answer

No, normal consumption of fructose (30-60 grams per day) is not unhealthy.

Sugar is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Fructose also occurs naturally in fruit and honey, and to a lesser degree in vegetables. It is also known as fruit sugar. Fructose can be unhealthy in large amounts (more than 20% of the energy in our food or about 100 grams a day). The average Dutchman consumes 49 grams of fructose a day.

Question 7

How much sugar are you allowed to eat?

Answer

The Health Council of the Netherlands does not have a specific guideline on the amount of sugar you are allowed to eat.

The Dutch Health Council (an independent scientific advisory body to advice the government) recommends a carbohydrate intake of 40-70% of the energy we eat. No distinction is made between sugar(s) and complex carbohydrates such as starch. Food with a large proportion of added sugars, however, might be lacking in vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that the chance of a vitamin and mineral deficiency is higher when 20% (or more) of the energy intake comes from added sugars. A study carried out by the Dutch Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) in 2006 found that the majority of the Dutch population used a diet with less than 20% of the energy coming from added sugars. Most Dutch had an added sugars intake between 10 and 15% of their energy intake. The amount of sugar consumed has no influence on the incidence of dental caries. The frequency of consumption, however, is important. It is therefore recommended not to eat or drink more than seven times a day (three meals and up to four snacks).

Question 8

Is sugar natural or artificial?

Answer

Sugar is a natural product.

The green leaves of the sugar beet extract energy from sunlight and store this in the form of sugar in the root. Sugar beet contains about 17% of sugar, the rest is mostly water and other compounds.  The sugar beets are sliced and boiled in the sugar factory, which results in raw sugar juice. This juice is then purified, thickened, centrifuged and dried.

Question 9

Is cane sugar healthier than white sugar?

Answer

No, cane sugar is not healthier or unhealthier than white sugar.

Granulated or white sugar is produced from both sugar cane and sugar beet. Sugar (also known as saccharose or sucrose) is extracted from the stalks of sugar cane or the roots of sugar beet. The saccharose from both sources is identical. The only difference is the source (beet vs. cane). So there is no difference in nutritional content. Cane sugar is usually darker in colour because the production method is slightly different. Cane sugar is not centrifuged for as long as beet sugar, therefore a small amount of dark brown syrup (molasses) remains on the sugar grains.