Why are Sugary Processed Foods Harmful?


11:37 AM

1 min read
Why are Sugary Processed Foods Harmful? Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Background
  • FSSAI’s Stand on Sugar Content
  • How Processed Sugar is Harmful for Body?
  • Way Forward


  • A drink like Bournvita has 86.7g of carbohydrates per 100g, with 49.8g being sugar. Out of this sugar, 37.4g is added sugar.
  • So, for every 20g serving of Bournvita, you're consuming about 10g of sugar.
  • The process used to make Bournvita involves malting, which turns grains into sugar.
  • Malting is a technique used to make things like whiskey and malt-based milk drinks.
  • When grains germinate, enzymes turn their starch into sugar. Roasting them adds flavour by caramelizing this sugar.

FSSAI’s Stand on Sugar Content

  • According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regulations (2018), a product can only claim to be 'low on sugar' if it has less than 5g of sugar per 100g. If a product meets this criteria, it can be considered 'healthy.'
  • However, if products don't meet this standard but still market themselves as 'health drinks' then it's a concern.
  • For example, if a child drinks four servings of such a product, they would consume 40 grams of sugar.
  • This is more than the World Health Organization's recommended daily limit of 25 grams or six teaspoons of sugar.
  • Additionally, many households in India add extra sugar to chocolate-powder drinks, making the sugar intake even higher.

How Processed Sugar is Harmful for Body?

  • Sugar can be harmful to the body for several reasons:
  • Weight Gain: Consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain. Sugary foods and drinks are often high in calories but low in nutrients, leading to excess calorie intake.
  • Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases: High sugar intake has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
  • Tooth Decay: Sugar promotes the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth, which can lead to tooth decay and cavities.
  • Insulin Resistance: Overconsumption of sugar can lead to insulin resistance, where the body's cells become less responsive to insulin, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Elevated Blood Sugar Levels: Consuming large amounts of sugar can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, followed by sharp drops, leading to fluctuations in energy levels and mood swings.
  • Liver Overload: When consumed in excess, fructose, a type of sugar, can overload the liver, leading to fatty liver disease and other liver-related problems.
  • Addictive Nature: Sugar can be addictive, leading to cravings and overconsumption, making it difficult for individuals to control their intake.
  • Nutrient Imbalance: Foods high in sugar often displace nutrient-dense foods in the diet, leading to nutrient imbalances and deficiencies.
  • Inflammation: Excessive sugar intake can contribute to inflammation in the body, which is associated with various health problems, including inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases.
  • Mental Health: Some studies suggest that high sugar intake may be linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
  • Overall, while sugar can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, excessive consumption can have detrimental effects on health. It's essential to be mindful of sugar intake and opt for healthier alternatives whenever possible.

Way Forward

  • FSSAI’s regulations allow sugar in milk cereal-based foods for infants, but only certain types like lactose and glucose polymers are preferred.
  • Sucrose and fructose can only be added if needed, and their total should not exceed 20% of the total carbohydrate content.
    • These regulations need to be reviewed because they allow sugar in infant foods.
  • There should be clear regulations defining what is considered 'healthy' and 'unhealthy' for all food and beverage products.

Q1. Is Brown Sugar made from Jaggery?

No, brown sugar and jaggery are not the same. Brown sugar is White sugar + Molasses. Molasses is a thick dark syrup, a by-product of sugar production) Whereas jaggery or gur is an unrefined sugar made by boiling concentrated sugar cane extract until it hardens.

Q2. What is the difference between Jaggery and Sugar?

Jaggery contains iron, fibre, and minerals in addition to calories, in contrast to sugar, which just provides calories and no other nutrients. While jaggery is nutritionally superior to sugar, it is essential to consume it in moderation due to its high-calorie content.

Source: Why are sugary processed foods harmful? | Explained