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Special Report: The Sweet Addiction

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Special Report: The Sweet Addiction

By Lindsey Theis. CREATED May 9, 2014

Omaha, NE-Whether you're dieting or just trying to eat healthy, you might be doing yourself more harm than good. Food Experts say there is something that is sneaking up on us in our food. It's making us unknowingly addicted.

For Omaha families like the Tynan's: three kids, working parents, at mealtime taste, time, and health are key.

"We're pretty ordinary. I mean we have a dual working family; so we're both out of the house, sometimes more than we're in the house. Our kids are busy with their activities and so getting a healthy dinner on the table is sometimes a challenge," mother Bridget Tynan said.

"I feel like we're very healthy, I feel like we're healthier than I was as a kid. There's a lot more knowledge out there now, about nutrition," dad Sam Tynan said.

However, after a trip to the store with nutrition coach Scott Ruane, mom Bridget was shocked to learn, just how much sugar her family was eating.

"Unfortunately some of the things that I thought were good choices, were not so good of choices," she said. "I feel tricked."

"We will jump in front of a car to save our kid, but we will slowly poison them everyday by giving them sugar," Ruane said.

Dozens and dozens of products contain what nutritionists call hidden or added sugars. It's hard to escape. For example, Ketchup, which on average contains 1 teaspoon of sugar in a tablespoon serving. Ruane says it's like one sugar cube per serving.

It's not just condiments. The main offender, says Sarah Keegan, a dietitian with Nebraska Medical Center, are convenience foods. A lot of those foods,
products like breads, granola bars, and yogurt...are about the same as taking a few big spoonfuls of sugar. Many of these are complex carbohydrates and immediately break down in our bodies to sugar.

It was in almost everything during our grocery shopping trip with Ruane. Mini muffins: about one sugar cube per muffin. Raisin bran cereal: 28 grams of sugar is each serving.

"Dried fruit is closer to candy than it is to fruit," Ruane said.

Ruane explains, since the 1950's we've been taking the fat out of things. "Because fat makes things taste good it essentially they've had to add something to the food to make it taste better. Sugar is really the number one ingredient that we've been doing," he said.

The World Health Organization says the average american eats about 130 pounds of sugar a year. That's a third of a pound a day. The recommended amount is six teaspoons. Statistics show in 1822 Americans consume 45 grams of sugar every five days, or the amount of sugar in a can of coke. In 2012, Americans consume 756 grams of sugar every five days.

There are naturally occuring sugars in dairy and fruit, but Ruane and Keegan say that these aren't the sugars we're over consuming.

"The added ones are the ones we tend to overeat on," Keegan said.

The jury is still out on the long-term effects of sugar. In the last five years, a handful of studies show a link between sugar and heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Other studies have come out to show that sugar has an addictive property that reacts the same in our brains as smoking, cocaine, or heroin.

And if you're swapping, the experts say sugar by any other name aspartame, syrups, stevia, cane juice, or sucralose is just as bad.

"Sucralose for example almost acts like a Pavlov's dog, so when you tongue tastes that sweet, your pancreas primes the pump which puts your body at an elevated insulin stand point which is going to cause your body to crave sugar," Ruane said.