Sugar Free and Low Calorie Foods Are Sneakily Making You Unhealthy

NDTV Food  |  Updated: March 17, 2017 13:22 IST

Sugar Free and Low Calorie Foods Are Sneakily Making You Unhealthy
  • Food product labels are misleading and actually far from the truth
  • 'Reduced fat' or 'no sugar' products are unhealthier than stated
  • The data included more than 80 million food and beverage purchased
Do you reach out for fat free and sugar free food products every time you go for grocery shopping? Is that your idea of living a healthy life? Beware, you are far from reaching your healthy lifestyle goals at this rate. A hard-hitting fact is that most commercial brands are not honest when it comes to stating the true nutritional contents of their food products. All these claims of low calorie, sugar free and fat free are just smart ways to attract customers without really caring about their well-being. This is why it is crucial to be mindful when you buy food products, reading vary carefully the labels. According to a new research done by University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the US, it states that no-fat or no-sugar, low-fat or reduced-salt on food packaging may give consumers a sense of confidence before they purchase, but these claims rarely reflect the actual nutritional quality of the food.

So what we think are healthy and nutritious are actually far from it, and are instead making us unhealthy. Products that read "reduced fat" or "no sugar" may just be as fatty and sugary as products that come with no such labels.

The findings of the study indicated that 13 percent of food and 35 percent of beverage purchases had a low-content claim (including no, free, low or reduced) and that low-fat was the most common claim, followed by low-calorie, low-sugar and low-sodium.

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"In many cases, foods containing low-sugar, low-fat or low-salt claims had a worse nutritional profile than those without claims," said lead investigator Lindsey Smith Taillie.

"In fact, in some cases, products that tend to be high in calories, sodium, sugar or fat may be more likely to have low- or no-content claims. Essentially, reduced claims are confusing because they are relative and only about one nutrient," said Taillie.

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"A low-fat brownie could have three grams of fat per 40 grams, whereas a low-fat cheesecake would have to have three grams of fat per 125 grams. So, if a consumer were trying to find a lower-fat option for a dessert, the low-fat brownie would have relatively higher fat than the low-fat cheesecake," the study added.

The data included more than 80 million food and beverage purchased from more than 40,000 households from 2008 to 2012. It also found that there was a connection between the socio-economic status and food purchases and the high-and middle-income level households were more likely to purchase food and beverages with low-content claims.


The study appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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