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Sugar's Many Names

What to look for when you're scanning nutrition labels

How much sugar Americans consume is at direct odds with how much they should eat: Per the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than 100 calories per day in sugar, which equates to about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams. And for men, that’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams. But, according to the University of California’s sugar research website, Sugar Science, the average American consumes 19.5 teaspoons (or 82 grams) of sugar every day.

Since excess sugar can lead to weight gain, high cholesterol, and other health problems, people are increasingly turning to substitute sweeteners and 'light' foods. In recent years, for example, the sugar alcohol erythritol has become a common ingredient in low-calorie foods. But according to a recent study, researchers at Cornell University found that erythritol leads to an increase in fat mass, dispelling the previous assumptions that it couldn't be metabolized, or even produced in the human body.

On nutrition labels, there are at least 61 different names that sugar can hide behind. "Look for words like ‘syrup (e.g. organic cane syrup)’ or words that end in ‘ose (e.g. glucose),’” says Janis Isaman, R.D., owner of Calgary-based nutrition and fitness coaching center, My Body Couture.

Here, what you need to know about six sources.