Excessive added sugar consumption in college students found to be common

Grace Hollars, DN
Grace Hollars, DN

People usually doesn't think much before taking their first swig of a cold Mountain Dew or biting into a sugary doughnut — but maybe they should.

A study from the University of the Incarnate Word, a private Catholic college in San Antonio, Texas, found that increased sugar intake among college-aged students is common. 

Students from the university between the ages of 18 and 24 were given a questionnaire that included questions about their sugar consumption and habits. The questionnaire determined that taste, price and peer pressure mostly affected excess sugar consumption. 

These conclusions show the need for reducing added sugar intake and emphasizing a healthy eating pattern, according to the study.

Julayne Ross is a clinical dietician at Jay County Hospital. Ross sees inpatients at the hospital and gives advice regarding nutrition and diabetes, along with setting up patients with outpatient classes. Ross also works with a program that helps with overweight kids ages seven to 17 called Stop Taking On Pounds, or S.T.O.P. 

Ross said the added sugar consumption among some diets is a problem, especially the sugar found in sugary drinks, since it is easier to dismiss sugar in the liquid form. Sugary drinks may include soft drinks, sweetened and some sports drinks. 

According to the university study, most of the students drank one or more sugar-sweetened beverages daily, or at least several times per week.

“Unless they see a problem that smacks them in the face, they’re not thinking there’s a problem,”  Ross said. 

While Ross said consuming a lot of sugar doesn’t necessarily cause diabetes, consuming sugary products paired with inactivity can lead to being overweight, which in turn can create type-2 diabetes due to insulin resistance. 

“If there’s any health problem, inflammation is part everything,” Ross said. "High sugar amounts running through the body can cause inflammation within, an example being the arteries, which can lead to heart disease."

At S.T.O.P., Ross tries to make a point by showing the kids the exact amount of sugar there is in a drink in order to create a visual of the sugar that they are consuming. 

“I don’t know if I truly believe in the fact that it’s like, ‘I have sugar, so I’m addicted to sugar,’” said Ross. “We just get in habits of having what we like and what make us feel good and what tastes good. Anything we do can be habit-forming.” 

Ross also said the dangers of sugar consumption often depends on the lifestyle of the individual.

“Someone who is of normal weight and they’re having the occasional cola would not be [a] problem. Sometimes it kind of depends on the person,” Ross said.

Labels on food can be deceiving since the “sugars” label can come from fructose, lactose and a variety of other things, Ross said. She said a new label is supposed to be unveiled within the next year, which will have a section for “sugars” and another section for “added sugars.” 

Kristian Beers, a freshman pre-dental hygiene major, wanted to see what would it be like if she stopped consuming non-natural sugars. So, she logged the food that she ate every day, and, after a week, she said she felt a bit different.

“I started feeling a lot better. When I was having all that sugar I was just sluggish,” Beers said. “I felt like it was draining me.”

Beers said she lost six to seven pounds over the course of the week and felt as if she had more energy than she normally had. She also found getting out of bed in the morning was easier to do.

Beers already did not consume meat, dairy or soft drinks prior to the experiment but said  during the experiment she cut out mostly dessert items and packaged foods. She plans to continue a low sugar diet but will probably have an occasional treat here and there.

Ross said making changes in a diet can either be all-or-nothing, like Beers, or just making slight gradual changes, but only if a person genuinely wants to see a change.  

Contact Andrew Harp with comments at adharp@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @retr0andrew.


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