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Study Details Confusion About Sugars

January 24, 2017

Only 12% of Americans are aware of hidden sugars in foods they eat, according to Atkins' Sugar Gap Study.

The gap in America’s nutrition knowledge continues to widen as consumers have little understanding of what comprises healthy, nutritious foods as well as how the body responds to various foods, according to a study from Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.

Only 28% of Americans could answer all of the nutrition facts correctly in this nationally representative study. While less than half of all Americans can identify what makes up nutritious foods, millennials possess the largest knowledge gap, with one-third (33%) selecting the correct nutrition components.

The Sugar Gap Study is the first to look at the gap in America’s knowledge about nutrition and the “hidden sugar effect,” where certain foods turn into sugar during the digestive process. While a person can’t see these sugars, their body can. The “hidden sugar effect” has had an impact on the skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes in America, Atkins said. 

The study revealed that only one in 10 Americans (12%) are aware of hidden sugars in foods they eat, showing an 88% knowledge gap around what hidden sugars are and their impact on the body.

“With the decline of life expectancy for the first time in two decades and the continued increase of obesity and diabetes in America, it’s not surprising that people are struggling with nutritional details or an understanding of how food affects the body. At Atkins, we believe that this is where the real nutrition story begins,” said Joseph Scalzo, president and CEO, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. “If people understand how their bodies respond to various foods, they can change and improve the way they eat.”

Americans Struggle with Nutrition Facts
Of the nutrition facts posed to 1,000 U.S. adults, the Sugar Gap Study revealed the following key discoveries:

Millennials have the biggest knowledge gap about nutritious food; for example, they are the most misinformed about how drinks digest in their body and scored lowest of all generations on correctly identifying foods that convert to sugar in the body.

Four out of five people could not identify what causes blood sugar spikes with 54% of people unaware that carbohydrates cause blood sugar spikes; 62% did not think that natural sugars cause spikes.
Nine in 10 Americans were unaware of the foods that convert to sugar, with four out of five people unaware that ancient grains and brown rice convert into sugar when digested in the body.

Confusion Around Carbohydrate Intake
Eleven percent of people surveyed were able to correctly identify the average amount of carbohydrates that people eat in a given day, which is 251 to 300 grams.  Eighty-nine percent of respondents were unaware of how many carbohydrates people eat on a daily basis, suggesting that many people are uninformed about how much they are consuming and what their target levels for carbohydrate intake should be.

“People simply do not realize the high level of carbohydrates they are eating and in turn, the hidden sugar that is going into their body on a daily basis,” said Mr. Scalzo. “We know that providing education and dispelling myths is key to changing the way Americans eat and helping them make smart eating decisions—and we’re on a mission to do just that.”

Virtual Reality Experience to Help Americans Change the Way They Eat
Atkins is launching a year-long education effort, The Hidden Sugar Campaign, which will focus on helping people make smarter choices about the foods they are eating through a virtual reality (VR) experience, dubbed the Atkins Sugar Goggles. This VR experience takes a user through an abstract of a tunnel in the body and shows how it responds to low-sugar and high sugar foods.

Through an education initiative with HealthCorps, the Sugar Goggles will give high school students a hands-on learning experience about the foods they are eating. In addition, Atkins and Eat This, Not That!, a national publishing company that focuses on healthy eating advice, will help Americans navigate the snack rooms in their workplaces and make more informed snacking and eating decisions.

“We are advocating for people to understand that the Atkins low carb lifestyle is focused on a balanced diet comprised of optimal protein, healthy fats and fiber-rich carbohydrates to maintain steady energy, avoid excessive blood sugar spikes, while providing satiety and maintaining a healthy weight,” said Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.

Sugar Gap Methodology
The Sugar Gap Study was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, between Dec. 1 and 8, 2016 and has a margin of error +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

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