Why “No Sugar Added” is a Deceiving Claim

No Sugar Added protein bars

Food labels can be confusing especially when you’re bombarded with a variety of claims including “No Sugar Added.” If it says “No Sugar Added” then it’s probably ok for your health, right? Wrong! Here is why the label is a deceiving claim.

What Does “No Sugar Added” Mean?

“No Sugar Added.” “No Added Sugar.” “Without Added Sugar.” What do these labels even mean? Simply put, it means that no additional sugar was added in the processing of the food. The FDA only allows this statement in these instances:

  • No amount of sugars or any other ingredient that contains sugars that functionally substitute for added sugars is added during processing or packaging
  • The product does not contain an ingredient containing added sugars such as jam, jelly, or concentrated fruit juice
  • The sugars content has not been increased above the amount present in the ingredients by some means such as the use of enzymes

To clarify, companies cannot just use a substitute for sugar such as honey or high-fructose corn syrup and be allowed to use the claim.

So What’s the Problem with “No Sugar Added?”

No Sugar Added
There are two underlying problems with this claim:

  1. Just because it says no sugar added does not mean that it lacks sugar.
  2. Artificial sweeteners are not counted as sugar.

“Sugar-Free” and “No Sugar Added” are two completely different things. For instance, some fruit juices are able to tout the claim “No Sugar Added” even though they are filled with sugar. Just because there is no additional sugar put into the mix, doesn’t make it healthy.

These claims also neglect to tell us anything about the artificial sweeteners that may be lurking in the background. The foods you choose might still be sweet due to artificial sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame potassium, saccharin, sucralose and neotame. While these types of sweeteners may be zero calorie, they are not without dangerous health effects.

Because artificial sweeteners are so strong in taste, they can play a role in making healthier options less palatable. You may find yourself shunning healthy, nutritious food and craving more artificially flavored food.

Start Reading the Labels

No Sugar Added
So how do you know when the use of the “No Sugar Added” claim is intentionally misleading? Read the labels! The easiest thing you should do is check the total sugars. It’s under the amount of total carbohydrates on the label. A lot of labels now are making it even easier by telling you exactly how much of the sugars are specifically added sugars.

Second, it’s important to know what names sugar and artificial sweeteners could be hidden under. Below are a few aliases you may run into:

  • Sugar: Sucrose, High-fructose corn syrup, Barley malt, Dextrose, Maltose, Rice syrup, Agave nectar, Barbados sugar, Beet sugar, Caramel, Carob syrup, Corn syrup, Evaporated cane juice, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Glucose, Honey, Panocha, Syrup, Treacle.
  • Artificial Sweeteners: Acesulfame Potassium, Aspartame, Neotame, Saccharin, Sucralose

These names are especially important to know if you are prediabetic or diabetic. Label reading is an incredibly important skill set in this instance.

Hopefully next time you see a package making any sort of claim, you’ll take it with a grain of salt (or sugar.)

4 thoughts on “Why “No Sugar Added” is a Deceiving Claim”

  1. Where does sugar alcohol fall into place? What is the guideline for natural sugar to qualify? A lot of labels list added sugar and also added sugar alcohol. Just curious is fake sugars are all considered sugar alcohol or if that is different. Thanks

    1. Jodi, it’s our opinion that too much sugar is not good, regardless of whether it is “natural” or not. That is part of the problem… a product can be labeled “No added sugar”, while actually being completely FULL of sugar in the form of dates, apple juice, etc. So, it is best to ignore any front label claims, and look directly at the nutritional info located on products back panels.

      We’re not big fans of sugar alcohols since many people don’t tolerate these well. They can cause create gas, bloating and general digestive distress. And, most of them are made by hydrogenating corn syrup. Just like hydrogenated fats have proven to be unhealthy, we feel that sugar alcohols from hydrogenated corn syrup will ultimately be recognized as unhealthy.

      Instead, we choose to use VERY small amounts of natural sugars (like coconut nectar) combined with completely natural stevia. Stevia gives you the sweet taste, while remaining 0 sugar.

      We also choose to use chicory root fiber in many of our bars. Chicory root is a pre-biotic fiber that has a sweet taste, but is a processed by your body as a fiber, not a sugar.

      Also, according to strict ISO standards, chicory root fiber is the ONLY “naturally occurring in nature” pre-biotic fiber in food usage. This sets chicory root fiber apart from other prebiotic fibers such as allulose or tapioca fiber, which are highly processed.

  2. Read your article per artificial sugars,etc.
    In the article it mentions stevia as an artificial sugar, yet you use it in your products.Am I missing something? Otherwise, I think your products are very
    good. Thanks for your reply.
    Bruce Clark

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