Do You Know Nutrition: No sugar added, sugar-free are two different things

By Phylis Canion
Aug. 14, 2012 at 3:14 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

I am a diabetic and am confused about labels. Does "no sugar added" listed on a product mean the same thing as "sugar free"?

Labels are confusing - and the answer is no. No sugar added and sugar-free have two completely different meanings. According to the American Diabetic Association, no sugar added means that the processing and packaging does not increase the sugar content over the amount naturally found in the ingredients.

For example, an ice cream bar made with aspartame (an artificial sweetener) may be referred to as no sugar added because it was sweetened with a sugar substitute instead of sucrose (refined table sugar). However, it cannot be called sugar-free because the milk it is made with contains the natural sugar lactose. Sugar-free means less than .05 grams of sugar per serving. This does not apply to sugar substitutes such as sugar alcohols (i.e. sorbitol, maltitol).

I recently purchased a pound of stick butter and noticed on the box that it said: "NO rBGH". Can you please explain what rBGH is?

RBGH is the acronym for recombinant (genetically engineered) bovine growth hormone, which, when injected into dairy cows, increases milk production by 10 to 15 percent. Unfortunately, for the animal, it also increases the incidences of mastitis, lameness and reproductive complications.

The Federal Drug Administration reported in the 1980s and 1990s that consumption by humans of rBGH was safe and subsequently approved its use. The administration's approval of rBGH, was perhaps the most controversial approval in the administration's history, according to Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception.

However, several organizations denounced the FDA's approval stating their review was not extensive enough. Canada, Kenya, Japan, Australia and 27 countries of the European Union have all banned the use of artificial hormones, including rBGH, in food.

When purchasing dairy products, if it does not contain rBGH, it will state either rBGH free or no rBGH. Any product that wears the official USDA Organic seal is not allowed to contain growth hormones, including rBGH.

Thought for the week: Don't follow where your path may lead. Instead, make your own way and leave a path.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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