Are you familiar with rock candy? Well, recent research is casting a suspicious eye on the old-time favorite that should make you think twice about digging into that bowl of Halloween treats.
A report released in August suggests that the more added sugars we eat, the greater our chances of forming kidney stones, little crystal formations that can deliver a scary amount of pain when lodged in the urinary tract.
According to the study, by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, people who get one-quarter of their daily calories from added sugars are at an 88% higher risk of developing kidney stones than people who get less than 5% of calories from added sugars.
That 25% might seem like a lot. However, the amount of added sugars in everyday foods can make reaching that level easier than you think.
Nothing to Snicker About: How Kidney Stones are Made
Kidney stones form when there is too much salt, minerals, and waste in the body and not enough liquid to flush it away. When this waste is not filtered out by urine, it will eventually crystalize in the kidneys. The most common stones form from calcium oxalate and uric acid:
- Calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a natural substance in foods such as nuts, legumes, dark leafy greens, and wheat bran. When there is too much oxalate in the urine, it can combine with other minerals and crystalize.
- Uric acid. These stones tend to form in people who eat a lot of fish, shellfish, poultry, pork, and red meat.
The most common symptoms of kidney stones include severe pain on the either side of the lower back, blood in the urine, and nausea (from the pain).
Stone-Cold Sugar Facts
Sugar increases the risk of stones forming because a high accumulation of it can reduce the amount of urine your body makes and raise your levels of urinary calcium. Additionally, too much sugar can lead to other health problems that are shown to contribute to stone formation. These conditions include diabetes, obesity, and resistance to insulin.
Some of us are at a higher risk of forming stones than others. People with inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, gout, and high blood pressure, are more likely to develop them. The result: Every year, more than 500,000 people enter emergency rooms with kidney stone problems.
The Ideal Amount of Sugar
So, how little sugar should we eat to ensure a healthier urinary tract?
The American Heart Association recommends that men eat no more than nine teaspoons, or 36 grams, of sugar a day. Women and children should limit themselves to six teaspoons, or 25 grams. That should shake out to about 10% of your daily calories, which is what the USDA advises.
If you don’t usually read the sugar listings on foods, here is a frame of reference: One package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups contains 22 grams of total sugars. One serving of candy corn (15 pieces), 23 grams. A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola, 39 grams.
Don’t let these amounts scare you. You can indulge a little on Halloween night; just don’t make it a daily practice. Instead of a candy, treat your kidneys to a piece of fruit.
The team at the Michigan Institute of Urology offers advanced care in the treatment and removal of kidney stones. You can learn more about these treatments, as well as how to prevent stones, on our site here.