Sugar: that wonderfully sweet substance that we can’t seem to resist. We are drawn to it like moths to a flame. Whether we put it on cereal or stir it into coffee, there are not many of us that make it through the day without adding sugar to our diet. It wouldn’t be a surprise if you were sat reading this now with a nice cup of sugary tea. ‘What’s wrong with that?’ you may ask. Well, with the consumption of sugar worldwide increasing year upon year, there is now a growing belief that it is not too much fat in our diet that is the number one enemy, but too much sugar.
Sugar Consumption Is On the Up
Sugar is the general name for a class of carbohydrates that includes lactose (the sugar in milk), fructose (the sugar in fruits) and sucrose (table sugar, made up of fructose and glucose).
Since 1990, consumption of sugar in the UK has risen by 31%. In addition, a report by Credit Suisse has shown the severity of the situation on the other side the pond, with over-consumption leading to “30%-40% of healthcare expenditure in the USA now going to help address issues that are closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar”.
Some of the sugar that we consume will be burnt by the body for energy, but a lot of it will be converted into fat and stored in our fat cells. An article published in the British Medical Journal earlier this year found that getting people to reduce their sugar intake resulted in weight loss, whereas getting people to increase their sugar intake resulted in weight gain.
Furthermore, a recent report in the Huffington Post claimed that too much sugar is also bad for your skin - another reason to cut back on sugar.
Sugar Is the Deadly Villain
Robert Lustig, an American doctor, is leading a growing movement that believes sugar is dangerous. He suggests that sugar should be restricted, much like tobacco or alcohol. We all know that too much sugar can rot your teeth, but surely we can’t draw any comparisons with harmful and addictive substances, such as tobacco and alcohol?
Well, Dr. Lustig thinks you can, and he believes that sugar is not only addictive, but also causes some disease and is a big factor behind the obesity epidemic. He says that sugar is akin to a poison and that high fructose corn syrup (found in lots and lots of food, such as ketchup, coke, and sweets) is a chronic toxin.
There is even evidence that sweet foods hit the pleasure and reward centres in the brain in a similar way that certain drugs do. When we eat sugary foods, our blood glucose levels rise.
This causes the release of insulin, a hormone that helps to regulate levels of glucose in the blood. It does this by helping to store all the glucose in the liver, muscles, and fat cells. If we consume lots of sugar quickly, then too much insulin may be released, which causes low blood glucose.
This results in a sugar crash, meaning we crave more sugar. So we eat more, and the process starts again. The more this happens, the more likely the body will become insulin resistant. It is insulin resistance that Dr. Lustig believes to be the cause of leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that helps to regulate appetite, so the body’s resistance to this causes us to eat more and more without getting full. This is clearly bad news for our waistlines.
The Diabetes Risk Factor Researchers at Stanford University believe that sugar could be behind the global explosion in Type 2 diabetes. They found that the more sugar a country had available, the more diabetes it had. They analysed 175 countries and found that when people ate 150 calories a day more the rate of diabetes went up by 0.1%.
However, if those 150 calories came from a can of fizzy drink, then the rate of diabetes went up 1.1%. This led the researchers to conclude that “added sugar is 11 times more potent at causing diabetes than general calories”.
It's Time to Limit Your Sugar Intake
If we are to believe the experts and it turns out that sugar is in fact the enemy, what can we do about it? Well, for a start we would have to change our way of thinking, much like we did with tobacco. Once it had been accepted that tobacco was harmful, it was made more expensive and harder to buy, meaning that smokers are now a minority, not a majority.
Could something similar be done with sugar? Possibly, but it would be extremely difficult. After all, sugar is everywhere; a far more prevalent substance than tobacco. One thing that you can do is reduce your personal intake and cut any unnecessary sugar out of your diet. So stop sprinkling it over your cereal, take one instead of two with your tea, eat fruit not sweets and drink water not juice. Follow these simple rules and you’ll start seeing a healthier, slimmer you in no time.
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