Sugar in its various forms is a part of our diet, and in moderate quantities provides some of the calories we need. However, the typical western diet includes far too much, and this leads to a range of problems, the most common of which are obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The UK National Health Service says:
“Eating too much sugar can make you gain weight and can also cause tooth decay.”
“Being overweight increases your risk of health problems such as heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.”
“The type of sugars most UK adults eat too much of are ‘free sugars’. These are:
• Any sugars added to food or drinks. These include sugars in biscuits, chocolate, flavored yogurts, breakfast cereals and fizzy drinks. These sugars may be added at home, or by a chef or other food manufacturer.
• Sugars in honey, syrups (such as maple, agave and golden), and unsweetened fruit juices, vegetable juices and smoothies. The sugars in these foods occur naturally but still count as free sugars.
The UK government recommends that adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day, (roughly equivalent to 7 sugar cubes).”
They note that a single can of cola can have as much as 9 cubes of sugar – more than the recommended daily limit for adults.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has similar findings in the USA.
“Americans are eating and drinking too much added sugars which can lead to health problems such as weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. To live healthier, longer lives, most need to move more and eat better including getting fewer calories from added sugars.”
“The leading sources of added sugars in the US diet are sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts like cakes and cookies, candy, and dairy desserts like ice cream.”
The Mayo Clinic says this about the problems of added sugars:
“Foods with a lot of added sugars contribute extra calories to your diet but provide little nutritional value. In addition, added sugars are often found in foods that also contain solid fats, such as butter or margarine, or shortening in baked goods.
Eating too many foods with added sugars sets the stage for potential health problems, such as:
• Poor nutrition. If you choose sugar-laden foods, you miss out on important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Sweetened soft drinks add lots of extra sugar and calories and no other nutritional value.
• Weight gain. There’s usually no single cause for being overweight or obese. But added sugar might contribute to the problem. It’s easy to consume extra calories when eating foods that are sugar sweetened.
• Increased triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the bloodstream and fat tissue. Eating an excessive amount of added sugar can increase triglyceride levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
• Tooth decay. All forms of sugar promote tooth decay by allowing bacteria to multiply and grow. The more often and longer you snack on foods and beverages with either natural sugar or added sugar, the more likely you are to develop cavities.”
“The American Heart Association advises” no more than 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of added sugar each day for men and 6 teaspoons or 24 grams for women.
And if that’s not bad enough …
In “The End of Alzheimer’s”, Dr Dale Bredesen states that he’s identified 36 ways that the brain can be stressed, leading in combination towards Alzheimer’s Disease. To reduce the risks, he identifies diet components that are to be avoided, and top of the list is sugar, not least because it’s a contributory factor for some of the stressors: a high insulin level, inflammation, and a leaky gut.
How to cut down?
The NHS has suggestions echoed by the Mayo Clinic including in particular:
Reducing sugar in drinks: Instead of sugary fizzy drinks or sugary squash, go for water, or sugar-free drinks.
Reducing sugar in food: Rather than spreading high-sugar jam, etc. on your toast, try a lower-fat spread, reduced-sugar jam or fruit spread, sliced banana or lower-fat cream cheese instead.
Check nutrition labels for the foods with less added sugar, or go for the reduced-sugar version.
Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals that aren’t frosted, or coated with chocolate or honey.
What do I do?
I long ago stopped adding sugar to tea, coffee and cereals, because of the health issues.
More recently I’ve been more conscious of added sugar in foods and drinks, so have shifted somewhat away from sugared soft drinks to diet drinks, although I’m also slightly nervous about the chemical sweeteners they put in these. So I tend to go for black coffee more these days, or if I want a cold drink, zero alcohol beer.
I rarely eat desserts and ice cream, but haven’t given up on them totally!
Anecdote: Someone I knew many years ago couldn’t understand why he was dieting and yet still putting on weight. The answer? When he eventually checked the sugar content of his frosted breakfast cereal, he found he was already exceeding the maximum recommended level of sugar just from his breakfast!
Link to my post on “Diabetes”
Link to my post on “Heart Disease”
Link to my post on “Alzheimer’s Disease”