Sugar! probably one on the most consumed substances on the planet and also one of the most easily accessible. Whether it be raw, or refined sugar, fructose, or the cheaply produced and overly used, High Fructose Corn Syrup, we are just consuming way more than our bodies can handle. So how exactly does sugar affect our overall health? Well the news isn't great and tooth decay from sugary sweets is the very least of our worries. Current scientific studies have linked our love to sugary food and drink with the Obesity Epidemic, Gut problems, Cancer, Hypertension, Fructose Intolerance/Malabsorption and Liver Disease.
When it comes to the different types of sugars that we can ingest, by far the worst offender is Fructose, also known as Fruit Sugar. Fructose has to primarily be metabolized by the liver, as basically the rest of our body just doesn't need it, unlike glucose which is important for our overall health. Nowadays our convenient pre-packaged, highly processed, diets see us consuming copious amounts of Fructose, which in turn means that our poor livers are highly over-loaded and stressed and they just can't physically metabolize and cope with this insane amount of sugar. It is our excess sugar consumption that according to medical experts, is the major cause of a whole host of health problems including, Obesity and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
Fructose in small amounts and when eaten in it's pure, raw state, as found in various fruit and veg e.g an apple or garlic, can generally be well tolerated by our bodies, that is of course if you don't suffer from Fructose Intolerance, or Fructose Malabsorption (see our article Fructose Malabsorption on the Rise), but when ingested in large amounts, the health problems begin to mount. Before you read further, it is important to understand that we need certain sugars in our diet e.g Glucose. Glucose is the good sugar and is vital for our bodies to produce energy. Glucose is a carbohydrate and is found in rice, pasta, grains, fruit and veg, (meat also, if you are a meat- eater, which here at livingsafe.com.au we believe is not the healthiest option).
The health and obesity problem start when we continue to overload our systems with more and more sugar! Simply put, too much sugar is pure poison to our bodies!
Fructose is not just naturally in fruit and vegetables, it is found in Cane Sugar, which is made up of 50% Glucose and 50% Fructose and it can be found in virtually every type of processed food. For the last few decades we have also been ingesting enormous amounts of what is known as High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) - which is very cheap and easy to produce sugar made from corn, it is a lot sweeter than cane sugar and also contains a different ratio of fructose to glucose than is naturally found in cane, or beet sugar. HFCS can now be found in just about any pre-packaged food, from baby formula, breads, biscuits, sauces, fruit drinks, sport drinks, soft drinks, candy and more!! Recently scientists and medical experts believe there is a strong link to Childhood Obesity and the HFCS found in baby formulas. Pediatricians are seeing more and more obese babies under 6 months and as most babies haven't even started solids yet, it makes perfect sense that something is amiss with the formula these babies are being fed and according to experts it is not the fat content, but rather the sugar content that is to blame.
For more information read here this article by Dr. William Sears at parenting.com.
Toddlers and young children are also often given way too much fruit juices in the belief that they are healthy. Commercially produced fruit juices and fruit cordials can contain huge amounts of fructose. This article by Dr Briffa - Juicy Details- Why Fruit Juices pose a Hazard to our Health , explains in lay-mans terms why fruit juices pose a health problem and can lead to Childhood Obesity.
Sports drinks are another problem, as they are hugely popular with young teens and also hugely loaded up with Fructose. The amount of Fructose entering the body via kids regularly drinking these sports drinks just can not be metabolized by the liver and so ends up as fat. So far from keeping you toned and fit, sports drinks may actually make you fat instead!! Read this article here by the Independent UK.
Sugar is now believed to be addictive and especially addictive is the combination of ingredients that makes up a soft drink or soda. Soft drinks/sodas combine a very unhealthy mix of loads of salt and often caffeine (a stimulant), with loads of sugar. Salt as we all know makes us very thirsty and we want/need to drink more, so it is no small wonder that soft drink manufacturers add it to their beverages, but here's the thing... salt doesn't taste so nice, so they need to mask the taste with, yes you guessed it, sugar and lots and lots of it!
Sugar Addiction is yet to have been formerly given its name, but many scientific studies have shown than sugar indeed is addictive. Read this article by the Guardian UK . The addiction to sugar and the problems with obesity and ill health have become so apparent that in this article on BBC News, medical experts such as the highly respected Dr Robert Lustig amongst others, is calling for the US Government to introduce a Sugar Tax, to try and discourage Americans from consuming huge amounts of the substance.
Dr Robert Lustig Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of California, has achieved world wide acclaim for his lecture on sugar, especially his findings on Fructose and its link to Childhood Obesity, general Obesity, Liver Disease and Diabetes. Please click on - Sugar: The Bitter Truth to watch his lecture. Dr Robert Lustig, clearly states in no uncertain terms that sugar is poison. His lecture is almost an hour and a half long, but very enlightening and we believe definitely worth watching. After watching this video there is no doubt in my mind that what Dr. Lustig says is the truth; overloading our bodies with fructose/sugar is poisoning us, we are getting fatter and sicker each year as our sugar consumption goes up and we have the power to stop it, by simply reducing our sugar intake! Dr. Lusting goes on to prove that it is predominately the sugars in our diet and not the fats we consume in our diets that make the majority of fat people fat!
The World Health Organization (Who) recommends that no more than 10% of our daily food intake should come from sugar, read here. According to a nutritional study done in the USA between 2001-2004, Americans consume approx. 22 teaspoons of sugar a day!
So What Can We Do?
Sugar tastes good and I am the first to admit that I love the stuff and would have to say that I have always had far more of it than I should, but I am also suffer from fructose malabsorption which is quite limiting for a vegetarian), so I can tell you first hand that an overload of sugar in the body is anything but pleasant. This article was actually hard for me to write, as I really didn't want to research into the truth about what sugar does to our bodies, as that would mean I would have to be responsible and lower my intake, but I plunged in all the same.
I am not here to tell you to give up sugar completely, as that wouldn't be very realistic, because as mentioned above, we need Glucose in our diets and the other beneficial vitamins and fibre found in fruit and veg, but cutting down your own and your entire families sugar intake is absolutely essential for good health. Refined sugar and products sweetened with Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup should be cut right down to a negligible amount. Is is not so hard to do once you get over your craving for sweets, but here are a few tips to help you along your way.
- Get rid of all soft drinks, cordials and fruit juice from your home. The amount you save on not buying these drinks could go into investing in a good quality water filter. Water is all we need to drink once we are no longer infants requiring milk.
- If you can't, or choose not to breast feed, then research the ingredients of the formula you choose to give your infant. We recommend organic, but they may still have high amounts of sugar and corn syrup.
- If you and your children like fruit and vegetable juices, either buy 100% pure and organic juice, or make your own freshly squeezed raw juices at home and still only have small amounts, as pure juices still contain a lot of Fructose. If you do juice at home, cold-pressed juicing is the way to go, as the common juicers in the stores are called Centrifugal Juicers and they work in such a way, that many of the nutrients are destroyed in the juicing process and they will also loose most of the fibre content too.
- It is far better to have a small amount of fresh, organic fruit a day than a juice, as this way you also get the much needed fibre and beneficial nutrients.
- Try to use fresh, raw ingredients rather than buying pre-packaged and highly processed food.
- Read the ingredients labels of all packaged food items and avoid products that have the following ingredients- Fructose, Fruit Concentrate, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar & Sucrose. Especially be diligent to steer clear of Fructose, Fruit Concentrate, Corn Syrup & High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Make your own treat, cakes and cookies. This way you can use a lot less sugar and you know exactly what ingredients are in the goods. We have some great healthy cookie and cake recipes in our Recipes & Nutrition Category.
- For kids parties tone down the amount of candy and 100 & 1000 sandwiches and cordials. A treat of an organic lollipop, or piece of organic chocolate and of course the birthday cake (which you can make yourself with alot less sugar than store bought), should be more than enough sugar.
- Adults should also be aware of cutting down their alcohol consumption.
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