So many of us state almost every single day of our lives that we need a sugar fix. It is something we joke about and use as a necessary crutch to get us through our stressful working day. But is sugar potentially more dangerous than say alcohol, more addictive than drugs, and quite possible mankind’s greatest epidemic.
For something that causes obesity, lows and highs, mood swings and day to day cravings how is it that we fail to recognise the harm it is doing to us? You are probably joking about it right now:
‘Because it tastes good – duh!’
And it really does! I have recently cut down my sugar intake to help curb my dependence on it. I have lost weight, my muscles are more sculpted and I have a more consistent energy flow throughout the day. But it wasn’t easy and I have caved a few times when the addiction has got the better of me. That hunger we have for chocolate or cake – the desperate need that takes us to our cupboards in search of anything sweet that we can throw down our mouths. It is intense and so the path to a sugar free lifestyle is equally as intense and frustrating.
“Because sugar causes a large release of dopamine in the brain, it can cause addiction in a lot of people” (Source)
So why do it? Why cut out sugar?
A little History About Research Into Sugar
In 1972 a British scientist called John Yudkin wrote a book called ‘Pure, White, and Deadly’. The book did very well but Yudkin had his reputation destroyed by prominent nutritionists and the food industry backlash. His career never recovered. The book stated:
“If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive that material would promptly be banned” (Source)
Robert Lustig gave a 90 minute talk in 2009 titled ‘Sugar: The Bitter Truth’ which has received over six million YouTube views. A British sugar tax brought in by George Osborne and a sway in nutritionists opinion, as new research has been revealed, has made today’s landscape a stark contrast to the one Yudkin announced his fears before. Sugar is suddenly – and rather belatedly – public enemy number one.
The dawn of sugar is eclipsing trans and saturated fat as the greatest danger to those seeking weight loss. The research backs this shift. When consumers were told to cut back on saturated fat and cholesterol the result was not a leaner healthier nation – it was in fact and larger, more illness prone one. We turned to high sugar carbohydrates which is what food companies were offering us instead of fatty foods.
Scientists, then food manufacturers, then politicians and subsequently consumers took a wrong turn. In 2008 the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation in a study into the low-fat diet found” (source) no probably or convincing evidence” that a high level of dietary fat causes heart disease or cancer. Nutritionists have had a hard time accepting studies with similar findings as it shakes the foundations of the biggest epidemic to hit humanity: obesity.
In 2015 the Us Dietary Guidelines (revised every five years) does not mention this new research rippling through nutritional science. The eminent nutritionists tasked with compiling the report still refuse to shine a light on their career and reputation by accepting an alternate viewpoint to the one they have been championing for years. Sugar is bad for you. Sugar is the chief enemy in weight gain. Sugar should be eliminated from our diets. But the nutritionists are not ready to tell you that officially yet because they got it wrong. Their authority is resting on crumbling foundations but we will have to wait until 2020 to see if they have the decency to correct their mistakes when revising the guidelines again!
The Facts About Sugar
Here are 5 top facts about sugar that will make you question your care free consumption of it.
- Low fat foods are often bulked up with sugar. Those healthy flavoured waters and fruit juices have sugar added to them to bulk them up and make them taste sweeter. Check your labels and never trust low fat foods because fat is no longer your biggest concern!
- Anything ending in ‘ose’ is an added sugar. So try and avoid fructose, glucose and dextrose – yes I know that is easier said than done because it is in so much of the food we consume. For more advice go to the British Heart Foundation
- Avoid the obvious culprits. The biggest sugar contributors are of course sweets, chocolates, biscuits, buns and cakes.
- Sugar is less obvious culprits like: low fat yoghurt, condiments, alcohol, sports drinks, ready meals, and fruit juices. Sports drinks in particular should only be drunk by endurance athletes. There are sugar free options available but most people are much better off on water. If you are not doing any sport or exercise then put the energy drink back – you just do not need it. Make sure you are not drinking your added sugar quota without realising. One can of Red Bull contains 26g of sugar. There are 40g of sugar in a can of coke and 42 in a can of Fanta.
- Our bodies produce glucose if we do not get it from our diet. Fructose we do not need. If our body produces it (very rare) then it does so in the liver. It is far more likely that the liver is full of glycogen so the fructose overloads it forcing it to turn it into fat. Sugar is transformed by the body into fat.
How much sugar is too much?
“Consume no more than 150 calories from added sugar daily if you’re male or 100 calories from added sugar if you’re female, suggests the American Heart Association. This is a maximum of 2 1/2 tablespoons of added sugar for men or 2 tablespoons for women. Drinking one regular 8-ounce energy drink makes you go over your sugar allotment for the entire day.” (Source)
A little sugar is a normal part of your diet. But very few of us actually consume a little. The margin we are talking about here is:
No more than 10% of the calories we get from food should be from added sugar. That is 50g a day for women and 70g a day for men.
Studies suggest that we eat far more than that. And it is easy to see why. Here are a few examples of high sugar foods.
1 portion of baked beans (200g) = 2.5 tsp of sugar
1 tbsp of ketchup = 1 tsp of sugar
1 piece of flapjack = 9 tsp of sugar
1 blueberry muffin = 5.5 tsp of sugar
1 Jam doughnut = 3.5 tsp of sugar
The bottom line is very simple. Sugar contains a lot of calories with no essential nutrients which makes them hollow calories. If you have an active lifestyle and do regular exercise then your body can tolerate more sugar.
But for those who grab an energy drink because you are feeling tired and lethargic at work – you are essentially taking the equivalent of a lightening bolt’s level of energy and channeling it into one kettle.
You think you need it but no kettle on earth needs that amount of power. Resist the addiction and opt for a water – your body will thank you for the respect and compassion you are giving it. Sometimes loving yourself means putting the muffin back – good luck.