New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Why You Should Watch Your Sugar Intake

A new inclusive study published by the British Medical Journal investigated the link between sugar consumption and the effects it has on weight gain.

The conclusion of the study found that weight loss could be achieved simply by reducing one's daily sugar intake.

"Some research suggests that sugary drinks make it harder for us to regulate the overall amount of calories eaten and a regular intake may be a factor contributing to obesity in children," according to the British Diabetic Association.

Refined sugars and other highly processed carbohydrates are known spike insulin levels that are associated with type 2 diabetes as well as more difficult weight control. The findings also suggested that the taste of sugar promotes further overconsumption thus further complicating its effects.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that added sugar intake should be limited to a maximum of 10% of total energy intake. Natural carbohydrates that are found in fruits and vegetables should make up the vast majority of the requirement.

Sugar is also associated with inflammation in the body, tooth decay and many other nutrient deficiencies. The inflammatory link is the suggested connection to health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and even certain types of cancer.

Are sugars addictive?

Robert Lustig, a professor of paediatrics at the University of California and a well-known dietary sugar researcher believes that sugar is addictive despite counter claims by sugar lobbyists.

"There are five tastes on your tongue; sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami," he explains. "Sugar covers up the other four, so you can't taste the negative aspects of foods. You can make dog poop taste good with enough sugar."

Dr. Alex Richardson, a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford and director of the UK charity Food and Behaviour Research, agrees with Lustig. He says there is too much sugar and processed carbohydrates in our food system.

"We find that highly processed foods are making up massively more of children's diets. Things like cakes, biscuits, snacks and crisps."

"Fruit and vegetables are so vital for children. They provide essential vitamins and minerals, but so often a third of a plate of child's food is sugary rubbish and a small amount is vegetable or fruit," she adds.

Finding hidden sugars:

The vast majority of sugar that is consumed is hidden in different forms to confuse the consumer. The devastating effects of sugar are becoming well-known and manufacturers are devising new ways of diverting one's attention away from the sugar content.

Sugar can be listed under other names such as sucrose, glucose, fructose and maltose on the food label. These are the chemical names of the different forms of sugar but require the consumer to know that information.

The marketing of processed food items revolve around added, removed or fortified nutrient claims. "No cholesterol", "low fat" and "no sugar added" are common claims to facilitate a sale versus health.

The leading stream of sugar consumed is found in soda. Many brands of soda contain approximately 28g of sugar per 8oz serving and contain caffeine that is a known diuretic. Diuretics can dehydrate the body and contribute to inflammation in the body.

Refined sugars and processed foods are not a sign of prosperity; it is a sign of large medical bills in the future. Cut the sweets, do not drink sugar-laced products and add plenty natural fruits and vegetables.

Avoid or cut down on all sugars:

Sugar is known to complicate the body's ability to effectively manage weight. Sugar in the bloodstream disrupts the functioning of hormones and, when consumed in excess, it is stored in the body as fat.

Weight gain, especially increased abdominal fat, is a known risk factor of serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin are no better. They have been linked to a horde of health conditions, too, ranging from headaches to stroke. Soda, other sugar-sweetened beverages and sugar-dense foods are closely linked to the growing health problems.

Avoid artificially sweeteners:

Artificially sweetened drinks do not provide a safe alternative. Studies confirm that drinking artificial sweeteners vastly increases a person's risk of stroke, heart attack and death, resulting from vascular diseases like peripheral artery disease and aneurysm.

By consuming two artificially sweetened drinks daily, a person's waistline will grow by about 500% more than someone who drinks pure, clean water.

According to research, fatty tissue cells have receptor for sweetness. This suggests that, even without calories, "artificial sweeteners could cause weight gain by directly stimulating the development of new fat cells."

Ludwig recommends artificial sweeteners "only as a transitional aid to wean people off sugary beverages."

A sugar substitute is an artificial food additive that duplicates the effect of sugar in taste, but with less actual nutritional value.

A natural substitution that is readily available in many grocery stores is Xylitol or Stevia. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar and has none of sugar's unhealthy side effects. It is also a great, safe alternative to help prevent and manage the development of type 2 diabetes.

In nature, sweet foods are packed with calories, so the brain naturally prepares its metabolism to burn those calories. However, research has shown that when the sweetness is present, but calories are not, metabolism slows to a crawl.

The brain is then tricked into eating more, and because metabolism has slowed, more calories are stored as fat.

People often say that their metabolism slows as they age, but much of this slowing is self-inflicted. Storing fat is a red flag for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and a vast array of other health conditions such as chronic pain and arthritis.

Sugary, sweet drinks and foods are the ultimate example of living in the moment and not thinking about the future. We must enjoy the present without sacrificing the future. Our choices today will impact our outcomes tomorrow.

The writer is a doctor. Additional information adopted from his recent articles

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