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Just how bad is sugar for our health?

In the last year or two we have been bombarded with information and articles in the news about the detrimental effects of sugar and how it is responsible for the current rising obesity levels across the country. So just how bad is sugar?

You might think having a little sugar here and there is not a problem. You will burn it off later or eat something healthy for dinner to compensate.

The truth is, every bit of sugar you are having is detrimental to your health! And, once you have consumed it, the damage is already done.

Too much sugar triggers weight gain

Sugar is actually incredibly hard to burn off through exercise and can often lead to weight gain.

Eating sugar is basically the same as asking your body to begin storing fat. When you eat a sugary snack, like a doughnut or a chocolate bar, your blood-glucose levels spike, which stimulates the release of insulin.

Insulin is a hormone which allows the body to process sugar (glucose). All the cells in your body need glucose for energy and insulin is the key to allow the cells to use glucose, as it cannot be directly absorbed from the bloodstream.

When you have a spike in blood sugar levels which is more than your cells need for energy, insulin also helps to store the excess sugar, but in the process it also instructs your body to store fat too.

Excess sugar can cause Type 2 Diabetes

If your body is working overtime to process excess sugar, your hormonal system – which tells your pancreas to produce insulin – can become desensitised and your pancreas overworked, leading to Type 2 Diabetes.

At the same time that all this is going on, high levels of blood sugar also lead to glycation. This is where glucose starts to bind with other fat and protein molecules, not just in your food, but also those within your body.

Internally, this can impair and damage all kinds of molecular function, accelerate the ageing process, damage skin, overwork organs, weaken joints and muscles and increase fat retention.

Should we cut out sugar altogether?

Natural cane sugar, the stuff you have in your tea and coffee, is not a major problem. Having a scoop in a cup of tea is not going to destroy your body. But simple sugars contain no beneficial nutrients at all and make us fat through excess and empty calories.

The real issue lies within the everyday food products which we consume every day and don’t even think about. Many people’s diets are made up of huge amounts of fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, sugary cereals, chocolates and crisps. People often consume 40-50 grams of sugar in one sitting without even realising it.

To put this in perspective, it’s not just your sugary snacks. During digestion, one slice of white bread has the equivalent amount of glucose as four tablespoons of natural cane sugar. In fact, if you drink a can of coke, have a sandwich, a yoghurt and a cake for lunch, you will have consumed over 60 grams of sugar. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is around 40 grams.

What foods should we avoid?

There are also many foods that are ‘dressed up’ as healthy such as the craze on smoothies and some of these so-called protein milk shakes. These can contain a massive 60 – 80 grams of sugar through the high fructose corn syrups that are put into them.

So now you know the impact simple sugars have upon us, the key is to cut out or limit any intake of many of the common foodstuffs below that are responsible for fat retention, illnesses, ageing, and increased incidences in diabetes, heart disease and cancers.

  • Fizzy sodas
  • Confectionery/Sweets
  • Biscuits/Cookies
  • Cakes/Doughnuts etc
  • Sugary breakfast cereals
  • Concentrated fruit juices
  • Sports drinks (They often have no place in sport anyway and are an advertising gimmick)
  • Ice creams
  • Desserts (including the low fat varieties which are often worse than normal ones)
  • Many low-fat foods (while they are low in fat content, they usually have more sugar to compensate)