What sugar doesn’t want you to know
Here in the UK, we’ve decided it’s a good idea to consume spoonfuls of sugar, without the medicine to go with it, which isn’t a good look. This increased sugar consumption is reflected in the fact that children and teenagers are consuming anywhere between 13% to 14% of their daily caloric intake in the form of sugar, almost 3 times the recommended daily amount.
Here at Behealthible we believe that our relationship with sugar is a reflection of how as a society we heedlessly view sugar, and as a result fail in educating ourselves and others on the negative impacts that overindulging in sugar can pose, to both our physical and mental health.
It is key that we understand the significance and wisdom behind the government’s official recommendation for daily sugar consumption. An important detail to know and understand relates to the term “free sugars” not to be confused with “sugar-free”. Imagine confusing batman for the joker, makeup and all, the same sentiment applies.
But “why so serious?”, don’t worry you’ll find sooner rather than later…
In short “free sugar” is the sugar that is added to our food and drink, but also the natural sugar found in honey, syrup and fruit juice of all kinds. Labelled “free” because they are not contained within the cells of such foods. Moreover, in the case of fruit, once it is juiced, the sugar, primarily sucrose, glucose and fructose are released, which then become free sugars that have negative implications on our health. Additionally, the juicing process also removes many essential nutrients and good fibre.
How much sugar should we consume per day
At present, the UK government suggests that sugar, present in all forms of food and drink should not exceed 5% of our total daily caloric intake, rather than the 13.5% average caloric intake in sugar that we’ve become accustomed to.
In general, this means we should be consuming:
Adults – No more than 30 grams of sugar per day
Children (7 to 10 years) – No more than 24 grams of sugar per day
Children (4 to 6 years) – No more than 19 grams of sugar per day
For children under the age of 4 years, sugar-added foods should be out of the question, altogether.
Eight ways that sugar steals your health
The first thought that usually comes to mind is the relationship between sugar and tooth decay or ‘dental caries’.
Tooth decay occurs when bacteria found in dental plaque use this sugar as an energy source and subsequently release acidic waste, which can then dissolve tooth enamel (the outermost covering of the teeth), ultimately leading to tooth decay or ‘dental caries’.
It is important that we know of the more devastating and long-term effects that sugar can have on both short-term and long-term health (see below).
1. A high sugar diet can cause weight gain and obesity (directly and indirectly)
How a high-sugar diet directly causes weight gain (sugar converted to fat)
The most obvious way that excess sugar can lead to weight gain is by way of its conversion into fat. But how does this conversion happen?
In short, all sugars other than glucose are converted to glucose, which is used as an energy source or in cases of excess stored as glycogen (a complex sugar that is stored in your muscles and liver for later use).
Storage is all good and well, however, there is an issue, the liver only has a capacity to store a small amount of glycogen (100 grams), with the rest being converted to fat, in a process known as lipogenesis.
Moreover, evidence shows that consuming too many sugary drinks is linked to an increase in the amount of visceral (tummy) fat, which asides from being unsightly is associated with many health complications, including heart disease and diabetes, to name a few.
How a high-sugar diet indirectly causes weight gain (affecting hunger levels)
Fructose is a very commonly used fruit sugar, which has been shown to contribute to weight gain both directly, as outlined above and also indirectly (see below).
The indirect aspect of weight gain is based around the fact that too much fructose has shown to increase your hunger levels and in turn cause you to crave food. This isn’t a craving for greek salad, let me tell you.
Additionally, fructose has shown that it may cause resistance to a very important hormone (leptin) that acts to promote satiety (fullness) and in turn helps to regulate your hunger levels throughout the day.
2. A high sugar diet may increase your risk of developing heart disease
There are many consequences that our bodies face due to excess sugar consumption, which have the potential to increase our risk of developing heart disease. These include increased inflammation all over the body and increased triglyceride levels (a type of fat found in the blood).
Sugar may also contribute to the development of conditions such as e.g. obesity, diabetes and finally, increased blood pressure, all of which increase your risk of developing heart disease.
3. A high sugar diet may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
The strongest risk for developing type 2 diabetes is obesity, which as mentioned previously may be brought on and worsened by consuming too much sugar.
Moreover and relevant to type 2 diabetes is the fact that a high-sugar diet has been shown to drive resistance to insulin, a hormone necessary for regulating blood sugar levels. When insulin slacks off on the job you can expect your blood sugar to rise, which over time gives way to developing diabetes.
4. A high sugar diet may increase the chances of developing acne and having breakouts
The development of acne has shown a strong link to a diet high in sugar and glycemic index (a rating of how quickly a food affects your blood sugar once consumed). In short, high-sugar foods are notorious for spiking your blood sugar and consequently your insulin levels. This increase in insulin leads to the acne-causing trifecta of; increased androgen secretion, oil secretion and inflammation, the perfect recipe for breakouts.
On the other hand, a diet low in sugar and glycemic index has shown to reduce the risk of acne. So to be clear, stay away from sugar.
5. A high sugar diet can make you feel tired all the time
Leading on from the effects of increased sugar consumption and the spikes in blood sugar, you will more than likely feel energetic. As with anything, what goes up must come down, meaning you will experience transient energy that eventually leaves you feeling tired and drained once glucose decreases with the help of increased insulin. This process is known as the energy-draining cycle.
Moreover, to avoid the effects of this energy-draining cycle you should opt for a carb source that is low in “free sugar” and high in dietary fibre.
6. A high sugar diet may speed up the skins ageing process
Researchers have found that a diet high in sugar speeds up the skins natural ageing process.
Let’s jump into some science, the compounds aptly named AGEs (Advanced glycation end-products), are formed as a result of a reaction between sugar and protein in your body. These AGEs can cause the skin to age prematurely, by damaging the elastin and collagen, which are both responsible for keeping your skin stretchy, firm and on the opposite side of saggy.
7. A high sugar diet may increase the risk of depression
Yes, a high-sugar diet has been shown to have a negative effect on your mental health and may potentially increase your risk of developing depression. Research suggests that this is due to the fact that spikes and troughs in blood sugar have shown to cause dysregulation of mood stabilising chemicals (neurotransmitters) which has a damaging effect on your mental health.
Asides from the effects on mental health, a high sugar diet has shown to accelerate the rate of cognitive decline e.g. memory issues and ultimately giving way to developing nasty diseases such as dementia.
8. A high sugar diet has shown to increase your risk of developing cancer
A lot of the factors and conditions discussed above that occur as a result of eating too much sugar can increase the risk of developing certain cancers, e.g. eating a high-sugar diet increases the risk of obesity, inflammation and insulin resistance, all of which increase the risk of developing cancer.
It is of vast importance that we don’t sugarcoat the reality that consuming too much sugar has on our health.
But now the question is, how do we cut down on sugar in our diets?
Keep a lookout for our follow-up blog on “how to cut down sugar consumption”, a golden ticket to help you slash sugar consumption. You’ll be free if you truly wish to be ♪♪, like how we spun that?