Yes, we know we’ve posted previously on limiting sugar for children, but this subject is so important that we felt the need to post again about the dangers of the  addictive white stuff.  

Far from being healthy, the Western Diet is leading to a multitude of health problems.  Men, women and children are struggling with acute and chronic health issues that are as a result of our diet, and the biggest culprit is sugar.

Our diets are laden with sugar.  Refined sugar is added to so many foods from cereals, yoghurts, cooking sauces to tinned products such as baked beans. We all know that fizzy drinks are full of sugar or sweeteners (which are also unhealthy), but if you take the time to check the labels, the actual percentage sugar content of so many foods is seriously worrying. 

A study in the late 1950s by Ancel Keys known as the Seven Countries Study looked at a link between fat and cardiovascular disease.  It was concluded that saturated fat was the enemy and we should all turn to low-fat, high carb diets.  Sadly this study was seriously flawed, the results entirely  skewed by evidence that was manipulated and  completely gave the wrong view.  The American Nutrition then followed up in the 1970s with standard dietary guidelines, encouraging people to reduce fat in order to reduce heart disease and cholesterol.   Low-fat everything became the norm.  However, to compensate for the lack of taste due to reduced fat, manufacturers added sugar instead. This resulted in a whole generation who were taught to eat low fat foods, yet, as the evidence now shows, this was so very wrong.  Next time you are shopping, just take a look at the ingredients of a low-fat yoghurt compared to a full-fat yoghurt – you’ll notice that the low-fat version has a lot more sugar.  

So why is sugar so bad

 1.  A study in 2014 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a link between sugar and cardiovascular disease.  In fact, those people getting  17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar.  

Last October a study looked at how added sugar in children’s diet affected their health.  Added sugar was removed from the diets of a group of children and the effects after just 10 days were astounding.  After just a short time improvements were seen in their blood pressure and cholesterol readings.

2.   In our guts are billions of bacteria, beneficial and not so beneficial and it’s important for our health that we keep a fine balance, that balance being about 80% friendly and 20% not-so-friendly bacteria.  If your digestion is not tip top then it’s probably due to an imbalance in bacteria.  Crohns, IBS, ulcerative colitis are all on the increase and it’s largely because of too many bad bacteria. By giving the bad bacteria fuel in the form of sugar, we are promoting their growth and putting our health at risk.   By the way, have you ever consumed those supermarket probiotic drinks?  Many are full of sugar (to make them palatable), which the unfriendly bacteria love so buying those probiotics is really not doing you much good at all. Our own baby/children’s probiotics have no sugar or sweeteners and we will be introducing adult versions very soon.

3.  Much of our immune system is in our gut so if you keep getting ill, chances are your immune system is being compromised by an abundance of bad bacteria in your digestive tract.  Are you often ill, run down, or with numerous colds over winter?  Then look at your sugar intake because it’s quite possible that your immune system is being compromised by the amount of sugar consumed, even if you are also consuming vitamins and  other supplements.

4.  Added sugar usually comes in the form of fructose, which is also abundant in fruit and fruit juices.  And those probiotics I mentioned earlier – guess what’s added to those?  Yep, fructose syrup.  OK, so fruit also provides lots of vitamins, but don’t overload your diet with them. There are some sugar-free diets that suggest you do away with fruit altogether.  If you truly want to take away sugar, then this is what you need to do, but at the very least cut right down and check ingredients for added fructose syrup.  But what’s the deal with fructose? Well, it’s a simple sugar that is only metabolized by the liver, rather than glucose which is used in all our cells.  Our liver aims to get rid of the fructose and converts it into fat which stays in the liver and lies around our internal organs. Not good at all.   Plus too much fructose will lead to fatty liver disease, just as bad as the effects of too much alcohol on the liver.   Many experts now believe that excess fructose is the root cause of the most serious diseases we see today.

5.  Sugar messes with our brain.  Too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance and in turn too much insulin can play havoc with our neurotransmitters, the chemicals messengers in nerve cells. Serotonin production, often know as the ‘feel-good hormone’ can be negatively affected by too much insulin, possibly leading to sadness and depression.  Levels of Dopamine, another neurotransmitter that plays a part in movement, emotions and our feelings of pleasure, can also skewed by insulin resistance.   Have a watch of this Ted-Ed talk about the effect of sugar on our dopamine levels.  Yes, sugar is addictive.  

So what do you need to do to being reducing sugar in your diet?

It’s added sugar that is crucial and that comes in many forms.

Start looking at food labels. You’ll see it in ingredients listed as sugar, fructose syrup, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, barley malt, honey, maple syrup, palm sugar, rice syrup, cane juice.  

The World Health Organisation recommends adults and children limit their sugar intake to “ less than 10% of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits”.   6 teaspoons per day is actually plenty and in fact the American Health Foundation now recommends 5 teaspoons for adults and no more than 3 teaspoons for children. It may seem a pain, but it is definitely well worth the time invested to read the labels of the food that you and your family are consuming. We’re sure you’ll be shocked as we were to discover how much hidden sugar we are all consuming in addition to the obviously sugary treat that we already know are unhealthy. Quitting sugar is not easy, and many people prefer to cut down rather than quit, but gaining the knowledge is the first step. We promise that this will not be the last you hear from us on this subject.