Last update: 01-Aug-2014 6:50 am
Friday, August 01, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Why sugar is a sweet poison
We all get cravings for a little sweet sometimes. While nothing might be wrong with that, the question of how much sugar we intake is another issue.
Sugar is now being regarded as the latest international “demon” food. In a September 22 article in the UK Guardian, writer and doctor Luisa Dillner said according to two recent research papers, sugar is toxic enough to kill mice and is the drug of choice for laboratory rats, who prefer it to cocaine.
Dillner said sugar is now being described as the most dangerous drug of its time by Paul van der Velpent, head of Amsterdam’s health service. According to the article, van der Velpent is now calling his country to place restrictions on sugar in food and a ban on soft drinks in schools.
The article also stated that the latest national diet and nutrition survey in the UK had showed all age groups exceeded the recommended 11 per cent of energy intake coming from sugars added to foods.
But is the issue really a “latest development?” The topic of added sugar and its negative effect on health has been discussed ad nauseam on a global level. In fact, if you were to type the keywords “unhealthy foods” in any search engine online, you would find a large percentage of the results refer to sugary foods and drinks.
Added sugars are those that are added to foods. The most common added sugars are regular table sugar (sucrose) or high fructose corn syrup.
In T&T we may also be suffering with the “sugar bug,” as we have become a “sugar loving society,” according to Health Minister Fuad Khan.
In a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian, Khan, who has been very vocal on the fight against unhealthy eating, said citizens in this country should be very worried about their daily intake of sugar because current consumption is extremely high, to the point of even being abused.
“If you are going to pour yourself a glass of soda or artificial fruit juice, you might as well pour yourself a glass of sugar, because that’s exactly what you will be consuming—sugar,” Khan said.
He said soft drinks and many juices from concentrates are laden with added sugars and are often linked to obesity, cancer, heart disease and other non-communicable diseases.
Khan said the amount of sugar consumed on a daily basis should be minimal or none at all. He pointed out that 90 per cent of sugar in food is added sugar.
“Once you intake too much sugar you get what is called an insulin spike,” Khan pointed out.
“This initiates rapid glucose uptake by tissues and produces fat that is mostly deposited in areas of the body like around the belly and waist, which then leads to cardiovascular problems.”
He said research has shown the maximum amount of added sugar one should consume in a day on average are seven teaspoons. He said for men he suggests 150 calories per day, which is equivalent to 37.5 grams or nine teaspoons.
For women it is 100 calories per day, which is equivalent to 25 grams or six teaspoons.
However, people are consuming as much as 60 grams, which is equivalent to 15 teaspoons of added sugar on a daily basis.
Khan said people must also not be fooled by labels that carry the words “all natural” or “no additives or preservatives”, as that information is usually false.
“People must pay close attention to the details to find out the amount of sugar content in what they are eating or drinking,” he said.
He also urged parents to pack fewer soft drinks and sugary snacks in their children’s lunch boxes.
He said it hurts him to see so many young people looking very obese in this country. But what is worse is that statistics have shown that children between the ages of five and seven are developing Type 2 diabetes and the underlying factor is usually poor eating habits. Khan said if we keep this up, in the next two years we will have a fast dying population and a big fat society.
Last year Khan told the T&T Guardian the ministry was working closely with the Ministry of Education to put a policy in place that will seek to decrease the amount of sugary foods, fried foods and carbonated beverages sold at schools.
Why sugar is a health hazard
• Sugar can decrease growth hormone (the key to staying youthful and lean)
• Sugar feeds cancer
• Sugar increases cholesterol
• Sugar can weaken eyesight
• Sugar can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children
• Sugar can interfere with the absorption of protein
• Sugar causes food allergies
• Sugar contributes to diabetes
• Sugar can contribute to eczema in children
• Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease
• Sugar can impair the structure of DNA
• Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children
• Sugar contributes to the reduction in defence against bacterial infection (infectious diseases)
• Sugar greatly assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida Albicans (yeast infections)
• Sugar contributes to osteoporosis