First it was fat, then it was carbohydrates, now it’s sugar…
We have all been led to believe that eating too much fat in the diet is to blame for society’s obesity epidemic, when in fact, sugar is the main culprit. Sugar is not only making us fat, it’s slowly killing us. Science is now proving, beyond any shadow of a doubt, sugar is the biggest threat to human health.
Our ever-increasing health problems are strongly correlated with the over consumption of processed sugar. Excess sugar consumption can be attributed to an increased risk type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, metabolic diseases, premature ageing and the aggravation of existing conditions such as cancers, ADHD and auto-immune diseases.
We all know sugar isn’t good for us, it’s a no brainer, but for some reason, the fat and calorie content of foods is more important to us when making food choices.
Most of us don’t realise quite how much sugar we are consuming because so much of it is hidden in processed foods. In fact, the average Australian is consuming a whopping 45kg of sugar per year! The fact is, if you knew the effect sugar has on your body, you would think twice about adding those two teaspoons of sugar into your morning coffee.
So why is sugar so bad for us? Not all sugar is bad. Different sugars have different effects on the body. Here is a simple explanation: Dextrose, sucrose, glucose and fructose – anything ending in ‘ose’ is a sugar.
The main difference is how your body metabolises the substance.
Glucose is the sugar our bodies are designed to run on. Every cell in our body uses glucose for energy, it is converted from the foods we eat. The sugar we need to be aware of is fructose. Fructose has an addictive effect on the brain and messes up our appetite regulating hormones. When fructose is consumed, it goes to the liver to be metabolised, where approximately 30% of it is converted into body fat. The misconception about low fat diets is when fructose is substituted in diet foods for fat, and the end result is fructose doubling as fat – It is really a high fat diet.
Fructose is the sugar additive of choice for food manufacturers and comes in the processed form of high fructose corn syrup. This source of sweetness created by man is added to almost everything in a packet, making food more palatable and addictive, resulting in metabolic disasters within the body.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t sugar in fruit?”… Well yes, but the sugar in fruit (fructose and glucose) is in much smaller quantities and as you know, fruit is good for our health. So don’t put that apple down just yet. These fruit sugars were given to us by nature as whole foods, and they provide us and an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals.
Sugar and Weight Gain
There is strong evidence to support that sugar consumption, specifically the fructose component of sugar, is linked to obesity. Fructose fools the body’s metabolism. It works by turning off the body’s appetite control system, leaving us craving more and more.
Unlike glucose which is burned up immediately after consumption, fructose is metabolised by the liver which is converted into fat, leading to rapid weight gain, predominantly around the belly.
Sugar and Addiction
One of the scariest effects sugar has on the body is it’s addictive effect on the brain. Scientists are now reporting sugar to be as addictive as cocaine. When we eat sugar, the pleasure receptors in our brain respond the same way as if we have consumed illicit drugs. Sugar releases opiate chemicals in the brain, explaining why we can’t stop at just one piece of chocolate, we crave more and more until the entire block has been devoured. When we are feeling emotional, we crave sugary foods as the sugar temporarily releases feel good hormones, sending us on a high… Then we crash.
Sugar is a mood altering drug, sending our moods on a roller-coaster of highs and lows, making our brains programmed to crave more and more.
According to ex sugar addicts, Sarah Wilson of I Quit Sugar, and David Gillespie, author of Sweet Poison, kicking the habit is tough yakka. If you’re not the type to go cold turkey, my advice is to focus on the quality of sugar versus the quantity. If you want to use a sweetener on odd occasions, I recommend stevia, raw organic honey, coconut nectar, rice malt syrup or rapadura sugar. These sweeteners will also provide nutrients along with taste. I wouldn’t recommend agave as a sweetener of choice. It is highly processed and is almost completely made up of fructose. If you are going to eat something sweet, make it worth your while by choosing fruit or something with nutritional benefits such as raw honey. By eliminating processed foods from your diet, your sugar consumption will drop dramatically and you will feel better for it.
The irony is, life is sweeter without sugar.
To find out more about the dangers of fructose, watch the documentary by Dr. Lustig, Sugar: The Bitter Truth. It will blow your mind!