Sugar, the silent killer

Everyone says excessive salt will be the death of you. But sugar, it turns out, is equally bad.

By P Patel 

According to the World Health Organisation, only 10 per cent of your diet should come from sugar. But we’re all guilty of eating more than that. Here’s why you should take a long hard look at your eating habits and reduce the sugar consumption.

It can cause obesity
A study published in the American Journal of Physiology found that excess fructose consumption is linked to an increase in a condition called leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that tells your brain when you’ve had enough food so that you can stop eating. The problem is that when you’re habituated to high sugar consumption, your body becomes resistant to leptin and you often ignore the signal your brain sends to stop eating. This leads to over consumption of food and, consequently, obesity. And what’s worse is that this happens without any symptoms.

It may shorten your life
A 2013 study by Harvard School of Public Health, US, estimated that 1.8 lakh deaths worldwide may be attributed to the sugar found in soft drinks. It summarised that deaths occurred due to the association with sugar-sweetened beverages and chronic disease risk such as diabetes and heart disease. Findings come from a project that aggregated the results of about 20 long-term studies that were published in the journal PLOS Medicine. It also found that people with a body mass index (BMI) of above 40 lose at least six-and-a-half years on average from their expected life span (BMI indicates the amount of fat present in your body).

It’s addictive, like drugs and alcohol
Like all addictive things, too much of sugar can cause cravings and even an increased tolerance for it. When sugar-fed mice were taken off sugar, it produced events of binging, craving and even withdrawal symptoms. In people who are dependent on drugs, nicotine, and alcohol, the dopamine receptors in the brain are sent into overdrive causing them to constantly seek that high. This results in addiction. Sugar causes a similar reaction in the brain.

It could give you a diseased liver
The fructose in the sugar seeps through your small intestine into the bloodstream and then into the liver. ​Your liver, in turn, works to turn fructose into something your body can use. “But the liver is a very sensitive organ and can get easily overwhelmed, especially if you have a raging sweet tooth,” says Anne Alexander in her book The Sugar Smart Diet. “Over time, excess fructose can prompt globules of fat to grow throughout the liver, a process called lipogenesis, the precursor to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”

A bitter truth
Through his 2014 documentary That Sugar Film, Australian actor and director Damon Gameau wanted to demonstrated that you could have 40 teaspoons of sugar in a day without exceeding the recommended number of calories or eating any junk food. He wanted to show that nutritionists have encouraged us to worry too much about fat and not worry enough about sugar. Gameau decided to consume 40 teaspoons of sugar a day for 60 days while monitoring the effects on his body. He did not consume any soft drinks or confectionary during this time. All of the sugar was hidden in apparently nutritious foods like wholegrain cereal, low-fat yoghurt and juice. After just two months of this high-sugar diet, Damon showed signs of fatty liver disease and his triglyceride levels (fat in the blood) rose. Even though his daily calorie intake remained the same at 2,300, he gained 7 per cent of additional body fat and suffered mood swings and poor concentration.

Did you know?
According to British campaign group called the Action on Sugar, a large Hot Mulled Fruit drink from Starbucks has 99 grams of sugar. That’s equal to 25 teaspoons and is more than three times the recommended maximum for an adult for an entire day (the maximum recommended amount is 30 grams or 7 teaspoons). And Costa Cofee’s large Chai Latte contains 20 teaspoons of sugar, while KFC’s Mocha contains 15 teaspoons.

Photograph courtesy: Moyan Brenn/Creative Commons

Categories:   Lifestyle, Health & Fitness


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