Sugar is bad for you. We eat too much of it. So what else is new? If sugar is so bad, why does everybody who eats it seem to be all right? It’s true -- both ancient and modern humans have been eating fruit sugar for millions of years. We can easily handle the small amounts of fructose found in nature. For example, when we eat an apple or most other fruit, sugar enters the body slowly giving us time to process it. And fruit is filling -- it’s almost impossible to eat enough cherries or oranges to be harmful. Furthermore, foods with natural sugar provide essential nutrients that keep the body healthy and help prevent disease. So, where’s the problem???
Refined Sugar – the Real Problem
The problem isn't that we eat too much fruit. The problem is that we eat WAY too much refined sugar. Many people who try to eat a healthy diet don’t have any idea how much refined sugars they eat each day. The amount is scary -- so scary that if they actually knew how much you ate, they probably wouldn't believe it. Most sugar is hidden in packaged foods. Sugar seems to be everywhere and in just about everything. Roughly 74% of processed foods contain added sugar, which is listed under at least 60 different names on food labels.1 Maybe you eat a lot of healthy foods like green vegetables and quality proteins that promote health and well-being. But even if you do, typically there is one sweet thing that can sabotage the most serious, dedicated efforts to eat right. It would be that candy, ice cream, cookie, soft drink, or cappuccino you treat yourself with every day. It’s probably more than one of these things. Our sweet tooth is like a train wreck waiting to happen and will derail you if you’re not careful.
Danger Ahead Identified
Mainstream medical research has known about the hazards of overconsumption of sugar for a long, long time. But what’s new is that the coming health crisis of excess sugar consumption is now a concern of mainstream business. Credit Suisse, a prestigious multinational financial institution issued an expose' on the impact of sugar in October, 2013. In its report entitled "Sugar: Consumption at a Crossroads"2, it outlined sugar's role in undermining global health. You may ask, "Why in the world would an influential financial institution write a comprehensive report about the impact of sugar?" The answer is easy -- the problems caused by added sugar affect public health and as a result, public policy. Its overconsumption makes healthcare costs skyrocket and dramatically impacts our national as well as global economy. The report delivers some shocking revelations, and convincingly asserts that "sugar is destroying the world".3 For example, it states that "Thirty to forty percent of healthcare expenditures in the USA go to help address issues that are closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar."4 In 2012, the average American spent $8,915 on health care, with a total of $2.8 trillion nationally.5 Please follow this link to see an incredible presentation that illustrates the disastrous impact of sugar on global health: http://www.businessinsider.com/credit-suisse-the-global-sugar-epidemic-2013-10#400-million-people-worldwide-are-affected-by-type-2-diabetes-1
A constellation of health effectsIt has long been established that excessive consumption of sugar increases risk of:
- coronary heart disease
- metabolic syndrome
- high blood pressure,
- high cholesterol, gout,
- non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
Are we really eating “EXCESSIVE” sugar and could this be causing our national health crisis? To illustrate the growth of the sugar menace, Online Nursing Programs created this fascinating graphic.7 While medical concerns are well documented, the financial implications are less familiar to some of us. Put in financial terms, "Food undergoes the equivalent of a leveraged recapitalization designed to suit the financial goals of its creator. Consumption of junk food (for example a snack cake or a sugary drink) is akin to a financial exchange where short-term gains are privatized and long-term costs are socialized in the form of horrific health outcomes.” Consumers pay relatively little money and don’t seem worried about the health consequences of their food choices – but by their actions they are boosting profits of food and beverage companies and opting for a “shortened, diseased life."8 9 And, that’s not all…
In 2012, a report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta appeared on 60 Minutes featuring the work of Dr. Lustig, an pediatric endocrinologist from California who gained national attention after a lecture he gave titled "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" went viral in 2009. Lustig published twelve articles in peer-reviewed journals identifying sugar as a major factor in the epidemic of degenerative disease. His research has led him to conclude that 75% of all diseases in America today are brought on by the American lifestyle and are entirely preventable.10 11 12 According to Dr. Lustig, there's a conspiracy around the sugar in soda. Soft drinks contain caffeine, a mild diuretic that makes you urinate more, thereby eliminating water from your body. It also contains about 55 mg of salt, and when you take in salt and excrete water, you get thirstier. The reason why soda contains so much sugar is because they have to mask the taste of the salt. "They [the soda companies] know what they're doing, and this is very specific," Dr. Lustig says, "because they have made it so that you will buy more. This is their business strategy." Unfortunately, it's a business strategy that is slowly killing customers... Adding insult to injury, sugar has also been found to be eight times as addictive as cocaine,13 which also ensures that you'll stay hooked on processed foods and sweet drinks.
- Luna bar: 11 grams of sugar
- Grande Starbucks latte: 17 grams
- Subway 6" sweet onion teriyaki chicken sandwich: 17 grams
- Tropicana orange juice, 8 ounces: 22 grams
- Yoplait original yogurt: 27 grams
- Vitamin Water, 20 ounces: 33 grams
- Sprinkles red velvet cupcake: 45 grams
- California Pizza Kitchen Thai chicken salad: 45 grams
- Odwalla superfood smoothie, 12 ounces: 50 grams
- Regular soft drinks
- Cakes, cookies, pies
- Fruit drinks
- Dairy products (like ice cream, sweetened yogurt, etc)
So why don’t we just STOP EATING IT???
Because it’s not that simple. Sugar is addictive and there is increasing evidence that the brain has separate circuits to control healthy eating and to control sugar cravings. 16 Further evidence supports this disturbing finding. "Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," neuroscientist Joseph Schroeder said. "It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them." "Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat/ high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability."17
From a practical, everyday standpoint, there is a lot of pressure on all of us to eat sweetened foods. They are all around us and in so many things we love. Sugar makes everything taste great and we love it! However, if you want to improve your health, kicking the habit is well worth the effort. But it’s not easy. Start by cutting back gradually. If you're used to two scoops of ice cream, make it one. If you grab a candy bar in the afternoon for a fast pick-me-up, reach for an apple instead. Monitor your food consumption every day to see where YOUR sugar is coming from, and then begin to take some of it away. This gradual process will work if you stick with it (but lots of people who try give up). Going cold turkey is another option that won't take so long. Once you've gone without sugar for a week or so, I guarantee you won't crave it like before. Soon you'll probably notice some pounds dropping off and an extra added boost in your energy level. Try to kick the sugar habit with whatever plan works best for you, but by all means, do your best! It's worth whatever it takes!
4 Credit Suisse Report – Sugar: Consumption At A Crossroads
8 Simons Chase – 2 Perspectives On Food Innovation: Sodastream vs. Monster Beverage
15 Credit Suisse September 2013