“Added sugars have become such a predominant feature of the North American diet that we can’t help but recognize their major contribution to excess calories,” says Linda Van Horn, a professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
The naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and vegetables are not the problem. It’s the refined white sugar, the high fructose corn syrup, the glucose-fructose, the liquid invert sugar and other manufactured forms of sugar that are the real problem. This is an especially big problem because sugar is everywhere in our foods. There have been 146 reasons that sugar ruins our health documented! Rest assured that I don’t intend to cover all of them – I do, however, want to outline some of the more major health risks posed by too much sugar.
In a word, no, apart from the sugar which occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. Table sugar (sucrose) is broken down in the body to half fructose and half glucose. At that point it’s pretty much identical to glucose-fructose, also known as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Honey consists of 50% fructose, 44% glucose, 1% sucrose (5% other sugars), so is not much different, although it may taste better. Maple syrup is 95% sucrose, 4% glucose and 1% fructose.
Thus there is no reason to believe that “throwback” sugared soft drinks are any healthier than those sweetened with HFCS, even if some people think they taste better. Soft drinks are not healthy no matter what they’re sweetened with, including calorie-free sweeteners.
Basically sugars are empty calories, and we can’t afford to consume very many. They are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic in North America and elsewhere.
The average Canadian consumes an estimated forty-five kilograms of sugar a year. That’s almost one hundred pounds of sugar. How is this possible? The answer is in the kind of food that we eat.
Sugar is present in most foods. The problem lies in the excess of highly refined sugars used in so many common foods - bread, cereal, ketchup, and peanut butter just to name a few - along with the all-too-numerous processed and packaged food items that line supermarket shelves. And don’t forget the popularity of specialty coffees, soft drinks, and fruit juices, all of which contain large amounts of sugar. On top of this, if you eat out a lot, you can never be sure of how much sugar ends up in your meals.
- Sugars contribute to excess calorie intake which results in weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease. When Harvard researchers tracked more than 88,000 women for 24 years, they found that – regardless of weight – those who drank at least 2 sugar-sweetened beverages a day had a 20% higher risk of heart disease than those who drank less than 1 sugar-sweetened beverage a month.
- Fructose raises triglycerides. Elevated triglyceride levels which occur after a meal due to fructose, increase risk of heart attack. This is because the liver converts fructose to fat which then enters the blood stream. This, in turn, makes the blood more likely to clot. This is not the fructose found in fruit.
- Too much sugar promotes type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that women who drank at least 1 sugar-sweetened soft drink a day, over an 8 year period, had an 83% higher risk of type 2 diabetes than those who drank less than 1 a month.
- Fructose appears to increase visceral (deep abdominal) fat which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
- Fructose may decrease insulin sensitivity.
- Fructose increases the risk of gout, which is very painful. Fructose increases uric acid, and uric acid causes gout. In a study of about 46,000 American men, those who got at least 12 % of their calories from fructose were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with gout over a 12 year follow-up period as those who got less than 7% of their calories from fructose.
- Added sugars lower HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
- Fructose may promote overeating. Leptin is a hormone made by fat cells that tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. Over time, fructose blocks the leptin signal, with the result that people tend to keep eating.
- Sugar can cause metabolic syndrome (which includes most of the factors already mentioned).
- Sugar is addictive. People who cut sugar out of their diets rapidly can experience withdrawal symptoms similar to drug or alcohol withdrawal. This may sound far-fetched, but chemically, sugar is basically unfermented alcohol.
- Sugar can increase blood pressure.
- Sugar suppresses the immune system because it blocks absorption of vitamin C.
- Sugar can contribute to the development of some cancers.
- In particular, sugar and soft drinks can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
- Other cancers linked to sugar consumption include gastric cancer, biliary tract cancer, gallbladder cancer, cancer of the rectum, and liver tumours.
- Sugar causes constipation.
- Sugar can cause hemorrhoids.
- Sugar can cause varicose veins.
- Sugar can lead to periodontal disease.
- Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.
- Sugar can weaken eyesight – it can contribute to nearsightedness and cataracts.
- Sugar can cause headaches including migraines.
- Sugar interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
- Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function, that is, it ages you.
- Aim for just 100 calories (6.5 teaspoons or 25 grams) a day of added sugars if you’re a woman and 150 calories (9,5 teaspoons or 38 grams) if you’re a man.
- Do not drink sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Limit fruit juices to no more than 1 cup a day.
- Limit all added sugars, including glucose-fructose, cane or beet sugar, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, agave syrup and honey.
- Don’t worry about the naturally occurring sugar in fruit, milk, and plain yogurt.
- If a food has little or no milk or fruit (which have natural sugars), the “Sugars” number on the package’s Nutrition Facts panel will tell you how much added sugar is in each serving.
- Concentrate on eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as whole grains.
- Don’t keep junk food in your home. That way, you’ll snack on something healthy when you’re hungry, like an apple or a few nuts.
- Avoid processed or ready-prepared foods. If you use only fresh ingredients, you’ll know there’s no added sugar.
- For additional information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment. Please continue sharing our newsletters with friends and family. Visit our web site at www.ramilashealingartsclinic.com for back issues of this newsletter and information about our Clinic.
The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.
1)Liebman B. Sugar overload – 10 reasons to cut back. Nutrition Action Health Letter 2010;37(1):1,3-8.
2)Masson S. Not so sweet after all “And thoughts of sugar plums danced in their heads.” Sunshine Today December 2007/ January 2008:12-13.
3) Added sugars not so sweet for cholesterol levels. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2010;28(5):1-2.
4) Appleton N. 146 reasons why sugar is ruining your health. http://rheumatic.org/sugar.htm accessed November 4, 2010. See also www.nancyappleton.com.
5) No evidence “throwback” sugared sodas healthier. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2010;28(1):3.
6) Is sugar killing you? AIM Canada, Health & Wealth Magazine 2010; November-December: 4.
7)Sugar’s effect on your health. http://www.healingdaily.com/detoxification-diet/sugar.htm Accessed November 3, 2010.
8)To reduce pancreatic cancer risk, can the soda pop and sugar. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2007;25(3):6.
These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.
Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic