The bitter truth about sugar
You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that your favourite red velvet cake or cinnamon glazed doughnut is packed with sugar. It is also common knowledge that most of the soft drinks we consume daily are made with a lot of sugar. In fact, a single bottle of soft drink has 12 teaspoons of sugar, which is twice the recommended daily limit of sugar intake which is 6 teaspoons; and that is just one bottle! Many Nigerians have at least an average of 2 to 3 bottles a day. The truth of the matter is that most people consume about 3-4 times the amount of sugar they ought to consume daily. With the rising health trend, sugar intake is still at an all time high. This could be because most people don’t realize that the so-called healthy alternatives that have zero calories and zero sugar are also just as bad.
The health food industry is booming, and several healthy food companies and restaurants have sprung up and are doing considerably fine because they are offering a healthier alternative to sugar. But why is it that there are still obese people and children around? We seem to be eating healthier, but still getting fatter. What is really going on? “We love the sweet stuff, and instead of just quitting that sweet tooth and opting for real-tasting, nourishing whole foods, we keep searching for sugar-free alternatives.” There are 56 names for sugar, and the food manufacturers know this. So they give you what you want; sugar in different forms but they just don’t call it sugar, and you keep coming back for more because you think you are eating healthier.
The bitter truth is that as sweet as it is, sugar is highly toxic and addictive, just as addictive as illicit drugs; and negatively affects the body’s organs in many ways.
Liver: one of the most critical organs in the body is the liver. It is responsible for removing toxins from the body and it also converts sugar into energy that is used by the body, and it does this with the help of insulin. Excessive sugar consumption will eventually cause the liver to become resistant to insulin and this ultimately leads to Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 and Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Another thing that happens to the liver with too much sugar intake is Leptin Resistance. Leptin is also known as ‘satiety hormone’ and it is a hormone that is produced to tell us when we are full, and to stop eating. Studies have shown that too much sugar switches off this Leptin hormone so we don’t know when we are full, and this causes overeating. This Leptin resistance is now known to be the main cause of weight gain and obesity in human beings.
Brain: The taste of sugar in our mouth sends signals to the brain to release dopamine, the feel good hormone. Dopamine, when released gives a pleasurable, euphoric feeling, but it doesn’t last. Drugs like cocaine, heroine and marijuana also cause dopamine surge to be released. In order to maintain that ‘high’, most people tend to use more and more drugs to give you that same feeling. When this signal pathway is overactivated, it causes problems because people tend to get addicted and crave the drug more. Sugar works in the exact same pathway and that is why most people have a sugar addiction and can’t simply stop after a slice of cake. In the long term, this sugar addiction has been shown to cause depression. Excessive consumption of sugar and insulin resistance has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly.
Heart: Recent evidence has shown that high fat is not the leading cause of high cholesterol and heart disease as previously thought. In fact, high sugar is the leading cause, a diet high in sugar increases obesity and diabetes risk, and both have been shown to increase the likelihood of heart disease. In addition, excess sugar ultimately affects arteries and circulation and may increase the likelihood of hypertension and stroke. According to a study conducted by Harvard researchers, people who eat a lot of added sugar are twice more likely to die from heart disease than those who don’t.
Skin: When we eat sugar, it attaches to proteins in the blood stream and forms harmful products known as advanced glycation end products also known as AGEs. Basically, this causes inflammation and causes your skin to age faster. These AGEs also deactivate the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, leaving the skin more vulnerable to sun damage. In addition, sugar consumption also damages the production of collagen, and also transforms the more desirable Type 3 Collagen which is longer lasting, into Collagen Type 1 which is more fragile. Basically, a high sugar diet will age your skin faster and leave it more prone to skin conditions like acne, dry skin and premature wrinkling.
Sexual and Reproductive Organs: Excess sugar negatively impacts blood flow throughout the body, including the sex organs. Therefore men who consume a high sugar diet may find it difficult to have an erection or to maintain one. Not only does this affect sex life, it also affects fertility. If you are trying to have a baby, it is advisable to cut out excess sugar from your diet. Sugar causes inflammation and exacerbates conditions such as endometriosis; making embryo implantation difficult. Excess sugar also causes insulin resistance which is seen in most people with PCOS; causing ovulation problems. Above all, excessive sugar leads to hormonal imbalance which makes getting pregnant very difficult.
Sugar affects major organ systems in the body. Surely, as part of healthy nutrition, we still have to eat our fruits and vegetables which do contain sugar. However, we need to be aware of how much sugar we are having and what type of sugar we are consuming, even with our healthy foods. 75% of the foods in the supermarkets have added sugars. Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in today’s diet and you can find these in doughnuts, cakes, protein bars, yoghurts, salad dressings and even salads! There are hidden sugars everywhere and because of this, people are consuming so much more sugar. It’s time to get smart and kick sugar to the curb because it contributes to so many diseases.