‘The Elephant in the room’ – Sugar
I did a talk on health and wellness recently and I spoke about what I call the ‘elephant in the room’ that connects most of the health problems we are now seeing in the 21st Century and that is processed sugar. And this is the message I want to home in on in my blog.
The bottom line is that most of us are eating too much processed sugar and is fundamentally the root cause of the current obesity pandemic, leading to the pandemic of metabolic syndrome, of coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia which has also taken hold worldwide.
The latest NHS guidelines for sugar says children aged 11 or over and adults should consume no more than seven teaspoons of added sugar a day – 30g, equal to less than a single can of Coca-Cola, which contains 39g. Children under 11 should not exceed 12 grams a day.
So, the question is, did you know this and if you did do you know what your daily intake of sugar is? I would suspect that most people would have no idea on both of these, because it is hidden away in the processed foods you are consuming.
Here is an eye watering statistic for you, the average American consumes 19.5 teaspoons (82 grams) every day. That translates into about 66 pounds of added sugar consumed each year, per person. This is the main cause of the metabolic syndrome epidemic that is gripping the US. The UK is not far behind.
The daily added sugar intake in England from 2008 to 2012 teenagers aged between 11 and 18 years old had the highest daily added intake of sugar with 74.2 grams of added sugar in their diet which equated to 15.4% of total energy intake.
Children 1.5 – 3 years 36.1 grams per day Children 4 – 10 years 60.8 grams per day Children 11 – 18 years 74.2 grams per day Adults 19 – 64 years 58.8 grams per day Adults 65 years and over 51.6 grams per day
The main sources of sugar in the diet are soft drinks, table sugar and preserves; confectionery; fruit juice; alcoholic drinks; biscuits; buns, cakes, pastries and fruit pies and breakfast cereals.
Over time, consistently taking in more sugar will lead to insulin resistance disease, otherwise known as diabetes. Some are calling diabetes Processed Sugar Disease.
We are consuming twice as much processed sugar as recommended. Also, the recommended safe limit of 30 grams a day is not supported by scientific fact. So, the question becomes what is the safe amount?
Between 70 – 80% of processed foods contain ‘hidden’ refined sugar. I say hidden because you don’t know its there but the companies that manufacture the foodstuffs certainly do. They know, and this is key, that sugar is addictive (more addictive than cocaine). You hear some people say, “I have to have my sugar fix” and that is exactly what it is. The more sugar the processing companies add to a foodstuff the more you are going to buy it, it’s called profit, ‘healthy’ doesn’t enter the equation.
This is the main reason why sugar consumption per person has doubled in 50 years and that the increase in consumption mirrors the increase of metabolic syndrome worldwide. Sugar is toxic to your health. (I am specifically talking about refined sugar and not fruit sugar).
What’s the problem?
Why is sugar so bad for you is because, we evolved over millions of years as hunter gatherers and therefore to eat like a hunter gatherer (paleo diet). Refined sugar was not on the menu, so there was no need for the body to evolve to metabolise it in large quantities. It is your liver that takes the hit for the sugar rush you expose it to on a regular basis. The liver takes one look at it and says “oh no not more sugar” and to cut a long story short will metabolise it as fat, sugar in, fat stored (and then try and get it off).
It’s not about calories in verses calories out, because a calorie is not a calorie, it is where it comes from determines where it goes and in the case of processed sugar it goes to your fat cells. Therefore, to some extent if you don’t know this then you could say it is not your fault that you are overweight. Now you know there can be no excuses in the future, sorry.
So, what can we do about it?
Use sugar sparingly as we did right up to the 20th Century. I love ice creams ocassionally and I won’t be giving them up any time soon, but I keep the rest of my intake to an absolute minimum and the best way to do that is to eat real food, which we will discuss separately.
I have been asked to send out information on what is processed food.
Here is info taken from NHS website.
A processed food is any food that has been altered in some way during preparation.
Food processing can be as basic as:
Not all processed foods are unhealthy, but some processed foods may contain high levels of salt, sugar and fat.
What counts as processed food?
Examples of common processed foods include:
• breakfast cereals
• tinned vegetables
• savoury snacks, such as crisps, sausage rolls, pies and pasties
• meat products, such as bacon, sausage, ham, salami and paté
• “convenience foods”, such as microwave meals or ready meals
• cakes and biscuits
• drinks, such as milk or soft drinks
Not all processed food is a bad choice. Some foods need processing to make them safe, such as milk, which needs to be pasteurised to remove harmful bacteria.
Other foods need processing to make them suitable for use, such as pressing seeds to make oil.
What makes some processed foods less healthy?
Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are sometimes added to processed foods to make their flavour more appealing and to extend their shelf life, or in some cases to contribute to the food’s structure, such as salt in bread or sugar in cakes.
Buying processed foods can lead to people eating more than the recommended amounts of sugar, salt and fat as they may not be aware of how much has been added to the food they are buying and eating. These foods can also be higher in calories due to the high amounts of added sugar or fat in them.
How can I eat processed foods as part of a healthy diet?
You have no control over the amount salt, sugar and fat in processed food but you do have control over what you to choose buy.
Reading nutrition labels can help you choose between processed products and keep a check on fat, salt and sugar content. Most pre-packed foods have the nutrition information on the front, back or side of the packaging. If the processed food you want to buy has a nutrition label that uses colour-coding, you will often find a mixture of red, amber and green.
When you’re choosing between similar products, try to go for more greens and ambers, and fewer reds, if you want to make a healthier choice.
There are guidelines to tell you if a food is high or low in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar.
The guidelines, which are for adults, are:
High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g
High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g
High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)
Take back control of your sugar intake and you will notice a significant health benefit relatively quickly. Somehow, we need to get off the sugar, and because sugar is so addictive I realise that is easier said than done. By staying connected with the Get Healthy Stay Healthy Community at: https://www.facebook.com/SynergyWorldwideGetHealthyStayHealthy/
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