8 Disturbing Facts about Sugar

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Simple and complex are the two different types of sugar in existence. Complex sugars usually take a long time to break down in the body and therefore are generally considered healthy. Complex sugars are found in natural carbohydrates such as peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. They also provide fiber, vitamins and minerals that play an important role in good health. Simple sugars, on the other hand, are broken down rapidly by the body and lead to less stable blood glucose levels. Simple sugar includes refined and processed sugar found in table sugar and added to many sweets. Refined sugars are also referred to as “empty calories” as they have almost no nutritional value.

Both simple and complex carbohydrates are broken down into glucose in the body to be used as energy. Glucose is the only energy that our brain utilizes. Any glucose that is unused is stored as glycogen in the liver and the muscles which can be broken down for energy when the body needs the energy and is not available through food.

As qualified nutritionist and dietitians in Mumbai, what we are addressing here are the simple sugars and the havoc they create in our bodies. 8 disturbing facts what each one of us needs to know about sugar, especially for whom sugar is an addiction.

Liver Damage: There is some evidence that like alcohol sugar can cause long-lasting damage to the liver. Intake of large amounts of fructose can result in the accumulation of fat in the liver leading to a Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). There are studies that show that individuals with fatty liver consume more fructose than an average person.

Insulin Resistance: Our body’s demand for insulin (a hormone that helps glucose to enter the cells from the blood and signal the cells to convert it into energy) is increased when we eat excessively high-sugar. With time the insulin stops doing its work and the body cells also become resistant to it. Insulin resistance can contribute to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.

Diabetes: Over time, insulin resistance can lead to diabetes. This is because the pancreas fails to keep up with the increased needs of the body for insulin. This causes an increase in blood sugar levels leading to a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes.

Obesity: Many studies indicate a strong link between a high sugar consumption and obesity. The increased prevalence of obesity especially in children has been linked to an increase in the consumption of sugar-based beverages.  Sugar has an effect on the hormones and the brain – causes addiction. Hence, it dramatically increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Immune System Health: Our immune system gets affected by eating too much sugar. The immune system doesn’t work efficiently by excessive consumption of sugars as sugars diminish the ability of white blood cells to fight bacteria.  Studies suggest that excessive consumption of sugar reduces the immune system’s ability to fight infection by 40%.

Addiction: Our brain sees sugar as a reward and thus keeps wanting more of it. So, if you are eating sugar regularly, you reinforce that reward and keep wanting it more and more thus making it difficult to break the habit.

Cavities: Sugar is the biggest enemy of your teeth. When the bad bacteria that are present in the mouth feed on simple sugars, acid is produced that destroys enamel thus leading to dental caries and tooth decay.

Nutritional Deficiencies: Excessive sugar consumption leads to skipping important nutrients from the diet. Healthy whole foods are often replaced by sugary food for e.g. soft drinks displace milk and juice consumption in children and lead to nutritional deficiencies. Studies have suggested that as sugar intake increased, intake of essential nutrients decreased.

India is the second largest producer of sugar in the world which is great for our economy. But, the downside is that India as a country is the largest consumer of this so-called sweet poison. There is significant data that suggests that there is has been an increase in sugar consumption in India both from traditional sources (Indian mithais) and the sugar-sweetened beverages. This has led to an increase in the prevalence of obesity and associated disorders in individuals.

The recommendation by WHO was to get not more than 10% of total caloric intake from simple sugars initially. But, the new updated guidelines call for a decrease in free sugar intake to less than 5% of total caloric intake which means on an average a healthy adult should consume no more than 25 grams or 5 teaspoons of sugar per day.

There are at least 61 different names for sugar. To name a few we have – agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, maltodextrin, lactose, maple syrup, invert sugar, maltose, sucrose, etc. This can thoroughly confuse a layman when buying products. Being aware and checking a food label when you buy a packaged product will help you minimize the sugar intake.