Sugar Epidemic: Why should we cut down on sugar?

There is a tremendous rise in the consumption of added sugar in recent years. In this fast-paced world, people do not have time to sit back and pay attention to their health. Common go-to foods like low-fat yogurt, barbeque sauce, ketchup, fruit juice, chocolate milk, granola, coffee, iced tea, protein bars, cereal bars, canned food, breakfast cereal, etc. have added sugar in them. Most of these foods are easily available and are referred to as quick-bites. People with busy schedules are inclined towards them. High consumption of sugar affects the brain, teeth, joints, kidneys, skin, liver and heart. Experts believe that it is the main cause of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Sugar is also an addictive substance. It might create substance dependency in an individual which would result in craving of sugar at any time, especially during times of emotional stress. Often, foods that are marketed with ‘zero sugar’, ‘zero-calorie’ or ‘low-fat’ labels contain more hidden sugars than normal food.

Excess consumption of sugar secrets a huge surge of dopamine in the brain which is a feel-good hormone. Since dopamine gives a feeling of pleasure and goodness, people tend to crave more sugar to experience it again. Sugar also gives a quick burst of energy by raising blood sugar levels. However, when the level drops, people experience a “sugar crash” where a person may feel jittery and anxious. Added sugars are mostly found in candies, doughnuts, and other sweet treats.

The lingering sugar in the teeth from these treats often causes bacterial growth and cavity. Eating lots of sugar causes inflammation in the body that worsens joint pain. Too much sugar in the diet increases the rate of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

 Another effect of inflammation is that it makes the skin age faster. Excess sugar attaches to proteins in the bloodstream and creates harmful molecules called Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs). These molecules make the skin age faster. They damage the collagen and elastin in the skin; they are protein fibers that keep the skin firm and youthful.

Excess sugar causes Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which is excess fat build-up in the liver. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is also caused by excess sugar consumption. It is fatty liver inflammation and steatosis which means scarring of the liver. Scarring cuts off the blood supply to the liver. In many cases, this escalates into cirrhosis and would require a transplant.

Extra sugar also increases the secretion of insulin in the bloodstream which might affect the arteries all over the body. The walls get thicker, inflamed and stiff. This causes stress in the heart and damages it over time. Sugar increases the rate of heart diseases, heart attacks, and heart failures. Research shows that people who get 25% of their calories from sugar consumption are twice as likely to die of heart disease.

The pancreas is also affected because of the high intake of sugar, which causes type two diabetes in an individual. Kidneys and body weight are also affected because of high sugar consumption. Chronically high levels of sugar in the bloodstream can make men impotent.

There are a lot of ways to cut down on sugar. Many breakfast cereals are high in sugar. Switching to plain porridge and whole wheat cereal biscuits may prove beneficial. Many foods that taste sweet are surprisingly high in sugar. Ready-made soups, stir-in sauces and ready meals can also be high on sugar. Condiments and sauces such as ketchup may have as much as 23g of sugar in a 100g. In snacks, fruits, unsalted nuts, unsalted rice cakes, oatcakes or homemade plain popcorn are good options when it comes to avoiding sugar. In drinks, fizzy drinks, sweetened juices, squashes, and cordials should be avoided. When it comes to desserts, there should be rules that should be followed. Less sugary desserts include fruits, fresh or frozen, dried or tinned.

Cutting down on sugar in one’s diet promotes a diet balanced and a healthy life. It decreases the rate of susceptibility to diseases.

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