So how bad is sugar for us really? Well, it seems the evidence is pretty certain. Mice fed a diet containing 25 percent sugar – the equivalent of three cans of soda daily – were twice as likely to die as mice fed a similar diet without sugar. This was the finding of a new 58-week University of Utah study, which once again highlights the early death sentence many Australians may receive for indulging far too often in this sweet treat.
While the mice did not display obvious signs of metabolic diseases, such as obesity, they were nonetheless significantly affected by the sugar. Male mice fed sugar were 26 percent less territorial and produced 25 percent fewer offspring.
Sugar consumption is increasing dramatically…
In three centuries, our sugar consumption has increased 19-fold. While this may not seem so dramatic in over 300 years, the average Australian consumes a whopping 53kg of sugar per year, which equates to around 29 teaspoons a day. Many people are probably wondering how it’s possible to eat this much sugar, particularly if you rarely add sugar to anything, including coffee & tea. For the most part, all this sugar is found in soft drinks, fruit juices, lollies, cakes, biscuits and all types of processed foods. For example, the average soft drink contains around 10 teaspoons of sugar.
Different sugars provoke different hormonal responses, and those hormonal responses determine, among other things, how much fat you accumulate.
Sugar is a poison when consumed at high doses.
Half of the sugar Australians consume in a day is fructose, which is 300 percent more than the amount that will trigger biochemical havoc. Fructose is a ‘fruit sugar’ found naturally in both vegetables and fruit, and in high amounts in soft drinks, processed sweet foods, chocolate, and lollies. Fructose is metabolized differently from glucose, with the majority being turned directly into fat. It can trick your body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism, turning off your body’s appetite-control system. Fructose does not appropriately stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the “satiety hormone”), which together result in your eating more and developing insulin resistance. Fructose can also lead to weight gain, abdominal obesity, elevated triglycerides, blood sugar and high blood pressure.
Making better choices…
So how can we go about avoiding these frightening threats to health? Common sense has a lot to do with it. We have been hearing for some time now that processed foods, soft drink, and all other “empty carb” foods are incredibly bad for us. There are a few simple points to follow that can help avoid unwanted sugar in our diets:
– Avoid processed, packaged foods. These will always be full of sugars, fats & salt.
– Eat more fresh food. Fresh fruit and vegetables, whilst still containing fructose, is packed full of good nutrients that provide protection against disease.
– Eat wholegrains rather than refined, white bread, cereals, pasta etc.
– Don’t add sugar to your coffee or tea.
– Don’t eat lollies & definitely don’t give them to your kids.
– Check the labels on food products. Even seemingly healthy food like yogurts can still be loaded up with sugar.
– Instead of snacking on sweet treats, try eating a few nuts instead. They are full of protein, nutrients and good fats.
While society contends with ever-expanding waistlines and chronic disease in never before seen proportions, it becomes more and more important to get back to basics with food choices. Choosing fresh, healthy food and avoiding all types of packaged, processed food is the best way to ensure that the body gets all the nutrition it needs without the added nasties.
 Ruff, J.S et al. Human-relevant levels of added sugar consumption increase female mortality and lower male fitness in mice. Nat Commun. 2013 Aug 14;4