It is common knowledge in today’s society that excess sugar in our diet isn’t a good thing. But how much is too much? And is ALL sugar bad? Well, if you’ve ever paid much attention to the back of a nutrition label there are recommended daily intake (RDIs) for fats, carbohydrates, protein, sodium, etc…but none for sugar. And as far as an answer for why there are no RDIs for sugar, well it’s pretty simple…the FDA hasn’t officially set one. There are some variations on what is a recommended level of sugar in our daily diet, most recommendations are about 6 tsp per day for women and 9 tsp per day for men (and for a frame of reference 4g of sugar= 1 tsp). However, what most health professionals prefer that you watch out for is your fructose intake…
Sucrose, commonly known as table sugar, is a disaccharide (di-meaning two; saccharide- meaning sugar). It is a disaccharide because it is made up of two monosaccharides: glucose and fructose. Glucose is stored in our muscles as glycogen and is used for instant energy (our bodies also break down carbohydrates into glucose). Higher levels of glucose trigger insulin production allowing glucose into the cells to be metabolized for energy; excess beyond muscle stores and energy expenditures is stored as fat. Fructose, on the other hand, cannot be metabolized as easily and is rarely used as energy for the muscles or brain, and is instead stored as fat in the liver. Fructose also does not stimulate insulin release and does does not stimulate leptin production. Leptin is also known as the “satiety” hormone…when this hormone is released we feel satisfied and are not hungry or experiencing food cravings. Excess consumption of fructose is linked with brain fog, obesity, inflammation, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
So…now that we know the difference in the components that make up table sugar, lets talk about sugar consumption. The average annual consumption of sugar in American society is about 150
pounds of sugar per year. Think about that…next time you go to the grocery store, count how many bags of sugar are on their shelves, and imagine trying to put that in your cart! Here’s a good frame of reference as to how we consume that much sugar…If you drink 1 – 12oz can of Coke per day, you will consume 42#s of sugar per year, just from soda (not including juices and other sugary drinks and food)…that’s nearly 1/3 the average intake. If you drink 1 – 12oz can of Mountain Dew per day that equates to 48#s of sugar per year! If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that most people don’t consume just 1 can of soda per day…it’s more like 2-3 or more. In the late 1800s average annual intake of dietary sugar was just 18 pounds…that’s a difference of 132 pounds and an increase of over 700%!!
Think about how much the average waist line has increased since then…there it is, one of the causes of the obesity epidemic. And think about it, if you are consuming 150 pounds of sugar per year, half of that is fructose and could be contributing to fatty liver disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, brain fog, inability to achieve satiety, and so on… If you consume a lot of prepackaged and processed foods, you are consuming a lot more fructose than you realize…and that is because of a little additive known as High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). HFCS is found in most store-bought breads, crackers, chips, granola bars, juices, tea, candy, fruit snacks, cereal…pretty much anything that is pre-packaged and sweet will contain it, and even some pre-packaged savory foods contain it.
There are lots of studies out there that document the connection between sugar consumption (as well as HFCS consumption) and weight gain. One study done at Brown University found that rats who were given the equivalent of a North American diet had a noticeable decline in problem solving and brain function. They took healthy rats and the rats given the North American diet and put them in a tub of water to see how long it would take them to swim to safety. The healthy (control) rats found the safety point in the water in around 5 secs…the rat fed the North American diet took over 35 seconds. Watch the video below to see the demonstration (skip to the 28:23 mark…however, if you have the time I would encourage you to watch the whole thing)
The reason why sugar and HFCS is added to so many foods is because sugar is highly addictive. You can be hooked and drawn to foods with lots of sugar in them without even realizing it. If you watch the video above, they follow a young couple in their 20s and show them how much food they are actually consuming, and they were quite shocked.
Some research also indicates that in addition to contribution to all of the possible health problems above, that sugar can actually promote the growth of cancerous tumors. As for causing tumor growth on its own, results are still inconclusive. But the fact that if you have a cancer or a cancerous tumor that it could promote growth…is kind of scary!!
The best kinds of sugar to consume are whole natural sugars, not refined and processed sugars. Natural sugars would be turbinado, honey, sugars from fruits (like monk fruit), beet sugar, and natural alternatives like stevia.
If you have questions about your sugar intake, or need help reading your labels to determine what you should keep in your diet and what you should eliminate, feel free to contact me.
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