Is sugar REALLY that bad for you? Or is it another new fad?
It started a good few years ago now with a handful of “whacky” nutritionalists. Then sports nutrition experts started making the same noises. This week we see a lengthy Guardian feature and a BBC 2 documentary proffering the same conclusion: The amount of sugar in our modern diets is making us fat, well actually, obese.
In case you haven’t been following these recent discussions, the story begins with a history of the food industry. In the 1970′s corn became increasingly profitable to produce and “low-fat” was introduced as a marketing concept. However, extract the fat and your food suddenly tastes of cardboard. Enter high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – a cheap, sugary mass produced gloop that can make almost any substance taste palatable and extend shelf lives from days to years. Pretty much all processed food that you find in your supermarket has at some point in its production been adulterated with the stuff.
The issue arises after studies into the recent obesity epidemic show that we are not eating more than 50 years ago, or exercising less, and yet we are on average 3 Stones heavier. It stands to reason then that it must be what
we are eating. These studies conclude that the root of the problem is the processed sugar & HFCS that is pervasive in our modern western diets. Its even in your “healthy” low-fat yogurts, “slimmers choice” and “lighter option” microwave meals, its in your meat, cereal and bread. The research goes on to demonstrate that processed sugar is highly addictive, causing us to eat more and more food containing the stuff – the very same substance that decreases leptin, the hormone that makes us feel full. In short, if you are eating a standard modern diet of with an average amount of processed food in it, the sugar in it makes for an all out fat offensive: your blood sugar levels will spike eventually leading to insulin resistance and fat storage around the abdomen, your leptin levels will be reduced causing you to think you are still hungry and you will crave more sugary food because its addictive. No wonder as a nation we are becoming increasingly obese.
So what is the solution? We could wait for the Government to regulate sugar. I am sure it will happen but probably not for a good while yet – at least until the NHS cost of dealing with obesity outweighs the revenue brought in from the food industry.
The solution is for individuals to make an effort to become absolutely aware of what they are consuming. Whilst eating mindfully is not something that come easily to everyone, by eating more fresh and whole foods and checking labels on the produce we buy from the supermarket, we can limit the amount of sugar we consume and stop this vicious circle of over eating the wrong foods. NB “sugar” ingredients often have names we don’t recognise
- typically the ingredient will end in an “ose” (sucrose, lactose, polydextrose and maltidextrose).
A good rule of thumb is ”if
it didn’t grow, walk
or swim, don’t eat it
” and if you can’t pronounce the ingredient then you can almost guarantee its a chemical that is going to have zero benefit to your health or even impact it negatively.
Whats your view on sugar? Do you find eating mindfully difficult? Do you have any tips to inspire others? Please comment:
Eat more mindfully