The Concern With Sugar
At Club Sport San Jose, we support you both in your fitness endeavors and nutritionally, because, it’s all connected. Take a moment and dive into the sugar conversation with us and learn more about the stuff that dominates our cups and plates.
Plunging Into Sugar
A closer look at the sweet stuff!
Let’s explore the sugar recommendations once again.
Women – 6 teaspoons (25 grams)
Men – 9 teaspoons (38 grams)
The above represents added sugar.
Added sugar is the sugar that is in prepared or processed foods and does not include the naturally occurring sugars we find in whole-foods such as fruits, milk, and carbohydrates.
These numbers represent the max amount of added sugar we should be consuming in a day, yet a majority of us go way beyond this recommendation.
Consuming one can of soda puts you way over the recommended amount for both men and women — one 12-ounce can has 46.2 grams of added sugar (11 teaspoons).
Why is too much sugar harmful to our health?
Recent media headlines have declared sugar as the “new cigarette” — and with good reason and research to support it.
Let’s examine what sugar does to the body.
Sugar has been shown to light up the limbic area of our brains — our reward area. Not to mention it produces similar withdrawal and craving symptoms that people experience when addicted to alcohol and cocaine. This evidence supports the theory of the potential of sugar having addictive properties.
When we attribute heart disease we’ve been led to believe that it’s dietary fat causing this health crisis when the culprit has been sugar all along. 2016 was the year that the sugar research cover-up was discovered.
The short version — the sugar industry paid Harvard researchers off to squash their findings of the health consequences of sugar, only to put the blame on fat.
And here we are.
It’s now been uncovered that consuming too much added sugar increases your risk of developing heart disease. Research has found that when 17 to 21 percent of calories are from added sugar, people are 38 percent at greater risk for cardiovascular disease compared to those who only consumed eight percent of their calories from sugar.
There has been a rise in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in the US, and sugar may play a role in this.
What is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
This is where fat accumulates in the liver in the absence of alcohol. This is an issue because if left unaddressed, the liver may swell and cause cirrhosis (scarring) and over time lead to liver failure or liver cancer, while people typically don’t experience any symptoms.
Fructose specifically, has been shown to cause greater damage to the liver, similarly to alcohol. Fructose is naturally occurring in fruit and is added to food and beverages from sources such as corn, beets, and sugarcane, but stripping them of all of their nutritents and fiber along the way.
Fructose can become an issue for our livers because it is processed in that organ, and when it’s stripped of the fiber (what it’s normally paired with in fruit) it speeds up its absorption and can overwhelm our bodies because it’s highly concentrated.
Research on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease from Tuft University have found that those who consume just one sweetened beverage a day have a greater risk of developing this disease than those who don’t drink them on a consistent basis.
Consuming too much added sugar over time can disrupt your body’s normal processes greatly. Eating large amounts of sugar spikes your blood glucose levels which trigger the pancrea to release insulin. Not only can increased levels of insulin cause your body to store calories as fat, but it can also can also cause insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance means that your body can no longer respond to the demands of insulin it requires to stabilize the blood sugar. If your high blood sugar goes unchecked it can lead to prediabetes and diabetes.
Insulin also plays a role in appetite suppression, in which the hormone leptin is involved. Leptin signals to our brain and indicates when we are full and no longer need to eat. When our insulin levels are unbalanced and we continue to flood our bodies with sugar — fructose in particular — leptin resistance can occur, thus resulting in our body’s inability to receive the message to stop eating, facilitating weight gain and potentially obesity.
Visceral Fat or Belly Fat From Sugar
If you carry weight specifically in your abdominal area, this is what experts call “sugar belly” or fat from consuming excess sugar. This extra fat — visceral fat — impacts your organs and it can also be an indicator of a metabolic health condition such as diabetes.
More on the Danger of Added Sugar
When someone laments, “I don’t eat sugar,” they’re referring to added sugar, because we can’t avoid sugar, it occurs naturally in so many foods.
It’s added sugar that you have to be careful about.
It’s been reported that added sugar may be in 74% of packaged foods — that is a shocking number! So, say you eat 100% packaged foods, there’s added sugar in just about everything you eat.
The disconnect is that added sugar only exists in the things we label as “unhealthy.” Treats such as cookies, candy, and ice cream, and this just isn’t the reality. Even foods that are “healthy” are laden with sugars, just take a look at your favorite health bar.
This is where things can get confusing — we’ll try and skip dessert or forego the office treats, when really, we may be may be eating too much added sugar because it’s hidden in a wide variety of our food products.
If you’re feeling, you’re not alone. While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is required to label all ingredients, these labels can be difficult to understand.
Sugar has so many names, it’s not just sugar. It can go by the following:
Corn syrup solids
High-fructose corn syrup
The above is in no way a comprehensive list, we know there are at least 61 different names for sugar.
Where Sugar Hides
Beyond sweet treats that we know are chock full of sugar, sugar hides in many things.
How about yogurt? People consider yogurt a healthy breakfast alternative, however, yogurt can contain 29 grams or more of sugar per container. Pair this with granola and it’s a sugar bomb!
Fruit juice is also high in sugar and some may even add sugar to an already sweet beverage.
Sugar is definitely a loaded topic with so many layers to unpack — it has social, political, and health ties! We’ve uncovered the basics of sugars and how it can impact your health.
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