Sugar is an amazing substance.
It is pure sensation, pleasure in a crystalline form. We share as humans a desire for its innate sweetness, which begins at mother’s breast. This taste of milk sugars is the fuel that energizes all of life – white gold – pure carbohydrate energy that moves our bodies. The calories in a cup of breast milk are nearly 40% from sugar in the form of lactose. The deep and primal appeal of sugar is one of the reasons that sugar and sugar-filled foods are now among the most popular and commonly chosen edibles. In the past, sugar was expensive and rare, and consumption was limited to the wealthy and was reserved for the end of a meal. Now sugar is cheap and abundant, with manufactured sugars infused in nearly every packaged product sold in supermarkets.
Good in Moderation?
Like many dietitians and nutrition experts, I used to recommend that sugar be eaten in moderation. Now, I’ve changed my tune. Due to the ever present presence of sugar in our lives, and because of the insidious way Big Sugar (The National Sugar Association, a sugar lobbying organization) conspired to manipulate scientific studies about sugar’s harmful effects, I now say avoid added sugars. PERIOD.
Sugar is in everything
Added to nearly every packaged product and deliberately concealed by food manufacturers through its 56 different names, one cannot avoid eating added sugars. We have a long love affair with sugar, which is one reason why it is so hard to resist. The other reason is because it is hidden. In food as well as through deliberate concealment. More than 75% of the added sugar we eat is in food products, meaning that packaged food is by far and above the problem with our excessive sugar intake.
The National Sugar Association and Deliberate Concealment
Beginning in the 1960’s, the National Sugar Association made sure that consumers wouldn’t learn about the harm that excess sugar caused. They paid off prominent scientific researchers from Harvard University to turn attention away from sugar causing health problems, pointing the finger in many instances towards fat. You can read the scientific study here. For a brilliant editorial from one of my heroes, Marion Nestle, you can read her post from Food Politics. Dr. Nestle is an expert on the politics that affect some of the more unhealthy foods like soda, and how our own health interests are routinely thwarted by Big Food. I share her conclusion: “we would all be better eating less sugary foods and fatty meats.” Simple nutrition, expert advice.
Here is the Truth About Sugar
A recent study in a prominent scientific journal concluded that a high intake of added sugars increases the risk of weight gain, excess body weight and obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus; higher serum triglycerides and high blood cholesterol; higher blood pressure and hypertension; stroke; coronary heart disease; cancer; and dental caries. Foods higher in added sugars are often a source of empty calories with minimum essential nutrients or dietary fiber which displaces more healthful foods and lead, in turn, to simultaneously overfed and undernourished individuals. Meaning, we are fatter and less healthy.
We all know that sugar is in soda, fizzy drinks, and cakes and cookies. But do you know about the worst offenders?
- Salad Dressings
- Soups and Sauces
- Breakfast Smoothies
- Breakfast Bars and Yogurt
If you want to avoid diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other considerable health risks, stop blaming your genetics, and take charge of your eating. Once you know the truth about sugar, you can make a choice to change. It truly is up to each one of us to act as our own health advocate. Remember, Big Sugar is not your friend. In fact, the food industry acts just like Big Tobacco, and they market to us in just the same way. I think we all know how this story will end – in perhaps 10 or 20 years, following innumerable suffering and death, added sugars will be banned, or at least revealed for the health problem they are – and sugar will be considered as unhealthy as smoking.