What the Supermarket Giants don't want you to know
Before we get in to the nitty gritty, let's take a basic look at sugar. What is it?
Sugar, or sucrose, is a form of carbohydrate derived from two simpler forms of sugar, fructose and glucose. As sugar is a form of carbohydrate you will notice that sugars are published as a sub-heading under carbohydrate on the nutritional information panel of any product you purchase from the supermarket.
Therefore, if you see this, when reading your nutritional information panel:
- Sugars 10.0g
You can see that the total amount of carbohydrates present within the product is 20 grams, 50% of which, is made up of added sugar (10 grams / 2.5 teaspoons).
Sugar, hiding in plain sight
There are now over 60 different names for sugar and they are all hiding in the ingredient list of 74% of the processed and packaged foods you buy. Check out the list of names for sugar here.
The Supermarket Giants and YOUR love affair with sugar
Most Western diets are carbohydrate rich and reliant on carbohydrates as a source of fuel. These Western diets and lifestyles also call for convenience. Unfortunately, that convenience is achieved through processed and packaged foods that are generally marketed and labelled as 'low-fat' or 'lite'. Whilst reducing the fat content of these foods, not only sugar, but a whole host of other nasty additives, chemicals and artificial flavours are added, in order to make the product palatable. For this reason, and the stigma around high fat diets causing obesity plus a whole host of other preventable lifestyle diseases, these products outsell their full-fat counterparts. Unfortunately, these products also have the potential to create an addiction.
In a study performed on rats, it was shown that the addiction to artificial sweetener and sugar, surmounted the desire for the highly addictive drug, cocaine. This was the case in rats that were already drug sensitised or addicted to the substance, demonstrating the intensely powerful reward signal generated in the brain when sugar is ingested, overpowering all self-control mechanisms, leading to addiction (Lenoir, Serre, Cantin, Ahmed 2007). It is this addiction that the Supermarket Giants prey on.
Nestle, marketed as 'the leading nutrition, health and wellness company', employs 700 of their own paid scientists to develop and enhance new products. This product development and enhancement has been put in place to discover, the 'bliss point'. The bliss point has been shown to be the perfect amount of sugar in a food to ensure addiction or returning customers. This has now become a huge part of research and development for the Supermarket Giants as they are now understanding the addictive qualities of sugar (Gameau, 2015).
A calorie is a calorie. WRONG.
Another myth concocted by the Supermarket Giants' paid scientists that they would love for you to continue believing, a calorie is a calorie, the idea that all calories are created equally. This is a far too simple way of looking at the food you eat.
Food is information. The information provided by the food you eat effects your hormones in very different ways. Let's take a look at the effect of sugar on you and your body.
Sugar and YOU
Your unhealthy relationship with the silent killer
Blood Glucose Level
Ingesting foods high in monosaccharides or disaccharides, carbohydrates with a simple chemical structure, produces a spike in blood glucose (as depicted in red) and insulin levels ("Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar – The Nutrition Source – Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health", 2016). The increase in insulin results in a range of negative hormonal responses, such as, increased visceral fat, inflammation and triglycerides, lowered HDL (good cholesterol), raised blood pressure and increased appetite due to the hormone, leptin, being suppressed by insulin (Hyman, 2014).
Prolonged and regular exposure to these sugars will also result in increased risk of further preventable lifestyle diseases.
Preventable diseases linked to excess sugar consumption
According to the World Health Organisation, no more than 10% of total energy intake should come from 'free sugars'. Based on this recommendation, 52% of Australians are currently exceeding this amount on a regular basis ("4364.0.55.011 - Australian Health Survey: Consumption of added sugars, 2011-12", 2016). Unfortunately, Australia does not have a Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for sugar consumption. However, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) per day for men and 6 teaspoons (24 grams) per day for women (Johnson et al., 2009). Regular and excessive consumption of sugar will greatly increase the likelihood of the following preventable lifestyle conditions:
Obesity and excess visceral fat
Excess sugar consumption can result in a 'sugar belly'. This is a result of excess fructose that cannot be utilised by the body for energy. The excess fructose is broken down by the liver and transformed into fat globules, tryglicerides, some of which are transported and deposited around your midsection and internal organs. These fat cells stored around your midsection and organs, visceral fat, upset your normal hormonal and chemical balance.
Cancer, just like every other cell in the human body, feeds on glucose. However, there is evidence surfacing that supports the theory that cancer cells, unlike other cells, do not have the ability to feed on other forms of fuel (fats and proteins). Reducing your sugar intake may not only reduce your waistline, but also, decrease your likelihood of cancer ("Beginners Guide to Ketosis: Investigating Ultra Low Carb Eating", 2013 & "Starving Cancer: Ketogenic Diet a Key to Recovery", 2015).
As stated above, excess consumption of sugar may result in obesity and excess visceral fat, two major precursors for diabetes. The storage of fat around the internal organs alters your body's hormonal and chemical composition, requiring greater amounts of insulin to transport the glucose through the body. When your pancreas is not capable of producing enough insulin, or you reach a state of insulin resistance, the result is diabetes ("Can eating a lot of sugar give you diabetes? - Health & Wellbeing", 2011).
Obesity, excess visceral fat and diabetes are all factors increased by excess sugar consumption, in turn increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease (Sinatra, 2016). These three conditions are all influential and manageable with proper nutrition and exercise.
Mental health issues
High sugar diets and the hormonal and chemical changes they expose the body to are now being studied for their correlation with mental health issues ("The Toxic Truth", 2016). Sugar is now being linked to mental health issues such as; depression, worsened by the spike and fall of BGL levels. Addiction, with the release of dopamine and activation of the same reward centres as cocaine. Anxiety, not neccessarily caused by the consumption of sugar, but heightened and impairing the body's ability to cope with stress. Learning, memory and other cognitive functions are also being affected by consumption of sugar, with a study performed on rats over a 6 week period demonstrating that the rats fed a high fructose diet caused them to forget their way out of a maze ("4 Ways Sugar Could Be Harming Your Mental Health", 2016).
Perhaps the scariest and most alarming statistic of all is the prevalence of liver diseases directly related to excess sugar consumption and obesity. No longer is alcoholism the leading cause of these liver conditions. It is estimated, approximately 30% of adult populations in developed countries, such as Australia and the US, suffer from Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), with Asian countries such as China also seeing dramatic increases, reporting a 15% prevalence ("RACGP - Fatty liver disease – a practical guide for GPs", 2016). NAFLD and Non-Alcoholic Steato-Hepatitis (NASH), are both characterised by excess fat within the liver, NASH results in further damage to the organ including inflammation and steatosis, an abnormal storage of fat within the liver, scarring it and gradually cutting off the vital blood supply. In the US, approximately 6 million people are estimated to have progressed to NASH, 600,000 of which have progressed to NASH related cirrhosis. NASH is now the third leading reason for liver transplantation in the US, and if trends continue, will become the leading ("The Toxic Truth", n.d.). Australia will also follow suit if these trends continue.
Fight fat (as well as the many other preventable lifestyle diseases associated with excess sugar consumption) with fat!
Learn more about how you can use fat as a source of fuel whilst fighting disease and developing a leaner body composition in next month's blog on ketosis.