A newly published study in the European Journal of Nutrition has this to say about the connection between sugar and health:
The relationship between sugar consumption and various diseases is controversial. Some investigators have argued that excessive sugar consumption is associated with increased risk of obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and stimulation of reward pathways in the brain potentially causing excessive caloric consumption (that would be cravings).
Is normal levels of sugar okay?
Continuing the research statement: “Data from many randomized control trials do not support linkages between sugar consumption at normal levels within the human diet and various adverse metabolic and health-related effects. . . (This study) evaluated findings from recent randomized controlled trials, systematic reviews and meta-analyses into the relationship of sugar consumption and a range of health-related issues including energy-regulating hormones, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and accumulation of liver fat and neurologic responses. Data from these sources do not support linkages between sugar consumption at normal levels within the human diet and various adverse metabolic and health-related effects.1
We live in a world of sugar. In the above study researchers suggest we can move about the world of sugar freely in moderation, it is the ecess (hidden) sugars that causes the problems.
Sugar cravings and the temptations we are exposed to on a daily level make sugar consumption one of the greatest health risks facing us today. Even if we think we are controlling our sugar intake hidden or added sugars lurk everywhere.
The problem is how much is too much sugar?
The American Medical Association acknowledges that recommendations for added sugar consumption vary and there is no universally accepted threshold for unhealthy levels.
For example, the Institute of Medicine recommends that added sugar make up less than 25 percent of total calories, the World Health Organization recommends less than 10 percent, and the American Heart Associationrecommends limiting added sugars to less than 100 calories daily for women and 150 calories daily for men, according to the study background.
Major sources of added sugar in Americans’ diets are:
- Sugar-sweetened beverages, A can of regular soda contains about 35g of sugar (about 140 calories).
- grain-based desserts,
- fruit drinks,
- desserts and candy.
Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (seven servings or more per week) was associated with increased risk of dying from heart disease.2
Is Sugar an Addiction?
Snack foods are often high in fat and sugar and the obvious implication of reducing the amounts of snacks you eat is weight loss. A recent study examined the reasons for eating ‘unhealthy’ snacks and ‘healthy’ snacks in overweight and obese participants. Doctors looked at the patients enrolled in the study over a period of 5 days, 28 males and 27 females completed a food diary every time they ate. They also provided details about the type of eating episode and food eaten.
The reasons they ate?
In 1084 recorded eating episodes, patients reported that 358 times they were “snacks”, 79% of which were high in either fat or sugar.
- They ate these snacks because they were hunger (49% of the time) or
- were tempted by watching others eat (55%).
- Boredom and stress accounted for only 26% of the reasons given.
The doctors concluded that for weight loss they need to concentrate on CRAVINGS.3
A recent brain imaging study provides support for the notion of food addiction.
Consuming highly processed carbohydrates can cause excess hunger and stimulate brain regions involved in reward and cravings, according to a Boston Children’s Hospital research. These findings suggest that limiting these “high-glycemic index” foods could help obese individuals avoid overeating.
Late Night Sugar Cravings
An Oregon Health & Science University researcher and colleagues at Harvard discover that the body’s “internal clock” causes increased appetite in the evening
A study published in the most recent version of the journal Obesity found that the body’s internal clock, the circadian system, increases hunger and cravings for sweet, starchy and salty foods in the evenings. While the urge to consume more in the evening may have helped our ancestors store energy to survive longer in times of food scarcity, in the current environment of high-calorie food, those late night snacks may result in significant weight gain.
Low in sugar and salt
Across our practice, but especially with patients who suffer from hypertension, we recommend a “clean” diet – one that is low in sugar and salt, features non-processed foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables and incorporates fish (provided the patient is not vegetarian or vegan) and healthy oils. In cases where there is a lot of weight to be lost, we offer more aggressive strategies – such as medically-based diets that utilize naturally-occurring hormones that stimulate metabolism, suppress appetite and mobilize fat – to help patients achieve marked weight loss, quickly.
1 Rippe JM, Angelopoulos TJ. Sugars, obesity, and cardiovascular disease: results from recent randomized control trials. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Jul 14.
3. Cleobury L, Tapper K. Reasons for eating ‘unhealthy’ snacks in overweight and obese males and females. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2013 Oct 18. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12169. [Epub ahead of print]
1. High blood sugar levels could lead to heart attack complications. University of Leicester 2016