Sugars are found naturally in certain foods that we are encouraged to eat, such as fruit or milk. So why shouldn’t we eat too much sugar?
How much sugar can you eat each day?
Over the last 50 years, there has been strong growth in sugar consumption per day. However, the world’s population is not eating more fruit than in the past. This is due to the presence of different added sugars in our diet.
Although the needs of individuals sometimes differ, health organizations agree that the energy intake of added sugars should be less than 10% of our total energy needs. This represents a daily sugar consumption of 50 grams maximum (i.e. 6 sugar lumps for adults and 3 lumps for children).
Today, we tend to eat too much sugar. It is important to know that there are different sugars and that some of them are “hidden” in foods processed by the food industry.
The different types of sugars
There is a wide variety of sugars and they each have their characteristics. Here we will present the 4 main sugars used by the food industry and these are the ones we consume the most.
- Glucose is naturally present in the body. Taken in isolation, it raises blood sugar levels significantly and may imply insulin resistance.
- Sucrose is composed of fructose and glucose. It is widely used by the food industry for confectionery, drinks, jams, and pastries. Its glycemic index remains moderate due to the presence of fructose, which itself can be a problem (see below).
- Fructose is naturally abundant in honey and fruit. It has a lower glycemic index than sucrose and has a sweeter taste. Manufacturers can also obtain it chemically to add it to soft drinks and processed foods. The problem with fructose is that it is metabolized by the liver and can lead to what is called “foie gras”.
- Lactose is present in dairy products and milk. Manufacturers also manage to manufacture it by different processes. It is metabolized into glucose, but as we grow older, most people can no longer assimilate it properly.
The health effects of sugar
Eating too much sugar carries many health risks. It can be an easily treatable disease such as cavities but it can also lead to a dangerous or even fatal disease such as cardiovascular disease.
Sugars disrupt bacterial flora and promote heartburn. They accentuate constipation and aggravate certain fungal infections that sometimes lead to chronic fatigue.
Several studies have established direct links between cardiovascular disease and sugars. Sugars raise triglycerides and cholesterol. They can promote premature aging of the skin and eye diseases.
White sugars also deplete our reserves of calcium, magnesium, or chromium, which helps to prevent diabetes. They thus contribute to type 2 diabetes.
Sugars and weight gain
Eating too many sweet products leads to weight gain. This is because insulin is produced when blood sugar levels rise. This hormone allows glucose to enter the cells to bring the blood sugar level back to normal. When glucose is not used directly by the body (such as during physical exertion), it is stored as fat. This means that the more sugar you consume, the more insulin you secrete, and the more you store. Excessive consumption of sugary products therefore inevitably leads to weight gain.
Sugars act on the brain like drugs, which encourages us to consume more and more of them.
However, it is possible to limit your intake and protect yourself from these dangers.
How to reduce your sugar intake
Prepared dishes and sodas are particularly sweet. For example, a can of ratatouille or carrot peas with its juice can contain the equivalent of 3.8 sugar cubes. A ready-to-bake pizza can contain the equivalent of 4 pieces. A 200ml glass of fruit nectar is the equivalent of 4 pieces. While our daily sugar consumption should not exceed the equivalent of 6 pieces as indicated above. It is therefore advisable to eliminate these foods from our daily diet.
We must also remain vigilant about the sweet habits we may have. Thus, it is wise not to sweeten your drinks (tea, coffee). In desserts, it is necessary to privilege complete or integral sugars always in reasonable quantities.
At the same time, you should think about increasing your daily intake of vegetables, raw vegetables, fiber, wholegrain cereals, and fruit to promote a feeling of satiety. In this way, you will avoid the feeling of deprivation that leads to the desire to eat sweet foods.
Finally, stress is known to be the cause of compulsive consumption of sugary foods. It is best to find activities to relax and control stress.
These are all reasons to keep an eye on your nutrition and stoutness.
Also read: 6 different types of obesity
Sources and References
Ferder L., Ferder M. D. and Inserra F. The role of High-Fructose Corn Syrup in Metabolic Syndrome and Hypertension. Curr Hypertens Rep 2010;12:105-112Lustig
R. H., Schmidt L. A. and Brindis C. D. The toxic truth about sugar. Nature 2012;482:27-29Malik
V. Sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease risk. Circulation 2010;121:1356-1364Taubes
G. Is sugar toxic? The New York Times. April 13, 2011.
World Health Organization
Populations with high sugar consumption are at increased risk of chronic disease, South African researchers report. http://www.who.int/bulletin/releases/2003/PR0803/en/ (Page consulted on September 4, 2013)