Do you find yourself helpless at the thought of a Dove Bar? Do Mrs.
Fields' cookies drive you wild with desire? If so, you're not alone. Few of of have our sugar addictions licked. Our patients ask us all the time for help in kicking their sugar habits. Whether you are a diehard supporter of Sugar Blues and feel that all sugar is downright poisonous, or whether you're a committed cookie monster who's not the least bit interested in reducing your sugar intake, this article will hopefully provide you with some interesting information.
Everybody does it
What's the big deal about a candy bar now and
then? The problem is that many of us can't stop with an occasional sugary
treat. In the times of the American colonists, sugar really wasn't any big
thing. The average amount of sugar consumed per person per year was four
pounds. If that were still the case, we wouldn't be writing this article. Take
a guess at how much sugar each American consumes, on an average, in l990.
Believe it or not, estimates exceed l30 pounds. Now if you think about it,
that's about a third of a pound of sugar a day...and a lot more for those folks
who are making up for the sugar teetotalers! Approximately l8% of the total
caloric intake of the average American comes from sugar. The highest source of
sugar in the diet is pop. One l2-oz. bottle of pop, such as Coca Cola or
Sprite, contains approx- imately nine tablespoons of sugar. Can you imagine
gorging yourself on that much sugar at one sitting? According to The Center for
Science in the Public Interest, an extremely nutritionally-conscious
educational and political organization based in Washington, D.C., merely
reducing the sugar in soft drinks by one-tenth would cut annual sucrose
consumption by 480 million pounds.
The Not-So-Sweet Facts About Sugar
Sugar comes in a number of
different forms. such as sucrose (white sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), lactose
(milk sugar), or dextrose (corn sugar). The body eventually breaks down all of
these substances into glucose. Natural fruit sweeteners, maple syrup, honey,
barley malt syrup, brown sugar, raw sugar, etc., may be less refined, but, in
excess, the overall effect is pretty much the same.
Too much sugar, can create, or exacerbate, a number of health problems.
l) Obesity Overindulging in sugar can result in excess, often permanent, weight gain,
which carries with it an increaed risk for various chronic degenerative
2) Blood sugar imbalances - Too much sugar can result either
in hypoglycemia or diabetes. You don't need a fancy test, most of the time, to
tell you whether hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a problem for you. Just ask
yourself how you feel after not having eaten for four or five hours and after
you've eaten sugar or drunk alcohol. People with hypoglycemic tendencies will
complain of feeling weak, shaky, confused, and irritable if they miss a meal
and are the first ones to race to the potluck dinner tables, especially if
dinner is late! They usually crash after sugar, sometimes after an initial
euphoria. This is because the sugar in their food enters the bloodstream and
then is quickly transferred into the cells to be metabolized, depriving the
brain of blood sugar, at which time the person's energy abruptly plunges.
Diabetes (high blood sugar) is a much more serious illness in which the sugar
remains in the bloodstream and there is insufficient insulin to carry the sugar
into the cells. Both of these conditions can be triggered by sugar consumption
and a no to low sugar diet is recommended in both cases.
3) Cavities -
It is no mystery that sugar causes dental decay. The New York Times reported in
l975 that 44% of all Scots over the age of l6 had lost all of their teeth and
that only 2% of the Scottish population surveyed were considered "dentally
fit". The report concluded that Scotland had one of the highest sugar
consumption rates in the world; l20 pounds per person annually. Another study
at Tufts University School of Dentistry reported that the diet of a group of
indigenous Brazilians consisted of two staples-potatoes and fish-but no sugar.
Not one permanent molar cavity was found in anyone under 20. By l962 this same
group of people was consuming about one pound of sugar per week per person and
the same age group was found to have 50% of their molars decayed. These
statistics speak for themselves.
4) Heart disease - High sugar intake
has been correlated with elevated triglycerides (blood fat), LDL's (low-density
lipoproteins which are the type of cholesterol which predisposes to a greater
risk of heart disease), and high blood pressure.
5) Arthritis - High
sugar consumption has been linked with increased uric acid levels in the blood,
which can cause gouty arthritis.
6) Hyperactivity - As any schoolteacher
will attest, after having spent November lst (the day after Halloween) in the
classroom, sugar can sometimes have a drastic effect on behavior. The same may
be true in adults.
7) Immunosuppression -Sugar has been found by some
researchers to decrease the ability of the white blood cells (neutrophils) to
digest harmful or toxic materials in the body through the natural process of
phagocytosis. We often see patients who have developed upper respiratory or
other acute illnesses after having overdosed on sugar, such as after the
8) Vitamin and mineral depletion - Sugar has been
called an anti-nutrient. Particular vitamin and mineral stores, such as those
of thiamine and chromium, can be used up more rapidly when a person is eating
sweets in excess.
9) Empty calories - Many people (teenagers are the
most notorious) stuff themselves with so much sugar that they don't have room
for food which is actually healthy. This is why sugar is often referred to as
containing "empty calories".