5 February 2016

The bitter fact about sugar

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Faulty food habits and inadequate physical activity are one of the risk factors for noncommunicable diseases. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are not passed from one person to person and once a person develop this, they progress slowly, can be treated and complications can be delayed, but cannot be cured.

Overconsumption of calories, and an imbalance between calories consumed and expended leads to obesity, overweight and finally diabetes. There is an alarming increase in the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages in the last few decades and an escalating anxiety is expressed by health experts.

Higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages – increases overall energy intake and may cut down the intake of foods that are nutritionally adequate in calories, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of NCDs.

Research studies suggest an association between reduction of free sugars intake and reduced body weight. Increased intake of free sugars was associated with a comparable increase in body weight.

  • WHO recommends a reduced intake of free sugars throughout the life course (strong recommendation)
  • In both adults and children, WHO recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake (strong recommendation)
  • WHO suggests a further reduction of the intake of free sugars to below 5% of total energy intake (conditional recommendation)

The word “sugars” includes intrinsic sugars, which are naturally present in fruit and vegetables and milk and free sugars, are purposely added to foods and beverages to enhance taste. Since fruits and veggies contains phytochemicals and milk has microbiomes, they do not produce any adverse effect.

For the average adult, consuming a 2000 calorie per day, diet reducing their sugar intake to 5% would mean that not more than 100 calories per day should come from free sugars. Since sugar provide 4 calories of energy per gram this can be converted to approximately 25 grams of sugar, which is about 5teaspoons. One 350 ml of sweetened carbonated beverage provides roughly 150 calories of sugar, which is equal to 37.5 gms of sugar which is roughly 8 teaspoons.

Saturated and trans fat have been regarded as villain in our food but have we ever thought of the menace created by free sugar? It has been suggested in ‘Journal Lancet 2016’ that reduction in free sugars added to sugar-sweetened beverages without the use of artificial sweeteners is necessary to reduce the prevalence of overweight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. The plan should be implemented immediately, and could be used in combination with other approaches, such as taxation policies, to produce a more powerful effect.

Tips to cutdown your sugar

  • Substitute sweetened drinks with sparkling plain water.
  • When you add sugar to your hot drinks, reduce to the extent you can. You will get used to it in course of time.
  • While buying products in stores, read the labels, compare with labels and choose the one that contains less sugar.

Bottomline

Sugar is addictive and hazardous to health. So shift your focus on cutting down free sugars. Be mindful!