It seems like every week, there’s another medical report that tells us how harmful excess added sugars and sweeteners are for our overall health, weight and risk for several chronic diseases. In fact, some experts say that sugar is, well, toxic.
Since most of us are consuming more than 500 calories a day from added sugars, there’s significant cause for concern about reining in our collective sweet tooth. Sodas alone account for 7% of our daily calories–that’s more than any other single food or beverage.
Just think how much healthier we’d all be if fruits and veggies were the number one source of calories in the US diet!
Last week, a major article published in Nature suggested that sugar is as harmful as alcohol or cigarettes for one’s health, and that foods and beverages rich in added sugars should have a tax imposed on them, much like alcohol or tobacco. The authors explain that in Denmark, government health officials imposed a tax of foods rich in unhealthy saturated fat. However, the authors conclude that added sugars provide significantly more health risk than saturated fat.
According to the authors of the article, over the past 50 years, consumption of sugar has tripled and as it has, so too has rates of obesity. Many people believe that too much added sugar makes it harder to maintain a healthy weight. In addition, experts suggest that fructose and high-fructose corn syrup may trigger liver toxicity, and contributes to hypertension and high triglycerides.
Another study out this week in the Journal of Nutrition reported that higher fructose consumption among kids was associated with increased blood pressure, markers of inflammation and increases in visceral fat. Visceral fat is the harmful fat that surrounds our vital organs.
And like alcohol or tobacco, the experts claim that sugar is not that easy to kick. Sugar also has clear potential for abuse, they write. Like tobacco and alcohol, it acts on the brain to encourage subsequent intake. There are now numerous studies looking at the dependence-producing properties of sugar in humans and that with subsequent use, reduces the food-pleasure centers of the brain, making you want or need more to get the same feel-good response from sweet foods or beverages.
Challenge Yourself to Reduce Added Sugars
While there will be no sugar tax in the US anytime soon, we can all do our part to reduce added sugars by making smarter food and beverage choices and looking at the Nutrition Facts panels on foods before buying them. Save sugar-filled options for special occasions…and you’ll immediately upgrade your diet.
Kick the Can: This is from the California Department of Public Health and focuses on getting soda out of the diet and replacing it with sugar-free, better-for-you alternatives.
Life’s Sweeter: A campaign from consumer watchdog CSPI that challenges you to eliminate sugary beverages from your diet.
Take Back the Tap: A campaign that gives us more reason to go old-school and drink plain, old water from the tap. How simple!