The evils of sugar should not be underestimated; we might see it as a harmless treat for ourselves or our children, but the damage it causes is huge and it’s scarily addictive. In fact, in one recent study 94 per cent of mice chose sugar over cocaine; even those that were addicted to cocaine switched over to sugar when given the choice.
In March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published their guidelines on sugar, recommending that adults and children cut their consumption of free sugar to less than 10 per cent of their daily intake.
So, why does something that tastes – and feels – so good, so bad for us?
# 1 A weighty issue
We need a form of sugar to function. The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is the energy that fuels the functions of the body and keeps us active. However, too much of the free sugars we consume in processed foods and drinks means your liver is unable to store excess glycogen that glucose has been converted into and that’s when it is turned into fatty acids, that will be stored in your stomach or on your hips or thighs.
76 Harley Street tip: if you’re desperate to lose weight, then don’t fall into the ‘low fat’ trap. Often these products sacrifice fat but up the sugar levels to retain flavour. Far better to opt for fresh food or allow yourself something full fat but just limit the amount.
# 2 The highs and lows of sugar addiction
Just like any drug, a sugar high can be followed with a comedown that causes you to reach for the nearest chocolate bar.
Sugar consumption leads to an increase in the production of insulin. Insulin tells your body to stop fat burning so that sugar can be used for an immediate energy release, although for most of us on a day-to-day basis that’s in excess of what is needed. Blood sugar levels drop, producing the stress hormone cortisol, meaning you crave sugar to restore blood sugar in the short term and, in the long-term, increased cortisol in the blood can lead to depression and anxiety, a compromised immune system, an increased chance of developing allergies or chronic fatigue syndrome along with other health concerns.
76 Harley Street tip: Ensure you’re not caught out when out and about or avoid the mid-afternoon slump by carrying a healthy snack, such as a small bag of almonds or yoghurt with berries.
# 3 The truth about teeth
Most of us are well aware that eating sugar is bad for teeth, but did you know that for up to an hour afterwards your teeth are under attack? Sugar reacts to the bacteria in plaque that we all have coating our teeth and produces acids that can cause tooth decay in the long run. At our London specialist dentist practice we see many patients suffering problems associated with tooth decay.
However, it’s not just sweets or sugary drinks we should be wary of. Sugar levels in processed foods are very high; for example, our kid’s favourite ketchups are sugar-rich, with Heinz Tomato Ketchup containing 23.6g sugar per 100g.
76 Harley Street tip: if you need a snack outside of mealtimes, chose something savoury such as nuts or raw vegetables or something alkaline, which neutralises damaging acids, such as cheese.