From an early age kids are attracted to candy, a desire for sweet treats that only seems to escalate as the years go on. Sugar is a nutrient in foods your body converts into glucose for cells to metabolize for energy, but eating too much can greatly increase health risks. It functions like a drug in our brains to release feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin, beta-endorphin and dopamine. Binging on sugar can lead to neurochemical changes not unlike cocaine or nicotine; tricking the brain into thinking we’re still hungry even after a large meal. Perhaps it should be no surprise that the sugar industry (Big Sugar) has resorted to some of the same tactics as the tobacco industry to shape public opinion.
Obesity and Hidden Sugars
The problematic rise of obesity in society can be attributed to overeating and lack of exercise, but especially sugar consumption, specifically fructose. Fructose is a component of table sugar (sucrose) and the corn syrup that has become ubiquitous in processed foods. Sugar can be hidden in ingredient lists under a variety of guises and is loaded into soft drinks and many juices – the average can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. When an excess of sugar enters the blood, the body converts it into fat, and obesity raises the risk of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and certain cancers.
Linked to Disease Risk
Over the past century, Americans have increased their fructose consumption from 15 grams per day to 75 grams or more. Too much fructose causes a metabolic disaster in your body. Some researchers have claimed it is just as bad as alcohol in causing fat storage in the liver, and causing fatty liver disease. Children have been increasingly diagnosed with high blood pressure and it is thought that obesity is to blame for about half of hypertension in adolescents. Sugar has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and literally hundreds of other health issues besides the obvious dental damage. Clinical research is ongoing in pharmaceutical courses.
Recent investigation showing how the sugar industry nominates scientists to serve on the dietary guidelines advisory committee and publishes biased research is troubling indeed and appears to date back to at least 1976, when a damning article from the New York Times instigated media manipulation and suppression efforts by the industry.
Scientists are divided regarding the safety of artificial sweeteners.Consumers may substitute refined white sugar with less-processed sugars such as fruit juice or maple syrup. Fruits contain fructose as well, but also vitamins and other anti-oxidants that reduce the harmful effects. The fiber in whole fruit contributes to a sense of fullness and results in less carbohydrate being absorbed in the gut. While it may be impossible to cut out all sugars, experts with a food safety certificate recommend cutting out sugary drinks and making desserts special treats instead of daily indulgences.