Our cells require sugar for energy. We need it for our very existence. How much, however, do we need?
Sugar, while necessary, like so many other things in life, a little may be good, but too much can have severe consequences. There are some who believe that sugar kills. It’s true, indeed, in large quantities, sugar does kill… slowly.
Why has consumption spiked over the years?
A hundred years ago Americans consumed, on average, about 2 pounds of sugar per year. By the 70’s that number spiked to 123 pounds per year. Recent statistics shows that the average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar every year. Considering that there are huge factions of individuals who consume much less than 150 pounds, many Americans could be taking in close to 200 pounds per year, if not more. This is a problem that can lead to serious health concerns.
How much sugar should we consume?
Nutritionists say that 10% of our calories should come from sugar. Based on a 2000 calorie per day diet, this equates to roughly 14 teaspoons of sugar per day.
Unfortunately, we are taking in more like 42.5 teaspoons per day. We have some work to do to cut this down.
What health problems result from excessive sugar consumption?
Aside from the obvious problem of weight-gain and obesity, which has become an epidemic, there are serious health risks that are linked to excess sugar such as:
- Type-2 Diabetes – The incidence of this life-changing disease has more than doubled over the past 30 years. Poorly controlled, type-2 diabetes leads to organ failure, numbness, and lower-extremity amputation.
- Increased risk of Heart Disease – as a natural sequela of obesity, excess sugar consumption causes systemic inflammation, high triglyceride, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure levels — all risk factors for heart disease.
- Increased risk of Cancer – in addition to increased inflammation, increased sugar leads to insulin resistance. Both have been linked to an increase risk of certain cancers. Excess sugar consumption has been associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer, pleural cancer and cancer of the small intestine. In a study of women, women who consumed sweet buns and cookies more than three times per week were 1.42 times more likely to develop endometrial cancer than women who consumed these foods less than 0.5 times per week
- Other known conditions – Skin and Cellular Aging, Fatty Liver, Acne, Decreased Energy, and Accelerated Cognitive Decline.
What can you do to reduce sugar intake?
This maybe dating myself a little, but do you remember the television commercial from years ago where they said, bet you can’t eat just one? Of course, that commercial was referring to a salty snack, but the same holds true for sweet snacks. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. We often times get into habits of consuming a candy bar here and a cookie there. Believe it or not, cookie crumbs DO count. Before we know it, we are dealing with pre-diabetes.
The simplest thing to do is to start reading labels. You’d be surprised where sugar is added. While reading, be aware that sugar is called many different things. Look for glucose, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, maltose, sucrose, fruit concentrate, and the worst of the worst, high fructose corn syrup. Also, look for the percentage of carbohydrates. Better yet, avoid processed foods as much as possible. As someone who has battled the bulge, one of the best recommendations I can make is to resign yourself to making drastic dietary changes. Choose healthy snack options like berries, nuts and seeds, nut butter (but read the label. Nut butter, especially peanut butter often has added sugar). Get into… fall in love with drinking water. Additional drastic changes can be in the form of increased activity. Go for a long walk, get on the floor and do some push-ups and sit-ups. Look up places you can go to line-dance or sign up for an introductory yoga class.
As usual, do not hesitate to call our office for a complimentary consultation to discuss ways to improve your health & vitality. We’d love to help change your life.
For Better Health, Naturally!
Peter A. Holst, DC