Excessive sugar consumption poses a serious health risk.
Madrid, December 19, 2019. Today, many studies have already verified the incidence of excessive sugar consumption in the appearance of various pathologies. And it is that sugar is not only related to overweight and obesity, which represent a true epidemic that our country does not escape, but it has a direct relationship with diabetes and even with concentration problems in childhood, among others.
For this reason, health professionals are increasingly warning of the need to reduce their consumption to a minimum, something complicated since we ingest it almost unconsciously, as explained by Dr. Pilar García Durruti, head of the Endocrinology and Nutrition of the HM Montepríncipe and HM Nuevo Belén university hospitals. “The increase in processed foods has been the cause of the excessive increase in free sugars in the diet,” says the specialist.
We consume sugar even in foods that are not sweet, making it difficult to control and quantify the amount we eat daily. That is why it is essential to reduce the consumption of processed foods and those containing sugars, such as cookies, cereals, pastries, sliced bread, sauces, cold cuts, ice cream, juices, smoothies, flavoured yogurts, etc. “We must return to a traditional diet in which there are no added sugars, which provide many calories and few nutrients,” recommends Dr. García Durruti. This advice is especially relevant in the face of Christmas when sugar consumption skyrockets. The specialist recommends resorting to healthy and balanced options and trying the sweet as something exceptional and always opting for the traditional elaborations “before the options without sugar since these tend to contain higher percentages of fats and more additives.”
Eliminate free sugars and sweeteners
Mamen Palomo, a nutritionist from the same HM Hospitales Service, is just as forceful when she assures us that “we must eliminate free or added sugars from our diet.” This includes sugar ‘from the sugar bowl,’ which we add to drinks and food, and all alternative sweeteners – coconut or molasses sugar, agave syrup, etc. -, since they are all free sugars, unnecessary in our diet.
The HM Hospitales nutritionist recommends “eliminating all free sugars, and that sweeteners only serve us in the transition to their complete withdrawal, to gradually accustom our palate to natural flavours.” To achieve this, Verónica Plaza, nurse educator in the Diabetes Unit of the HM Montepríncipe University Hospital, gives some guidelines, such as adding cinnamon to coffee or pure cocoa drinks, replacing the sweet breakfast with toast with oil or tomato, buying natural yogurt without sweetening and add nuts or pieces of fresh fruit or use fruits to sweeten in pastries – mashed banana, dates, grated coconut, etc. -.
Complex sugars and in little quantity
Eliminating free sugars does not imply stop consuming sugar because this substance is naturally present in many foods: fruits, vegetables, starches, dairy products, etc. They are called complex sugars and, although chemically they are the same as free sugars and provide the same calories, their origin matters a lot, as Mamen Palomo points out, since these “are necessary as a source of energy, vitamins and minerals.”
But even complex sugars need to be limited. The World Health Organization recommends that sugars be less than 10% of the total caloric intake and points out that reducing it below 5% would produce additional health benefits.
Overloading the liver with fructose can cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
When fructose turns into fat, it also creates harmful cholesterol. However, some of that fat is not transformed and can lead to fatty liver. This has become a severe problem in western countries and is associated with metabolic diseases of all kinds.
Some studies have shown that those with fatty liver tend to consume 2 to 3 times more fructose than healthy people.
Sugar can cause insulin resistance, the precursor to metabolic syndrome and diabetes
Insulin is a vital hormone for the body to function as it allows glucose to enter blood cells and encourages the burning of glucose. Excess glucose in the blood can generate a toxic reaction that manifests itself in complications of diabetes, and in extreme cases, can lead to blindness.
The Western diet can cause some metabolic dysfunction in which insulin stops working correctly because cells become resistant. This is known as or insulin resistance and can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.
Several studies have shown that sugar consumption promotes and facilitates insulin resistance, especially when its consumption is excessive.
Insulin resistance can develop into type 2 diabetes
When cells become resistant to insulin, the beta cells in the pancreas work harder. This is crucial because high blood glucose levels can cause severe and irreversible damage.
Over time, insulin resistance becomes more robust, and the pancreas can no longer produce the amount of insulin needed to keep blood sugar levels in check. This is when the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes may be unavoidable.
The risks of excessive sugar consumption
“High blood sugar levels lead to a higher prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases,” warns Dr. García Durruti. Likewise, recent studies show that sugar can generate addiction and, in the case of children, alter their concentration and sleep habits, as well as dental cavities. Possible links have also been pointed out between excessive sugar consumption and increased levels of stress, anxiety and even depression, liver problems and even the impairment of our cognitive abilities, specifically memory.
Therefore, it is necessary to be aware that excessive consumption of sugar, mainly processed foods, poses a severe risk to our health.
SUGAR, IS IT GOOD OR BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH?
Faced with this question, we usually find two opposite positions: in recent times, an essential part of society tends to demonize sugar as if it were a drug or addiction, blaming it for the pandemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease that society suffers. Western. On the contrary, and at the other extreme, we find part of the food industry, which downplays the effects of sugar and thinks only of the total calories of food, without considering the quality of those foods.
But in nutrition, nothing is usually black or white, and it is usually a balance between gray. To do this, below, we will see what we understand by sugar, what it is and how it acts in our body.