Before the turn of the century, sugar was seen as a relatively normal food additive. Most of the health concerns of sugar are the result of relatively recent studies and were conducted with heavy resistance from the sugar industry. Companies that produce sugar and products with a high concentration of sugar have an obvious stake in the public’s perception of their product. This has resulted in a lack of public funding for the research. However, non-profit Universities and organizations that find their massive lobbying efforts suspicious have been picking up the bill for funding the research.
Potential Risks of Overconsumption
A diet that is high in sugar is regarded as a large factor in contributing to obesity. Sugar, by definition, are just carbohydrates. Carbs are an essential part of managing your weight, as they are easily stored in the fat cells of the body. Among nutritionists, sugars are often referred to as “empty calories” and though they often improve the taste of your food, they provide little nutritional gain in return.
Diabetes Type 1 & 2
Whether you are an adult or child, monitoring your sugar intake is essential from preventing the onset of diabetes. Although there are genetic factors that may increase or decrease your risk of developing diabetes, maintenance of the disease is very much centered around keeping your sugar intake to a minimum. Once again, this is because of the “cheap” energy that it gives your body(containing anywhere from 97 to 100% carbohydrates).
Dentists agree that limiting your exposure to sugar is one of the most important factors in preventing tooth decay. Your teeth are made of calcium, because of this, your teeth are susceptible to decay when exposed to acidic compounds. Granulated sugars, such as table sugar, are generally very acidic once dissolved in water. This increases the acidity of your mouth by introducing the substance into your saliva directly, but heavy use can also cause your saliva to become more acidic over time, further increasing your risk of tooth decay.
You have probably heard the term “sugar rush” before. Children are especially vulnerable to experiencing these bouts of hyperactivity due to the sweet substance, as their bodies are much smaller, but this link has not been verified by reliable studies. This is primarily due to researcher’s failure to differentiate between refined sugar and “free” sugars, found naturally in fruits and starchy foods. Additionally, the pancreas, liver, and kidneys of children are less developed than their adult counterparts, which makes them even more susceptible to juvenile onset diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term for a collection of symptoms and is an area of ongoing medical research intrigue. Usually patients diagnosed with metabolic syndrome have three of the five following symptoms:
- Abdominal obesity
- High blood pressure
- High blood glucose levels
- High serum triglycerides
- Low HDL levels. (HDL is one of the measurements tested when you get your cholesterol checked, and stands for high-density lipoprotein.)
Metabolic syndrome comes with an inherent risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, each of which can have life altering consequences. Cardiovascular diseases include congestive heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes. Type 2 diabetes is a condition that causes insulin resistance, insulin is the chemical that your body produces to ensure that the sugars and carbohydrates you ingest are digested properly.
Trying to take sugar out of your diet can be difficult, as so many of the foods offered to us contain it. Luckily, due to recent public attention to the over-consumption, there have been an influx of sweetening alternatives.
Whether it is your favorite blended coffee or a regular can of cola, many of our favorite drinks contain a large amount of sugar. This is especially true of energy drinks, as they contain large amounts of sugar to cut the bitter taste of the B Vitamins, Ginseng, or Taurine within them. Sports drinks are often just as bad. Since they are designed to replenish your body’s electrolytes, they contain a high amount of salt. Manufacturers offset the salty taste by adding a heavy amounts of sugar to make the drink more appealing. More often than not, your favorite brand of sports drinks has a line of less sugary alternatives.
Muffins and doughnuts seem to make great on-the-go breakfasts, but often contain high concentrations of sugar. Although it is not common to find sugar-free options for these breakfast foods in most stores, they do exist. If you don’t mind doing the prep-work yourself, there are hundreds of growing online communities that post their sugar-free recipes for baked goods, often using non-sugar sweeteners as an alternative.
If you have a sweet tooth, one of the best ways to limit your exposure to sugar is to try and replacing your favorite treats with sugar-free alternatives. Usually, your local pharmacy will carry a large selection of sugar-free candies and snacks, as they are highly requested by people managing their diabetes. They can also be found in bulk online. Unfortunately, some of the products that are used to sweeten these candies are rather synthetic and leave a slight aftertaste. From my own experience, if you can’t stand the after taste they give, I recommend the candies that are spicy or sour. Cinnamon or lemon drops are best, as they require the least amount of artificial sweetening.