A (large) spoonful of sugar can prove fatal, a leading doctor in the US has warned, as it can have the same effect on the body as poison when eaten in large quantities.
A paediatric endocrinologist from the University of California claims that high doses of sugar, (whether it’s crystallised, in a corn syrup or granulated), turn into ‘toxins’, which lead to heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and diet-related diseases like type-2 diabetes.
Motivated by his own patients and after treating too many sick and obese children, Dr Robert Lustig pinpoints sugar as the blame.
The doctor has become a pioneer in the war against sugar and believes that all types of the sweet stuff should be taken more seriously and be classed as a toxic health hazard.
Dr. Lustig is urging for sugar to be classed as lethal as tobacco and alcohol. Blaming sugar for the “public health crisis”, he told 60 Seconds:
“Ultimately this is a public health crisis. And when it’s a public health crisis, you have to do big things and you have to do them across the board. Tobacco and alcohol are perfect examples.
“We have made a conscious choice that we’re not going to get rid of them, but we are going to limit their consumption. I think sugar belongs in this exact same wastebasket.”
The key behind the warning is that it’s not just sugar that is poison – but the dose that makes it toxic, warns Dr. Lustig.
However, with food companies replacing fat with sugar, it’s becoming a problem that’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid.
"When you take the fat out of food, it tastes like cardboard," explains Dr. Lustig. "And the food industry knew that, so they replaced it with sugar … and guess what? Heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and death are skyrocketing."
Although sugar consumption has decreased 40% since the 1970s, its replacement – corn syrup – in on the rise and is, as Dr. Lustig explains, “just as toxic” as they both contain fructose, the compound that gives food its sweet taste.
So how much added sugar should we be eating (or avoiding)?
According to the British Dietetic Association, the recommended intake of ‘added sugars’ – such as honey, fruit juice, jam, soft drinks and those in processed food, is around 50g a day.
However, when one can of Coca Cola (500ml) contains 65g of sugar – the equivalent of 13tsp of sugar and 15g over the sugar RDA - it’s easy to see how Brits are way off target when it comes to adequate sugar consumption.
If you want to know how much sugar is too much, avoid food that contain more than 15g of sugar per 100g and lean towards food that is 5g and under in every 100g.How to avoid the sugar traps, according to Netdoctor:
- Choose wholegrain over sugar cereals: Cereals or porridge instead of sugar-coated varieties.
- Bin canned fruit juice: Swap canned fruit in syrup for those in juice and go for carbonated water with fruit juice added rather than sugary drinks.
- Avoid fructose: Fructose (the sugar in fruit) doesn't cause the same rapid rise - and then drop - in blood sugar as sucrose (the sugar found in processed foods such as cakes). Natural fructose is absorbed slower. Fruit also provides plenty of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
- Watch out for brown sugar: Brown sugar may contain slightly higher levels of a few minerals, such as potassium and magnesium, but otherwise it's just as short on protein and vitamins as the white stuff.
- Read labels: Forms of sugar in processed foods are also called glucose, dextrose, fructose, invert syrup, corn syrup, raw, brown or demerara sugar, glucose syrup, lactose, maltose, hydrolysed starch or treacle.