Facts About Sugar: Nutritionists, Health Experts And Doctors Weigh In On The White Stuff

02/01/2016 09:08 | Updated 02 January 2016

There's no denying 2015 has been the year that sugar got its arse kicked.

From Jamie Oliver's Sugar Rush, a programme in which the TV chef wages war on the white stuff, to increasing pressures from health experts for the Government to put a tax on sugar, it's not looking great for the sweet substance.

But there's still some way to go. Britain is on the cusp of an obesity epidemic and sugar often lies at the heart of the problem - bringing with it Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However despite this, people still love sugar.

So is it really as bad as people claim? And should we cut sugar out of our diets completely? Here, several bloggers and health experts weigh in on the white stuff.


Sugar is okay in moderation

"There's nothing wrong with enjoying an occasional treat. But it's important to realise that eating too much sugar too fast presents your body with a monumental workload," wrote Dr Wayne Osborne in a blog post.

"The recommended daily intake of total sugars (sugars from all food) for adults is 90g, as typically noted on food packaging. But this doesn't mean you can safely eat three 51g Mars Bars (containing a total of 91.5g of sugar) in one day and still be within negligible distance of the threshold.

"Chocolate, sweets, sugary snacks and fizzy drinks contain added sugar, and the NHS advises that no more than five per cent of your total daily calorie intake should come from foods of this type."

He added: "So really, for those aged 11 and over, the upper limit of sugar intake from products with added sugar is somewhere closer to 30g per day. To give some perspective, a bag of Skittles contains almost 50g. A can of Coke contains around 36g.

"What's more, the sugar you eat needs to be spread out as evenly as you can throughout the day."

We shouldn't avoid fruit because it contains sugar

Nutritionist Laura Thomas said she's heard a lot of people "talking smack about fruit" in recent times and, as a result, wanted to clear a few things up.

"Among other things, I hold bloggers and celebrity wellness personalities (with questionable nutrition qualifications) accountable for spouting a lot of crap that propagates the notion that certain fruits are "too high in sugar" and should be cut out of the diet," she said.

"You see, fruit is much more than the sum of its parts. There are the obvious things - the fruit sugars, the fibre, vitamins, and minerals. But there are also thousands and thousands of compounds unique to plants that scientists are only beginning to get their heads around.

"For instance, mangoes have a compound in them called mangiferin, which may slow the uptake of glucose into the blood stream. Similarly, berries have been shown to reduce the insulin response after a meal; berries have a cocktail of compounds: ellagitanins, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, soluble fibre, and a variety of other phytonutrients (i.e. plant nutrients) that all contribute to this effect, plus may help protect against heart disease and cancers.

"By only focussing on one nutrient, we're doing ourselves a massive disservice."


Sugar costs billions

"It's admittedly easy to feel detached from talk of multi billion pound Government healthcare costs, but individually we all know how much we value quick and effective care if a loved one becomes ill," Professor Kevin Fenton, national director for health and wellbeing for Public Health England, wrote in a blog post on HuffPost UK.

"Our health system has to take the strain of the obesity epidemic, and we already spend billions of pounds dealing with illnesses that could have been prevented.

"Type 2 diabetes currently costs the NHS £8.8billion a year - that's almost 9% of its budget. We simply can't allow this to get much worse as it's not affordable - it will hit every area of the health services our families rely on.

"This isn't just my view; it's the view of the NHS England Chief Executive who is concerned that obesity will bankrupt his organisation."

Sugar is hurting everyone, even the healthiest among us

"Sugar is harming everyone, even those who are considered healthy and active," food and nutrition writer Sarah Leighton wrote in a blog on HuffPost UK.

"At a basic level, sugar consumption makes it very easy to consume too many calories. Sugary foods induce a blood sugar spike, which promotes the release of insulin, resulting in the sugar either being taken up and used by the muscles (if they are active), or stored by the liver and as fat in the body," she said.

"It is very easy to over consume sugary foods, as they provide little sustenance, meaning that you don't feel full for long and therefore will keep eating. Furthermore, the response to sugar can actually disturb the production of leptin, the hormone which helps regulate hunger. This is a big problem in obesity."

She added: "At a metabolic level, sugar is causing a whole host of damage. In a normal, healthy individual, the metabolism can cope with occasional consumption of refined sugar. However, if too much sugar is consumed regularly, the body begins to become resistant to the effect of insulin, this is known as insulin resistance.

"This means that the muscle, liver, and fat tissues find it increasingly difficult to take up the sugar. Consequently, the blood sugar level becomes higher than the normal range, and this is where big problems begin, as type 2 diabetes develops. The number of people in the UK with some form of insulin resistance is huge."

Soft drinks are a huge problem

"Of course we get sugar from sweets, cakes and chocolate but soft drinks and fruit juice are also major culprits - adults get up to a quarter of our sugar intake from them," wrote Professor Kevin Fenton.

"I'm also particularly concerned about children's consumption, they get even more of their daily sugar intake from soft drinks, as apart from the obesity risk (by the age of 4-5, one in five children are already overweight or obese) it's also shocking that one in eight three year olds have tooth decay.

"If we simply swapped our sugary drinks for water, low fat milk or diet drinks and limited fruit juice to one small glass each day, this could make a big difference."

Eating sugar is just like smoking or taking cocaine

Cage fighter Alex Reid said he's been a "sugar addict" for most of his life, and believes it has had a detrimental effect on his body and mind.

"Sugar plays a pivotal role in the development of many of the devastating illnesses we fear most, namely heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's to name a few," he wrote in a blog post.

"But in everyday terms reducing sugar in our diets, [means] our cholesterol and blood pressure improves in a matter of days.

"One day we will realise the dangers of sugar in society much like smoking, and cocaine."

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