Sugar: the reality

This pictures shows a giant gummy bear among smaller gummy bears, to illustrate the amount of sugar we eat each day.

According to every scientific studies, we eat too much sugar. However, even if everybody knows its damages, our consumption habits don’t change that much. Sugar is common in our everyday lives, and we are used to sweet tastes all day. Sugar-lade, breakfast cereals, cooking sauces, yoghurts, snacks, and many diseases like obesity and diabetes are linked to it.

This current abundance of sweet foods and drinks is due to our increasing expectations from the last few years. This growing love for sweet tastes is due to our consumption habits’ history.

To begin with, the American Presidency believed – in the 70ies – that heart disease was closely linked with excess fat. That’s the reason why “low fat” and “fat free” products were developed, with sugar added to balance the taste. At the same time, liquid sugar is created, high fructose corn syrup’s finest hours!

This high fructose syrup fools your appetite hormones. Hormones are biological little messengers, involved in every system of our body. Thus, hunger hormones make us want to eat, and on the contrary, satiety hormones tell us we are full.

The problem is that we have evolved without this “off-switch” system for fructose, prevalent in our alimentation. Indeed, there wasn’t much fructose in our ancestors’ diet! As a consequence, hormones won’t stop you from eating sugar, no matter how sick you will be. On top of that, scientists disagreed the link between excess fat and heart diseases. On the contrary, they shew the one between sugar increase and unstoppable illness.

However, not all sugar is bad for us. We actually need glucose to live. Our body metabolises it to give us energy. When carbohydrates and sugar are consumed, they are digested and the simple sugars released by digestion are absorbed into the bloodstream. Then, the pancreas produces the “insulin” hormone  to manage the level of sugar in blood, which is essential for good health.

If we consume too much sugar, we will be exposed to two main issues. First, the body’s managing system can be overloaded, and our pancreas will produce more and more insulin, till we become “insulin resistant”: our insulin stops working correctively. That corresponds to the Type 2 Diabetes’s first stage, and at least our body will stop producing insulin without appropriate treatment.

Second, unburnt sugar is turned into fat, causing weight gain and fatty liver diseases, cancer, hypertension and so on. In the developed world, 10% of children are suffering from fatty liver disease, due to unhealthy diet and sedentary living.

Moreover, another important aspect of human behaviour is our brain’s reactions to our experiences. Indeed, when good things happens, we produce substances as the “dopamine”. It allows us to have enjoyment feelings when we are experiencing love, for example. Dopamine is also released when we eat sugary foods, giving us a hit of pleasure, the same way we feel while consuming drugs. But it’s temporary, and there is a slump after a sugar rush. If someone continually has this rush and needs it, he will be exposed to fatigue, sleep problems, mood swings, anxiety, apathy, memory loss and inability to concentrate.

So, how much sugar should we be consuming? According to the World Health Organisation in 2015, no more than 5% of daily calories should come from added or free sugar. This is equivalent to 19g for 4-6 years old children, to 24g for 7-10 years old children and 30g for those over 11 years old. Problem: we regularly consume twice as much…

Sugar represents a real danger for our health, we must open our eyes and be responsible. Our sugar consumption must be reduced to be healthy, and alternatives do exist!