With all the recent news that the World Health Organisation is being pressured to cut the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of sugar from 10g to 5g, it has prompted me to republish a blog I wrote last year on the toxic and addictive properties of sugar to help your understanding of why many more stringent policies need to be put in place by (WHO and the relevant Government departments) to help those who rely on processed foods to be freed from their sugar addiction to enable them to make healthier food choices which will ultimately enable them to lose weight and reduce the rise in diabetes, obesity, heart disease and all the related health risks which are crippling the NHS.
Sugar : The Toxic Truth
Last week I attended a truly enlightening symposium on the Sugar, Fat and Public Health Crisis led by Professor Robert Lustig MD (Professor of Pediatrics, UC San Francisco). I came home wanting to tell everyone, particularly parents, about his research and really wished that that afternoon, members of the Government, in particular the Ministers for Health and Nutrition/Food Policy and influential representatives from the NHS could have been there to learn and understand how fructose , an added sugar which is always partnered with glucose, (without going into the complicated biochemistry), is killing us and damaging the health of our children. These sugars are found in fizzy drinks, fruit juices, processed foods and sweets in abundance, as well as in 'fat free' and 'low fat' and certain manufactured products labelled ‘healthy’. The scientific evidence presented by Prof. Lustig can pin the blame and is the main culprit and cause of not only a condition known as metabolic syndrome, but also obesity and diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome can be characterized by someone with slim limbs but an enlaged, rounded girth but who is not necessarily obese or suffers with diabetes. In fact they might not appear to have much fat on the outside, but they most definately have lots of fat, known as visceral fat, on the inside surrounding their organs. However, obese people and diabetics may or may not, have metabolic syndrome. You may even assume that your condition is isolated, but the reality is, if you eat predominantly processed foods and lots of savoury snacks and fizzy drinks and fruit juices, you are unwittingly consuming vast amounts of added sugar. The human damage of metabolic syndrome is shocking and there must be thousands and thousands of people who don't even know they've got it. These are some of the conditions Metabolic Syndrome causes: -
- Type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- lipid (fat) disorders
- cardiovascular disease
- non-alcoholic fatty liver
- kidney disease
- hormonal conditions - PCOS
There are of course many other health-related conditions, such as sleep apnoea, gall stones and depression, and appalling the frightening implications for children and young people. You can now understand why the NHS is stretched beyond its limit and money and resources simply cannot sustain a nation addicted to fructose. Moreover a plethora of foods marketed to children and playing with the consciences of their parents, display very misleading information on the labels, thus masking the nature of the actual ingredients of hidden sugars.
I say addicted because that is exactly the effect fructose has on dopamine (happy hormone) production, in the brain and frighteningly, no different from that of an alcoholic. Which ever way you look at it, the fact is that the more processed foods you consume, the more (unknowingly) addicted to sugar you become and if you try to cut it out, you will doubtless experience all the symptoms of going 'cold turkey' - headaches, fatigue, irritability, aching joints and generally feeling pretty low and miserable. No wonder you surrender to the chocolate bar or can of coke so easily!
But have you ever considered that your addiction is actually making a lot of food manufacturers extremely rich? Yes, how daft is that? If you tend to eat mostly prepared, packeted, ready-cooked type foods, and you drink fruit juices and fizzy drinks, even if the label suggests it is healthy, the chances are a large proportion of your hard earned income is enabling big multi-national food manufacturers to not only make vast profits, but is also funding them to find ever more clever and technological ways to keep you hooked! Not only that, but you are actually paying them to make you seriously ill and suffer from some of the conditions above. And just to add insult to injury, the NHS doesn’t have the resources or capacity to deal with your burden!
Sadly the whole obesity/diabetes crisis has been a red-herring for metabolic syndrome for years. It has now been scientifically proved beyond reasonable doubt that obesity is indeed a behavioural problem and clearly that is too massive a job for the NHS to sort out at local level.
We have all become very good at taking the blame for our own spare tyre round our middles and pointing the finger at the overweight. I bet most people reading this have tried at least 6 diets in their lifetime and their preoccupation with their food consumption is making them miserable, not to mention their feelings of guilt and being a failure because they find it impossible to lose weight.
But 30 years ago - (the advent of processed foods and imaginative fizzy/fruit drinks), scientists did not have the evidence to stop this runaway train of an epidemic that is rapidly killing far far too many people, especially children. But now we do.......and we can all, personally, do something about it. I'm not saying the dietary transition is going to be easy - you know, no pain no gain etc., but we can at least do the following:
- Abandon fizzy drinks and fruit juices and drink good old tap water and milk (of your preference) instead. Please don't waste your money on bottled water - we live in the developed world for goodness sake - our water is clean and best of all, its free!
- Try to wean yourself off the processed/packaged meals/snacks - they are far too expensive for what they are, which is basically a lot of very cleverly tampered with sugars and chemicals, with very tiny amounts of fresh ingredients. There are 56 different names for sugar - how many do you think you know or recognise? They are not called 'hidden sugars' for nothing! So unless you think you can lock yourself in a room and go cold turkey, be kind to yourself, and reduce the amounts of these foods you eat every week and be consistent so eventually you are 'clean' from sugar.
- Gradually introduce more fresh food into your diet every day - try as many different types of vegetables as you can, or different pulses and whole grains - swop white products for whole grain products, like bread, sugary cereals with plain porridge oats and sweeten with fresh fruit etc. The money you are not giving away to the food production companies will save you more than enough to buy fresh food - and this type of food will improve your health beyond measure.
- Become supermarket savvy - the big supermarkets are also the offenders -as fast as they are promoting diet products/fat-free/lite/healthy living foods etc., they are equally pandering to your sugar addiction and keeping you hooked by offering BOGOF's (buy-one-get-one-free) on exactly the type of addictive foods that are making you ill - cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks, snacks etc. etc.
- There has been a big increase in the number of smaller supermarkets (in particular – Aldi/Lidl) who regularly promote fresh foods - vegetables, fruit, meats, fish, at fantastically low prices and its all good stuff. If you haven't explored these supermarkets yet, do so as you will be amazed at how much money you will save on your weekly shop and this will enable you to buy much more fresh food than you ever did before.
- Keep moving! you absolutely do not have to belong to a gym to keep fit - that is a very poor excuse. Walking and jogging is free. A skipping rope will cost you about £5 and will last years.
And finally - we are all in this together because we all have to eat. Up until now we have allowed these food giants to take advantage of that, but now science has exposed the truth about their products and we all need to take responsibility for our children’s and our own health, and we can do this if we consider the evidence and act upon it sensibly.
For more information about the sugar/metabolic syndrome crisis, I would encourage you to google Professor Robert Lustig and discover the research
If you would like to find out more or how you can be helped to wean yourself off sugar, get in touch with me at: