In recent years, people have branded fat and salt as the villains of a healthy diet. Today, sugar has dethroned them to become the vicious and alluring carbohydrate that has captivated the entire nation.
The “Sugar Mania”
The evolution of food throughout the years has dramatically changed the way people consume various daily staples. Nowadays, the Australian diet is laden with sugar from different food sources. Bread, cereals, soda, spread, protein bars, dairy products, canned food, frozen food, sauces and even condiments like ketchup, marmalade, mayonnaise, salad dressing and mustard all have sugars in them. The prevalence of added (and hidden!) sugar in almost all kinds of food people eat is shocking and alarming at the same time.
Aside from making food taste sweet or taste better when combined with other ingredients, one of the reasons sugar is added in so many types of food is because it’s a natural preservative that extends the shelf life of food. It also plays a functional role in food manufacturing. Sugar is said to contribute to the texture, viscosity, body and browning capacity of food.
Effects of Excessive Sugar Consumption
You may have already heard that a high intake of sugar is bad for you. But because sugar in various forms is highly addictive and hard to resist (take, for example, ice cream) people are having a difficult time removing it completely from their diet or reducing their consumption. But what actually happens to the body when there is an overabundance of sugar?
A ton of physiological things happen when the body takes in too much sugar – and one of them is sending your brain into overdrive by releasing high amounts of dopamine, a chemical messenger responsible for making us feel good. In other words, the more you consume sugar, the more you crave it. The more you crave it, the harder it is to quit. Think hard drugs are the only thing that can get people hooked? Think again.
Another negative effect of excessive sugar consumption is dental cavities. Sugar in itself is not the culprit for the holes in your teeth, but the acid produced when it gets in contact with the tooth surface is what has been proven to cause tooth decay.
Not surprisingly, a sugary diet causes people to put on more pounds and in severe cases, suffer from obesity. Foods and drinks that contain a high volume of sugar are known to have a lot of calories in them but provide less nutritional benefits. To make the long story short: loads of calories = weight gain. When the body consumes more sugar than it can actually burn, it metabolises the unused sugar into body fat for later use. This body fat can then turn up into your stomach, arms, thighs, and almost everywhere where they shouldn’t be.
It may sound unbelievable, but high amounts of sugar intake also affect the skin by making people look older faster. The reason? A process called glycation, which burdens the proteins collagen and elastin (responsible for making the skin elastic and giving it strength) when there’s too much sugar in the body. In turn, it results in wrinkles and other indications of skin aging.
The Australian Health Survey reported that between 2011 and 2012, the average Australian consumes about 60 grams of sugar each day, which amounts to 14 teaspoons of white sugar. It is no wonder that the percentage of obesity in the country has jumped up to 63.4% in the last decade – with nearly one-quarter of Australian children and adolescents being overweight or obese, and two-thirds of Australian adults either overweight or obese.
However, studies showed that even if somebody is actually not overweight but has a sugar-rich diet, it will still have harmful effects on their health.
Some of the detrimental illnesses associated with overconsumption of sugar include:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Kidney damage
- Mood disorders
While it is still an ongoing debate on whether quitting sugar altogether is beneficial, one thing is for sure: consuming high amounts than is necessary will not do you and your health a favour. In order to live a longer and healthier life, sugar intake must be limited to the recommended daily intake, along with exercise and eating more whole foods than processed ones.