The dangers of the sweet stuff – finding hidden sugar

Refined sugar is a major danger to our health. In fact some say it’s as dangerous as the other famous ‘white’ stuff. Sugar follows the same pathways in the brain and targets the same receptors as cocaine and in some ways is just as addictive.

Some of the most obvious problems with refined sugar is

  • It  has no nutrient value – refined sugar is just empty calories
  • Sugar creates acidity within the body (not an ideal situation, our bodies should be slightly alkaline))
  • Sugar  feeds the ‘bad’ gut bacteria causing an unhealthy situation in the gut
  • It  hampers the production of digestive enzymes by the pancreas and therefore inhibits your ability to absorb nutrients

But are you aware of some of the other effects of refined sugar? For example it can lead to fat deposits in the liver and adipose tissue leading to fatty liver disease (an increasing problem in our society) and obesity (I’m sure we’re all aware of what a BIG  problem this is!)

Continual high sugar intake can lead to insulin resistance ( a forerunner of type 2 diabetes) and also leptin resistance. (leptin is a hormone which helps to control feelings of hunger and satiety and stimulates metabolism)

However it is not always easy to avoid sugar in your diet. Ideally daily sugar intake should be about 6 teaspoons for women and 8 teaspoons for men. A major problem is that large amounts of sugar are found where you wouldn’t necessarily expect them.

How often do you consume the following?

  • A can of coke or similar fizzy drink – approximately 9 teaspoons of sugar
  • Coffee shop cappucino with milk but no sugar – approximately 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • Regular orange juice – approximately 5 teaspoons of sugar
How to avoid hidden sugar

Always read the label on the food packet / jar. If sugar (see below for the aliases) is mentioned in the first three ingredients then this food is to be avoided! Beware however the manufacturers’ trick of using small amounts of lots of different sugars, so that it doesn’t look like the food contains any major amounts.

Food labelling can be confusing by mentioning ‘natural sugars’, ‘fruit concentrates’ or honey, all of which are fructose or glucose, i.e. sugar. Many ‘organic’ products are assumed to be healthy due to their labelling, but can contain more than 10% sugar.

Products which are labelled ‘no added sugar’ or ‘unsweetened’ trick you into assuming that they are low in sugar and therefore a healthier option. However these foods often contain fruit juice concentrates (i.e. concentrated fructose) and / or artificial sweeteners.

Sugar and its aliases

Here are some of the many different names that sugar can go by:

Agave nectar               Invert sugar                 saccharose
Barley malt syrup        Lactose (from milk)    sucrose
Corn sweetener           maltodextrin                syrup
Corn syrup                  malt syrup                   treacle
Dextrin                        maltose                        glucose
Dextrose                      molasses                      honey
Fructose                      rice syrup                     xylose
Fruit juice concentrate            High fructose corn syrup

Anything labelled ‘syrup’, ‘sweetener’ or ending in ‘-ose’ is usually sugar.

So next time you go food shopping carefully examine the products on offer, investigate for hidden sugar content and become a more savvy and aware consumer.

Your health will be better for it!