Our problematic sugar habit is hitting headlines, reports, studies and is even the subject of films.
The average Briton consumes around 240 teaspoons of sugar each week, often without knowing they are in their family foods and drinks. But are we nearly at the peak of this sweet addictive consumption impacting on our family’s health?!
Sugar is reportedly addictive – is it time to end the sweet treats aimed at children?
Many of us feel that we all eat too much sugar and few of our children get through a day without consuming sugar in their daily diet. Fruit flavoured yoghurts, cooking sauces, dips, soups, savoury snacks, breads, healthy appearing cereals and snack bars as well as the more obvious fizzy and soft drinks all contain added sugar in various forms and then there are the treats; the biscuits, cookies, ice-cream, lolly and of course the desert that accompanies school meals. Is it any wonder that rates of diabetes, metabolic disorders, cancers, heart disease, dementia, depression and more are on the increase?
An increasing number of experts are calling for a pushback away from our out of control sweet habit. Sugar, whether added to food by you or the manufacturer, is a significant threat to our health. Obesity rates continue to rise with a quarter of Britons reportedly obese, half of adults overweight and an alarming 9.5% of children aged 4-5 years and almost 1 in 3 children in England are overweight.
When we continue to consume regular sugars and sweeteners we risk personal obesity and disease with the associated toll on our country’s health services with escalating costs from our our ill health connected to poor diet. Obesity is associated with cardiovascular risk, cancers, disability during old age, decreased life expectancy and serious chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, inflammation and hypertension.
For those of us trying to cut down for ourselves and our family the answer is not simply to avoid the confectionary, cakes and sweets. Sugars and sweeteners are not always easy to spot when added to our food by the food industry. Sweeteners and sugars make every type of food more palatable. They are hidden in many of our regular foods, from soups to breads, dips, yoghurts, sauces to bread. The average Briton consumes more than a kilo of sugars, 238 teaspoonfuls, each week but would have difficulty identifying where the the majority of that sugar is in their foods.
“Sugar is deeply and thoroughly embedded in our food supply” says Australian writer David Gillespie, author of Sweet Poison and Sweet Poison Quit Plan books.
Sources of processed sweetness like corn syrup, agave or maple syrup and honey contain a higher percentage of fructose than fruit, meaning additional fructose has been added. Some agave nectars, for example, can be 92 per cent fructose, eight per cent glucose. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is used liberally in processed foods, as a liquid it is easy to blend and transport and can be found in a wide range of food and drinks to make food more appealing and palatable; your dips, ‘healthy’ ready-meal, children’s ‘sport’ drinks and even alternative milks such as nut milks are offenders.
The Zero Sugar Movement
On an individual level consumers appear to be waking up to the sugar problem, research shows that we are buying fewer bags of granulated sugar. DEFRA statistics show that we consume fewer calories than in previous years from ‘free sugars’ such as table sugar, honey and sugars found naturally in fruit juices, although still at a higher rate than the recommended per cent we should be aiming for.
A big problem for us when trying to reduce or cut out sugar intake is that sweeteners are in most processed foods in different forms, so that you have to turn label detective to find them.
There is a growing surge of people on social media sites sharing their own foodie pics and information on their recipes and diets that eliminate or reduce sugars. Various forms of low carb diets are on the rise; Primal, Paleo, Raw food, Ketogenic, Atkins, GAPs diets.
Gwyneth Paltrow is a famous proponent of the quit sugar movement, her cookbook It’s All Good explains that her family do not eat any refined carbs or sugar. In a blog entry on her website Goop she talks about the sugar highs and mood changes that lead her to cut sugar out of her and her children’s diet: “Sugar gives you an initial high, then you crash, then you crave more, so you consume more sugar. It’s this series of highs and lows that provoke unnecessary stress on your adrenals. You get anxious, moody (sugar is a mood-altering drug) and eventually you feel exhausted.”
The previous UK Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham for Labour has repeatedly called for high-sugar children’s foods such as cereal brands Frosties and Sugar Puffs to be banned by politicians and limits set on salt, sugars and processed fats foods aimed at children.
David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison and Sweet Poison Quit Plan books are based on his own experience of quitting sugar, resulting in him losing 6 stone in a year. He describes eating sugars as highly addictive with the only solution to break the addiction being to “stop consuming all sources of the addictive substance. They are all hard to give up because they are addictive – but they are all easy to give up once you understand what you are doing and why.” He explains that “your palate adjusts significantly and quickly when you delete sugar. You can suddenly experience a whole range of flavours that either you didn’t know existed before or were muted by the presence of sugar.”. His family are also involved in the new eating plan and all sugars have been cut from the family diet. “The kids didn’t like it, but eventually they got used to it and their palates adjusted. Now they are pretty pleased with teeth that don’t have cavities, rarely getting colds and feeling energetic, with none of the highs and lows that come with sugar eating.”
Robert Lustig, is professor of paediatric endocrinology at University of California, San Francisco, author of Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth About Sugar, numerous scientific and press articles and presenter of “Sugar: the Bitter Truth” (a YouTube clip viewed more than 4,800,000 times). Lustig explains that fructose fools our brains into thinking we are not full so we overeat. Fructose cannot be converted into energy , they turn excess fructose into liver fat. That starts a cascade of insulin resistance (insulin promotes sugar uptake from blood) which leads to chronic metabolic disease, including diabetes and heart disease.”.
The solution is to take charge of our family’s diets, as we have done here in our Low Carb Family home. Change the way we buy, make and eat our foods to significantly reduce sugar and starchy foods consumed. For some this is easier said than done, so this is where Low Carb Family free resources and Diet Plans can help.