Sugar – how sweet it is. Irresistible. Pervasive.
Is there a connection between the alarming sugar intake levels of children and learning and behavioural issues? Is there a link between sugar intake and childhood obesity that is skyrocketing? Is sugar more harmful to the developing brain than the adult brain?
In 1700, sugar was a luxury, and people consumed an average of four pounds per year. By 1800 it was 18 pounds, and by 1900 it was 60 pounds. During the Second World War, sugar consumption dropped with rationing, but by 1970 it had reached 120 pounds. Today that figure has risen to a whopping 150 pounds per year.
By the end of life, the average North American has eaten the weight of a family sedan in sugar.
The No. 1 source of added sugar is soft drinks with an average of 11 teaspoons per can and comprising 33 per cent of all added sugar in our diet.
Read labels. If a list of ingredients includes words ending in “ose,” that means sugar – and the body does not care what letters go in front when it hits the gut tract, it all has a similar impact.
Each gram of sugar has 4½ calories. A bowl of cereal with eight grams of sugar is 36 calories out of the total calories from sugar alone. Switching to a low-sugar cereal such as plain bran flakes and adding fresh blueberries or sliced fruit makes breakfast more interesting and adds fibre and vitamins. Even better, have cooked oatmeal.
Recent studies on adolescent mice given high sugar diets show a direct link to changes in gut tract bacteria and memory function in the short term and lasting effects on adult memory performance. Studies examining memory and behaviour showed that rodents exposed to high sucrose diets performed poorer on cognitive tests.
Simple choices can have a significant impact. Audit your fridge, removing foods that have more than 10 per cent sugar content. Remove all fruit juices and carbonated drinks, both diet and sugar-added drinks. This is especially critical if you have small children.
There are many other examples of hidden sugars in foods: we assume yogurt is healthy and can be, but when you buy sweetened or flavoured yogurts, examine the label and compare it to plain yogurt. The difference will be in the sugar, and you will be surprised. If you want flavoured yogurt, add chopped apples, prunes, nuts, strawberries, blueberries.
I frequently work with clients who are trying to lose weight, and the first thing I ask them to work on is reducing sugar intake while concurrently increasing fibre. The results can be dramatic and beneficial even if you maintain a healthy weight. Sweet rewards.
Ron Cain is the owner of Sooke Mobile Personal Training. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.