Though we’ve briefly touched about reducing your sugar intake, we haven’t really gotten into why you should do it. Or at least not in depth. So is sugar really bad for you? Or is it more about quality over quantity? Today we’re going to look into just that and also see why reducing your sugar intake can help you lead a healthier lifestyle.
What is sugar?
Sugar is the generalized name for sweet, short-chain, soluble carbohydrates that are often used in food. These carbohydrates are made up of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. There are many different types of sugars, derived from different sources. There are simple sugars, including galactose, fructose, and glucose (also known as dextrose), and more complex sugars known as disaccharides.
The sugar most commonly used in food is a disaccharide known as sucrose. Others of this group include lactose and maltose. There are also some chemically-different substances that are not classified as sugars, but that also offer a sweet taste. Some of these are used as lower-calorie substitutes for sugar, often referred to as “artificial sweeteners.”
The average person eats about 24 kilograms of sugar each year, over 260 food calories per day. Many have questioned since the late 20th century whether humans eat too much sugar. Sugar has been linked to obesity, and the obesity epidemic has been running rampant across much of the world, including the United States.
In fact, based on the current rate of Americans becoming obese, the United States is projected to have over half of its population obese by 2030, with 13 of the 50 states projected to have over 60% obesity, 39 of the 50 states having over 50% obesity, and all 50 states having over 44% obesity.
This should be a major concern to all Americans for two primary reasons: Cases of obesity-related diseases (such as heart attacks, strokes, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, etc.) will rise, and health-care costs will soar.
In fact, the number of new cases of such conditions as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, coronary heart disease, and stroke could increase ten times by the end of this decade, then double that amount by 2030. In conjunction, health care costs related to the obesity epidemic could rise by 10% in 43 states and 20% in nine states.
So, it’s obvious that obesity is a growing problem in the United States, and abroad as well (25% of the female population in both the United Kingdom and Australia are obese). Sugar is thought to be a primary factor in this obesity epidemic.
Two big questions that arise are, “How does sugar harm our health?” and “Why do people eat so much sugar?”
Sugar harms our health in a number of ways.
It promotes tooth decay because it helps to break down the enamel of our teeth, which can eventually lead to periodontal disease. This can affect our ability to eat the foods we need to eat to achieve and maintain good nutrition. It lowers the level of HDL cholesterol, which can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. It also can increase our risk for arthritis.
These are just some of the ways that sugar can affect our health and our ability to achieve and maintain good nutrition.
With all of the reasons why sugar is bad for our health, you would think that it would be a simple matter of just reducing our sugar intake.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and we’ll cover why in another post.