In the Netherlands, our average sugar intake is five times higher than recommended. This 122 grams is equal to 30 sugar cubes. And that’s only the refined sugar, also called white sugar or free sugar. A shocking number? 70% of the products in the supermarket contains refined sugar, so not really. Not only cookies contain sugar, but also soup, salad dressing, granola, meat slices used for sandwiches and sausages. Note that they are all things that were previously viewed as healthy choices. While foods that naturally contain sugars do contain nutricients, like vitamins, minerals or fibers, refined sugar does not. This lack of nutricients in refined sugar products is one of the reasons that people consume more sugar than they did before. Read further to find out why sugar has such a bad impact on our energy levels and chronic health.
Why we need sugar
Sugar is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates. Sugar gives us energy through absorption of it in the blood. Different kinds of sugar all produce variate highs and lows in blood sugar (glucose) levels. When it enters our blood, we experience not only a feeling of high energy, but also feelings of sleep, as it provokes distribution of magnesium. Because of the highs and lows, sugar is highly addictive. Sugar itself doesn’t cause obesity or metabolic problems, only when it is over-consumed. The World Health Organisation recommends to reduce free sugars, so sugar added to foods, fruit juice and concentrates, honey and syrups to less than 5% of the total energy intake, to prevent body weight increase and dental caries, that both cause a higher risk of multiple of diseases.
Sugar and hormons
There are different kinds of sugar, like glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, galactose. Someone who has irritable bowel syndrome already has 5 different kinds that must be avoided. One of those is fructuse sugar. It’s often added as fructose glucose, also called high-fructose corn syrup, but also occurs naturally in apples, pears, water melon, cherries, mango, asperagus, artichokes, honey and all concentrated fruit juices. According to research, more than 100 grams fructose per day reduces insulin sensitivy. Insulin is the hormone that regulates glucose highs and lows. People with diabetes are also insensitive for insulin and need to inject extra insulin into their blood. Davis’ study (2010) explains why people with an unhealthy diet are more likely to get diabetes and how refined sugar causes huperactivity.
Emerging evidence from recent epidemiological and biochemical studies (i.e. Basciano, Federico & Adeli, 2015) clearly shows that the high dietary intake of fructose has become a big cause of the development of the metabolic syndrome (diabetes and obesity as a result of behavioural changes, nutrition choices and the adoption of a sedentary lifestyle) nowadays.
Intake data shows us that the median* Dutch intake equals 46 grams of fructose per day. On average, this produces 9% of the calory intake and 19% of the carbohydrates intake. In this way, fructose is related to cardiovascular diseases, non-alcoholic liver degeneration, weight gain and diabetes mellitus type 2. *Median: 50% of our population scores below and 50% scores above this number.
Sugar and the gut
I suffer from irritabel bowel syndrome myself, so I already am very careful with the kinds of sugar I consume. But the earlier mentioned study also showed that fructose leads to gut problems in healthy people as well. More than 100 grams of fructose on the same day leads to higher fermentative activity and more h2 production in the gut – a.k.a. bloating, flatulence, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Furthermore, it significantly prolongs the gut transit; from 55 hours to 63 hours.
How to deal with sugar
From my own daily restrictive diet and temporary sugarless diet, I know that a total diet from refined sugars , although making me feel less stressed and hyperactive and making me less prone to diseases, is very hard to keep up. I also experience that cutting most of the refined sugars from my diet is very easy. When you are a few weeks into this diet with less refined sugar, you’ll even come to dislike some processed foods that you would previously love, as it just tastes fake and too sweet for your taste. When you strip 75-90% of the refined sugars in your diet, your feeling of hunger that normally shows up every few hours, stays gone. It makes it easier to eat less and to eat healthier while you also get more time to cook healthy before you are really hungry, so it makes weightloss much easier.
I imagine you wondering if the first week of restricting a diet is hard. Yes, it is, but it is sooo worth it! I vigourously recommend you to try to significantly lower your refined sugar intake. But please pick a week where no special activities are planned; those can make it hard to set the new habit. Stay tuned, as I explain exactly how you can start a habit the easy way in a new blog.