This means that for the past five decades, research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, were largely shaped by the sugar industry.
The notion of the food industry influencing nutrition science is nothing new. Last year it was revealed that Coca-Cola provided millions of dollars in funding to researchers who were looking to play down the link between sugary drinks and obesity.
You probably haven’t spent a ton of time wondering what happens to your body after you eat something sugary – it goes in there with all the rest of the food you consume and keeps you alive – end of story. Well, sugar is definitely important to staying alive; carbohydrates are the primary source of energy and play an important role in the functioning of the internal organs, the nervous system and the muscles. But our systems do not need sugar in the quantity that we are used to.
Before food processing, when sugar was mainly obtained from fruits and vegetables, people consumed about 30 grams per day of it. Today, an average American consumes 76 grams a day, which is about 19 teaspoons. That adds up to 96 pounds of sugar yearly (40 lbs. of which is high fructose corn syrup). Canadians consume slightly lower amounts at 88 pounds. The World Health Organization would like to see the number get down to 25 grams a day for both men and women (6 ¼ teaspoons).
The World Health Organization, as well as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, advises that sugar consumption should amount to no more than 10 per cent of calories per day. Ideally, added sugar should be limited to less than 5 per cent of calories consumed in a day.
High amounts of sugar can wreak havoc on our immune systems, hormones and digestion. Some of the negative effects are: premature aging, weight gain, fatigue, bone loss, mental fatigue, depression and it is a major contributing factor to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Sugar also contributes to inflammation in the body.
Chronic inflammation is an athlete’s enemy. It acts by breaking down tissues resulting in pain which will require a break in training or competing, leading to further weakening of the muscles, tendons and bones. Prevention of chronic inflammation is vital for continued sports activity.
When sugar is consumed in large quantities it has several effects:
- It causes people to eat it, despite the negative consequences like weight gain, fatigue and chronic inflammation
- Tolerance will develop and more will be needed for the same effect, this equals cravings
- Some people have trouble functioning without it and have a “stash” available when their energy plummets
- Upon quitting sugar withdrawal symptoms may appear
Become familiar with the dozens of names for sugar used on food labels. Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or glucose/fructose are the absolute worst culprits. They consist of industrially treated, genetically modified cornstarch that has been converted into sugar. The process is very inexpensive but uses huge amounts of energy to produce. There are extreme health risks associated with HFCS that come from its conversion to triglycerides or circulating fats in the blood. Blood triglycerides are stored as fat, which increases the size of fat cells, causing weight gain and is associated with diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
If you are going to consume added sugar, the best options are pure maple syrup, honey, coconut palm sugar, evaporated cane juice and fruit derived sugars like ripe banana, unsweetened apple sauce and whole dates. Try to stick to less than 5g of sugar for every 100g of food.
For more information on this topic and to see how sugar politics really works, you have to check out Sugar Coated Documentary (available on Netflix).