Last Sunday, CBS’s “60 Minutes” caused quite a stir when they reported on new research that indicated the possibly toxic effects of sugar on our bodies. “Toxic” may seem like a pretty strong word, but we already knew that sugar was bad for us. Now we have some scientific evidence to show just how bad it can be.
Believe me, I am like everyone else when it comes to sugar. I love it, and according to the researchers, we are genetically pre-disposed to love it. Except that the kinds of sugars we were born to love were natural, as in real fruits, and not in processed forms added to manufactured products.
The prevalence of added sugars in our collective diet has triggered a public health crisis of epic proportions. Not only has there been the obvious consequence of becoming overweight or obese, but there is also scientific evidence revealing that excess sugar can increase many of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease in as little as two weeks!
The risk factors are elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as the other features of metabolic syndrome, including high blood pressure and Type II diabetes. There is even an increased risk for certain types of cancers. Sugar causes spikes in insulin, which serves as a catalyst for some types of cancers to grow.
Where is all this sugar coming from? It seems that in the 1970’s, science determined that we needed to reduce fats in our diets. The food industry then discovered that sugar needed to be added to make such foods more palatable and not taste like cardboard. And thus began the long, dicey road to where we consume about 130 pounds of sugar a year, at a nearly addictive rate. And yes, it has been proven that sugar acts on the same “reward” part of the brain that drugs do.
Do we really need to reward kids with sweets when they eat their broccoli? Isn’t that sending the wrong message about real food?
So as a society, how do we reverse this trend? At a health club, I believe we have an obligation to disseminate this information and educate as many members as possible to not just the dangers of sugar, but how to change for the better. The following changes have been scientifically proven to help reduce risk:
- · Limit sweets, especially sugar-sweetened drinks. Even the naturally occurring sugars in 100% fruit juice can raise your risk.
- · Eat whole fruit, which contains fructose, but also fiber and micronutrients that your body was meant to have.
- · Read food labels for hidden sugars- high fructose and all other corn syrups; refined sugar and artificial sweeteners present in processed foods such as tomato sauce and bread; even maple syrup and honey may be hiding processed sugars.
Judith Samuels, M.A. is a certified nutrition and wellness consultant and master personal trainer at Sport&Health Clubs in the Washington D.C. Metro Area. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.