Sugar is Sweet … and Scary

Halloween is here, along with its candy corn, mini candy bars, and chocolate “eyeballs.” Who doesn’t love a Halloween treat – followed by another, then another, and….well, you know.

Usually there’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence, but some people will tell you that sugar can be downright spooky. In fact, for older adults, consuming too much sugar increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, inflammation, osteoporosis, obesity, and loss of muscle mass. Scary, right? Check out these recent studies that make consuming sugar seem like less like a treat and more of a trick:

Sugar is linked with dangerous fat deposits. A study published by the European Society of Cardiology found that sugar consumption is linked with unhealthy fat deposits around the heart and other organs. This fat releases chemicals into the body that can be harmful to health.

Sugar increases, not decreases, the appetite. Researchers from the University of Southern California confirmed that sugar-sweetened beverages are a “significant driver of obesity” and are the single largest source of added sugar in American diets.

Sugar shortens life. A sugar-rich diet raises the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. A study from Imperial College London also showed that sugar causes the body to accumulate a molecule called uric acid, which can shorten life even if the person is not obese.

Sugar is bad for digestive health. Researchers from the University of Alberta caution that even occasional sugar binges could be bad for our digestive system. They found that shortly after people with conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and colitis overindulged in sugar, their symptoms were likely to flare up. What’s more, high-sugar diets encourage the increase of E. coli and other bad bacteria in the gut.

Sugar doesn’t perk us up or cheer us up. While many of us reach for a sweet to improve our mood or energy, a study by University of Warwick researchers found that sugar consumption can actually make us feel fatigued and grouchy.

How to reduce your sugar intake

When it comes to reducing our sugar intake, banishing the sugar bowl from the table is only the first step. Most of the added sugar we consume comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, candy and other sweet snacks. And sugar is also found in breakfast cereals, nutrition bars and most processed foods—even in foods where you wouldn’t expect it to be. Read food labels. Look in the ingredients list, not only for “sugar,” but also for terms like “corn syrup” and words ending in -ose (fructose, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, glucose, etc.). Also remember that “low-fat” versions of foods are often higher in sugar.

This doesn’t mean we should avoid everything that tastes sweet. Fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products contain naturally occurring sugars that don’t cause the above problems, and are also nutrient-rich. If you have questions about your sugar intake, ask your doctor or a qualified dietitian.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise with information from the University of Southern California, the European Society of Cardiology, Imperial College London, the University of Alberta and the University of Warwick.

Categories: Nutrition