Sugar is the main offender in modern diets. Sweeteners, in endless forms, are part of the basic diet. Sugar is actually addictive. In combination with fat, it produces feelgood chemicals known as opioids, which condition the body to want more.
The effects of excess sugar are all too well known. Author Susie Burrell has written a book called “Losing the last 5kg”.
Ms. Burrell comments in The Sydney Morning Herald:
“One obvious problem with too much sugar is that it provides a lot of kilojoules but no nutrients. But it’s also the company sugar keeps - there’s growing evidence that eating too many sugary foods can prime the brain to wanting more and more of them, especially when sugar is combined with fat,” she says.”
Research is also cited from Harvard School of Public Health produced some findings:
“…one to two sugary drinks daily increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 26 per cent and also raised the risk of metabolic syndrome by 20 per cent.”
Metabolic syndrome is the process whereby sugar is converted to fat, creating the cycle of issues related to excess fat. Even people not having a weight problem can be at risk of diabetes.
To add another dimension to a problem most people find quite difficult enough, “sugar withdrawal” is also a problem. It includes headaches and irritability.
Which raises the question: How to fight the sugar craving? Burrell’s answer is simple enough: Eat good unprocessed food regularly, and use savory flavors to counteract the sugar craving. Salty food tends to contrast sharply with sugar, and the combination of good nutrition dampens the urge to snack.
There’s another problem. Sugar is commonly used as a preservative. Sugar is chemically highly active, and it’s often used as a preservative for meat. The chemistry of sugar interferes with microbial action, literally combining with microbial enzymes.
Sugar is in fact extremely common in this role. It’s been noticed that indigenous peoples not used to high amounts of sugar in their traditional diet like Native Americans and Australian Aboriginals are at very high risk of diabetes when eating a modern diet. Even canned food is capable of delivering a large dose of sugar.
There are no statistics on how sugar affects public health in sufficient detail to say that “sugar kills more people than…” anything else in modern medicine. The global diabetes plague, however, is generally considered the smoking gun of the negative effects of modern diets.
There are moves afoot to try to control the presence of sugar in the modern diet:
Recently in the UK a ban on sugar in coffee and tea machines was ordered by the NHS.
The EU is considering a ban on adding sugar to fruit juice.
Even the herbal supplement industry has introduced “sugar ban” tablets, notably Gymnema sylvestre, a anti-sweetener, which is said to destroy the sweet taste. Note: It’s not clear what effect, if any, this supplement has on sugar levels or their effects.
The old dietitian's saying still holds good, though, according to the current research: “Don’t eat garbage”. It’s not called “junk food” for nothing.