+ Well Nourished | The Health Cost of Sugar

The Health Cost of Sugar

A recent report on sugar, compiled by the Credit Suisse Research Institute,  has revealed some startling statistics.  For those ‘nutrition nerds’ like me out there, sink your teeth into this link to the full report.  Everyone else, here’s the nuts and bolts…

  • ‘The global obesity epidemic and related nutritional issues are arguably this century’s primary social health concern.’
  • A survey of general practitioners across the US, Europe, and Asia found that 90% believed that the increase in the occurrence of type 2 diabetes and obesity were directly related to sugar consumption.  Over 70% believed a correlation with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease too. 65% believe sugar is addictive.
  • Keeping it local, Australia and New Zealand frighteningly, along with the US, Mexico, and Brazil, are the biggest consumers of sugar with Australians consuming on average double the world average of 17 teaspoons per day (that’s right, we consume about 38 teaspoons per day).
  • The American Heart Foundation recommends 6 teaspoons for women, 9 for men. The Australian National Heart Foundation (NHF) only recommends to “limit” your intake of sugar (and this has only just been included recently).  They clearly need to step up into this century!
  • This world average has increased by 46% from 30 years ago.  I’m sick of people saying we’ve always eaten sugar.  Yes, we have, but we eat almost double the amount nowadays.  I’m seriously frightened for this next generation.
  • Do you feel this massive increase doesn’t apply to you or your family?  A glass of fresh orange juice has the equivalent of 9 teaspoons of sugar.  A cup of low-fat muesli, as much again.  Would you knowingly spoon this amount into your kids mouths?  Almost everything that comes in a package, even the savoury things contain sugar – and the amount creeps up on you.  Even fresh fruit consumption, which I believe most people, especially kids eat too much of, pushes your sugar consumption up.  I know I rock the boat on this point with many of you and I will write a dedicated blog post to explain myself soon.
  • ‘The balance of recent medical research studies are coalescing around the conclusion ‘that sugar is the leading cause of obesity, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome (risk factors leading to diabetes, heart disease and stroke).’  Advances in understanding the negative effects of refined carbohydrates on blood sugar regulation and cholesterol, and the metabolic impacts of fructose, are undermining the traditional view that all calories are the same.’  A serious blow to all the calorie counters and calorie counting weight loss empires out there!
  • Not one single study shows that sugar is good for you.  If it were possible, a study somewhere, given the dollars behind this simple carbohydrate, would surely exist?
  • The food industry is in the midst of a ‘tobacco moment.’  ‘The potential for a surge in negative public opinion and the looming threat of regulation and taxation (of high sugar products), are issues that the food and beverage industry must address.’  A positive move?  I’m skeptical as the push has turned to manufacturers to ‘find’ an alternative.  I’m sure science labs around he world are in a flurry to find the next ‘safe’ (tongue in cheek) artificial sweetener.  ‘Nestle  is already working with new artificial sweetener producers and looking to develop other sugar replacement.’
  • Sugar is undoubtedly big business.  This report states that ‘sugar is one of the most important agricultural commodities traded internationally with the annual world trade value exceeding USD 24 billion.’
  • A Public Policy Initiative has been proposed.  ‘With few exceptions, regulators and health officials around the world have done little to address the impact of excess sugar consumption.  We believe higher taxation on sugary food and drinks would be the best option to reduce sugar intake and help fund the fast-growing health care costs associated with type II diabetes and obesity.  However, lobbying in this area has been fierce and has watered down or stopped major initiatives.’  With so much money at stake, is it any wonder?
  • It’s not only multinational food and beverage companies that will be affected by a change in policy.  Pharmaceutical companies have invested significant resources and much money in the development of drugs used to treat the above-mentioned conditions. I guess they won’t be backing a change in policy either?
  • The investment bank also released a video that graphically highlights the dangers of excess sugar consumption, estimating the costs to the global healthcare system at $US470 billion ($488 billion).  This is the devastating cost of sugar.  You can view this video here, (about 4 minutes long).
  • This ABC Business report “The Sugar Hit Against Big Companies” followed the Credit Suisse report.  You can view it here, (3.5 minutes long).

This is all too bitter to be sweet.   For more on why I largely avoid sugar, check out this post.  If you missed the ABC Catalyst report “Toxic Sugar” or the even more damaging CBC report “The Secrets of Sugar,” you can catch up here.

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  • Tracey

    Wow that’s scary to think there is so much sugar in what we eat. It also makes me so angry that these corporations are just looking to make money and not to try and make the world a healthier place, I’m slowly trying to cut out sugar, my only problem is that the alternatives are very expencive! And they shouldn’t be, processed food should be more expencive!

    • Tracey look at Rice malt syrup as an alternative sweetener. It’s fructose free and Coles stock it – 500grams is $3.60 so cheaper than honey or maple syrup and still delicious. You will see it as an option in most of my recipes. Check out the ingredients glossary for more details about it. G x

      • Tracey

        Cool thanks 🙂 I have a 10 month old, can she have it too? X

        • That’s no problem, just go easy on anything sweet. Not a desire you want to establish. G x

          • Tracey

            Oh of course! I’m thinking of using it for her 1st birthday cake 🙂 she hasn’t had sugar before, I want to delay it as long as possible!

          • Good idea and good for the kids at the party too, G x

      • hay

        I had given up sugar long ago and now find even a grape is so incredibly sweet… we are told over and over again that we should be eating more fruit and carbs but this is sugar… your body can’t define what is fruit and what is a lolly.. to it, it is still sugar.,… I now have 90% dark choc which is amazing.. I use rice malt in my recipes and make my own chocolate with the no sweetened cocoa and coconut oil… still having something decadent but not confusing my body….

        • I know what you mean – your taste buds are desensitised to sweetness once it is restricted. Thanks for sharing your experience G x

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