A little bit of sugar on various things in the diet is not only acceptable, it makes food taste lovely.

And it’s not bad for you. If it stays at a little bit.

The problems start when we overdo it. To give you an example of this excess would be that many people in the world wake to tea with 4 tsp sugar, whilst eating 2 pink sticky buns. That’s breakfast. Then, during tea break, they go onto several thick slices of white bread with butter and lots of cheap jam…and another cup of tea with 4 tsp sugar.

Then, lunchtime is often a pie, chips and a super-sized cola drink. Then, by the mid-afternoon slump, another cup of coffee with 4 sugars in it is enjoyed with a pick-me-up chocolate bar. Then, after a long day, 2 tins ginger beer is used to wash down dinner, followed by a late night tea with another 4 sugars.

Some of you may find this appalling. But you would be amazed at how completely normal this is for many, many people. It’s delicious, cheap, satisfying, rewarding and gives instant energy to survive a long and arduous day. And THIS amount of sugar that is eaten is harmful because:

  1. Most of the dietary intake is refined carbohydrate and much of it over-stimulates pancreas to produce too much insulin.
  2. Each carbohydrate gives short-lived energy spurts which feel great at the time, but unfortunately, it leads to a huge energy crash very soon after eating it. This leads to a craving of more refined carbs, setting up a vicious cycle of overeating of the wrong foods.
  3. It takes the place of all other healthy foods and thus essential nutrients that nourish the body. This is one of the main reasons why junk food and sugary foods can be dangerous. It is very easy to eat TOO MUCH of them. And then we become deficient in many other important nutrients because we simply aren’t eating them. And then we develop diseases.

However, as shocked as you may be by the above scenario, you can understand how easily it happens. But, it very smoothly clocked up an estimated 52 teaspoons of sugar…. This is very high indeed. And it is this excess that causes problems.

Dieticians and health professionals have, over the past 30-40 years been trying to explain that a little bit of sugar is OK but that too much is no good at all. So, the message to ‘reduce sugar’ significantly, took on TWO meanings, according to who was listening.

To the ‘pink bun man’ above, this meant cut down the cola drink to just one tin; reduce the ginger beer in the evening to 1 tin and replace the chocolate in the afternoon with a packet of savoury crisps. This is a reductionin sugar intake, but I’m afraid nowhere NEAR a reduction that is acceptable.

To the wealthier, more body-conscious city person, the message to ‘reduce sugar intake’ was understood as CUT OUT ALL TRACES OF SUGAR EVERYWHERE. Don’t have sugar in your house. Get used to tea with NO SUGAR in it. Never have dessert.  Ever. Even start scanning every single ingredient in every single product that you usually buy, and thrust it back onto the shelves if it should say anything that looks or sound like sugar.

So, the message of ‘reduce your sugar intake’ had too little impact on the people that were actually at risk of overeating sugar.

And then it had an over-exaggerated and alarmist effect on the very people who already had very little sugar in their diets to start with. But they became neurotic. And genuinely terrified, believing sugar to be ‘poison’.

But, the message to cut down excessive sugar consumption, aimed at those at risk, wasn’t enough. For the majority of the population, whose sugar intake WAS excessive, a message of ‘reduce’ simply didn’t work.

So, the message ‘CUT OUT SUGAR COMPLETELY’ was born.

 

And then the curtain raised on artificial sweeteners.

People who simply didn’t WANT to stop eating too much refined and sweet foods were provided a way to continue eating an unbalanced diet, by simply exchanging all the sugar and sugary drinks with artificially sweetened products.

And, those who only ever included about 3-4 tsp sugar IN THEIR WHOLE DIET started changing THAT to artificial sweetener, and really, it didn’t make any difference if they did or not.

Profits of artificial sweetener boomed. Great way to carry on replacing trashy food with sweetness, right?…But without the sugar! Woop Woop! We’ve bucked the system!

But then we noticed a strange thing happening:

The very same health problems that  cutting out sugar aimed to prevent, seemed to escalate at just the same alarming rate.

But WHY??

Both sectors started overeating MORE.

Let me explain why, in detail.

When we eat refined or rapid-releasing (HIGH GI) carbohydrates, they ‘dissolve’ their component glucose into the bloodstream REALLY quickly, literally FLOODING the blood with glucose. In order to then deliver this glucose energy OUT OF the blood and INTO THE muscle cells to be used as energy, the body has to employ MANY little storage policemen, called INSULIN. These little guys are brilliant at ‘storing’ the glucose into the muscle to tidy up the blood.

So, insulin STORES. It effectively stores the glucose into the muscle ready for energy needs. Great; this is what it’s supposed to do.

The problem comes in, when we eat TOO MANY HIGH GI carbs (requireing lots of INSULIN STORERS),  AT THE SAME TIME AS excess fats and oils. The STORAGE message of INSULIN then also applies to fats. On their own, quick-release carbs stimulate a lot of of insulin, but they don’t store fat if there is none eaten. So, carbs themselves (including sugar) aren’t actually fattening. They’re only fattening IF you eat these bad carbs WITH FATS AND OILS.

So,  if fats and High GI carbs were eaten at the same time, those fat/oil droplets would encounter lots of those STORAGE insulin policemen in the blood and would BE STORED AS WELL… INTO THE FAT CELLS.

Researchers wanted to find out why artificially sweetened foods and drinks seemed to increase overeating and obesity.

So, they started measuring blood glucose levels after drinking artificially-sweetened drinks, it was, predictably, nil change. The artificially sweetened drinks didn’t release any glucose..

But then they noticed something alarming:THE SAME AMOUNT OF INSULIN WAS PRODUCED WITH THE DIET DRINKS AS WITH THE SUGARY DRINKS.

This started unlocking the mystery behind why artificially sweetened drinks were just as fattening (when drunk with oily foods) as their sugary counterparts. The artificial sweeteners still stored fats eaten as well.

So, with regards weight loss, cutting the sugar and calories by exchanging sugar with artificial sweeteners didn’t work. And they STILL STIMULATED INSULIN which stored ingested fats as quickly.

OOPS.

But there’s more:

another insidious reason emerged as to why artificial sweeteners were linked to weight gain.

Let’s go back to the sugary drink. You drink the cola, your blood glucose increases. So does your insulin and it delivers the glucose into the muscle cells for energy. Blood glucose levels return to normal. All done.

HOWEVER, when we drink artificially sweetened drinks, the blood glucose levels stay at basal, (no glucose comes in from the drink). But remember, the insulin (storage policeman) is still produced and it takes whatever glucose there was in the blood and stores THAT into the muscle cells. We are now left with a blood glucose that is LOWER than normal. What happens when our blood glucose drops? We are HYPOGLYCAEMIC and the body switches into survival mode to stop them dropping any further;

we get hungry,

we start focusing intensely on eating glucose-replenishing carbs (and quick-releasing ones at that),

we become grumpy and aggressive

we turn into to carbohydrate-hunting beasts, and thus lose all rationality to eat a ‘healthy’ carb. We want immediate gratification, so eat junk! A lot.

Yes, artificially sweetened drinks have been shown to initiate cravings, mood swings, tiredness and then overeating on quick-release and fatty junk food that stimulates more insulin, and stores the oil eaten too. So we get fatter.

Another oops.

But another issue that now concerns me is how many parents firmly believe that it is better to give their children artificially sweetened colddrinks instead of the sugary colddrinks, dutifully following the message of ‘reduced sugar’. Then they wonder why their children become chip-searching, snack-guzzling monsters with hypoglycaemic mania (bouncing off the walls).

The answer? Give them the sugary colddrinks!

As a treat every now and then.

And a small amount.

Only every now and then.

But certainly not unlimited amounts often. THIS is excessive.

Better still, choose another ‘fun’ party-drink that doesn’t give quite such an overload of sugar.

Ideas would be

  • fresh fruit juice diluted with 2/3 water. Every now and then.
  • weak cordials (if they are not asthmatic or eczematic) with water. Every now and then.
  • ½ Appletiser, ½ soda water. Every now and then.
  • Or lower-sugar flavoured waters. Every now and then.

But for the rest of the time, adopt the French answer; if your child is thirsty, get them a glass of water. Put lovely sliced strawberries or lemons into the water for fun. Make it as fancy or plain as you want. But hydrate your kids.

Don’t give them copious amounts of sugar in one sitting. It’s easy to drink excessive sugar.

But, equally, don’t give them artificially sweetened drinks. It’s making them fat. And manic.

Moderation: The avoidance of excess or extremes. Maintaining sensible balance.

This does not mean fear normal amounts.

Just use your common sense!

 

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