Fact or fiction: ‘Sugar is as harmful as tobacco and alcohol’
This statement was voiced by three professors from the University of California San Francisco earlier this year. Professors Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis believe sugar consumption should be controlled in the same fashion as tobacco and alcohol. They stated sugar as a main factor in the global obesity epidemic, and other lifestyle-related diseases including heart disease and diabetes.
But should sugar be blamed for all our health woes?
Let’s look at some facts: An excess intake of refined sugars has been linked to weight gain. One particular culprit is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) present in many sodas and packaged foods. A Princeton University study found that rats who consumed HFCS showed greater weight gain and abdominal obesity compared to rats fed normal table sugar (sucrose). The rats eating HFCS also showed increased levels of circulating triglycerides. So what exactly does this mean? Miriam Bocarsly, a princeton graduate, states that “In humans, these same characteristics are known risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes” (source).
The bottom line: I believe any nutrient eaten in excess is bad for our health. Blaming and banning sugar will not solve the problem. Just listen to what your mother told you: everything in moderation. Learn to read nutrition panels and aim to minimise added sugars in your diet. Instead opt for wholesome foods, like fruit, to satisfy your sweet tooth. Fruits like apples, pears, berries and bananas are low GI, contain lots of vitamins and minerals as well as a healthy dose of fibre. And if you’re craving something slightly more decadent, then reach for some good quality dark chocolate or a homemade sweet treat.