Sugar: Trojan Horse of Weight Gain and Other Health Problems

Want to lose weight? Reduce your risk of Diabetes? Reduce your risk of heart problems and even gout? New studies again point to sugar as a major culprit for health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart problems and even gout.

Make this one change to your diet: Each day, consume 25 grams or less of sugar if you are a woman, or consume 38 grams or less of sugar if you are a man. Note: This is added sugar such as high-fructose corn syrup, ordinary table sugar, agave syrup and all other sweeteners with calories. This is not the sugar found naturally in foods such as fruits or vegetables. That makes it easy as, er, pie!

We Americans now consume between 88 and 120 grams of sugar per day – that’s 22-30 teaspoons of sugar, which equals 350-475 empty calories per day. If a pound equals 3500 calories, think about how many calories you would save if you cut your sugar intake by 50-75%.

Why is sugar a trojan horse? A granola bar lists brown rice syrup as an ingredient. Sounds healthy, right? No, it’s still an empty calorie sweetener with a healthy name; it’s a Trojan sweetener. The truth is if you are not paying attention to your daily sugar intake, you could end up gaining weight or losing control of your blood sugar levels, which are both believed to have a domino effect of consequences to your health.

Sucrose (table sugar) is broken down in the body to half glucose and half fructose. Glucose is a functional form of energy that powers muscles and the brain, so keeping glucose within a normal range and away from sugar highs and sugar lows, is extremely important to your health. Fructose raises triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood, which your body uses for energy. High triglycerides can lead to heart attacks and may be a sign of metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Fructose has also been linked to increased visceral fat, reduced sensitivity to insulin, increased risk of gout and overeating. Visceral fat can be found in deep abdominal tissue and is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. A reduced sensitivity to insulin increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Obesity is a major risk factor for gout, a condition where too much uric acid ends up in the joints and causes excruciating pain. Fructose may also cause resistance to leptin, a hormone that tells your brain to stop eating when you have consumed enough food.

Consuming too many added sugars either crowds out healthy foods from your diet, or makes you fat if you eat them in addition to healthy foods. The biggest culprits of added sugars are beverages and packaged bakery items. Watch your intake of soda, tea, coffee, cookies, cakes and especially fruit juice or sports drinks that hide under the healthy halo.

Here is the bottom line: Consume no more than 25-38 grams of added sugars per day. Don’t drink sweetened beverages. Limit fruit juices to no more than one cup per day. Be a label and ingredient reader. And, don’t worry about naturally occurring sugars in fruit or milk! If you can’t give up foods and beverages with added sugar, then compensate for the added calories with more movement.

Sources: Nutrition Action HealthLetter Jan/Feb 2010, Sugar Overload;;

February 8, 2010 7:41 pm Published by