Your body needs natural sugars to get up in the morning, let you work through the day, and help you in training. But beware, there are negatives with sugar intake! To explain this, let’s start with a quick nutritional lesson: Simple carbohydrates (sugars) refer to monosaccharides and disaccharides. The monosaccharides include glucose, fructose and galactose, with fructose mostly found in fruits and veggies, which won’t cause too much weight-gain. Common disaccharides include sucrose (glucose plus fructose), lactose (glucose plus galactose), and maltose (glucose plus glucose). Complex carbs refer to starch, which gives you the natural energy to be able to run.
A healthy, balanced diet contains naturally-occurring sugars, because monosaccharides such as fructose and disaccharides such as sucrose and lactose are integral components of fruit, vegetables, dairy products and many grains. The thing we all have to watch out for are extrinsic sugars and syrups added during processing.
THE HAZARDS OF SUGAR
Quite simply, watch your intake, especially of processed sugar. Today, we’re swamped with products on the shelves that spike our sugar intake, especially the consumption of soft drinks, fruit drinks, desserts and candies, jellies and ready-to-eat cereals. And this is how that excess sugar affects your health:
1. High blood pressure: Emerging evidence suggests that increased intake of added sugars may raise blood pressure.
2. Blood lipids: When used to replace dietary fats, carbohydrates and sugar can increase triglyceride levels, a known risk factor for coronary heart disease, and lower levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the good type).
3. Inflammation: A higher consumption of high-sugar beverages and foods is associated with evidence of increased inflammation and oxidative stress.
4. Obesity: Today there’s a significant increase of energy intake with increased sugar-sweetened beverages. However, evidence is inconsistent regarding the association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and obesity, due to the fact that obesity is a complex metabolic disorder and is not likely due to one nutrient or factor. In feeding experiments, when increasing the size of sweetened drinks, intake of solid food increased significantly as well. Remember that it only takes an extra 50 calories a day to gain 2.5kg in one year!
5. Nutrient inadequacy: Reduced intake of calcium, vitamin A, iron and zinc have been observed with increasing intake of added sugars, particularly at intake levels that exceeded 25% of energy.
SO HOW MUCH IS OK?
The World Health Organisation recommends limiting added sugar to less than 10% of total energy intake, and use the concept of discretionary calorie allowance, which can be determined by estimating the calories needed to meet nutrient requirements and then subtracting this amount from the estimated energy requirement needed to maintain weight.
Added sugar, especially in the form of high-fructose corn syrup in sugar-sweetened soft drinks and refined snacks, is what people should be concerned about. Over the past 30 years total calories have increased by an average of 150 to 300 calories per day, and about half of these calories are coming from added sugar in the form of liquid calories. To maintain a healthy weight and avoid disease, and at the same time meet nutritional needs, people should consume an overall healthy diet with physical activity. Women should eat or drink no more that 100 calories (six teaspoons) a day from added sugar and men no more than 150 calories (nine teaspoons).