Sugar: The enemy within
By Kelly Haugh
When you were a child, you parents probably told you that too much candy would rot your teeth. That is true. But many parents would give their child seemingly healthy treats that has almost as much sugar lurking inside per ounce as candy. That is because the sugar industry has become adept at hiding sugar under aliases.
Sugar’s aliases in food
The food industry has become adept at finding ways to hide added sugar in foods to deceive the average label reader. Sugar has several sneaky names, including high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, invert sugar, molasses, sucrose as well as any name ending in “-ose”. Sucrose is actually table sugar. These are usually listed separately on ingredients lists, so many foods, even seemingly healthy ones like yogurt and cereal may contain three or four different types of sugars. This means an unwitting person can think they are cutting down on sugar when in fact they aren’t. To make things worse, foods with hidden sugar generally contain saturated fats as well. These are the unhealthy fats in food.
Why is sugar bad for you?
In the United States, two-thirds of adults, and one third of children and adolescents, are overweight or obese. While there is no single cause for being overweight or obese, added sugar to foods and beverages makes them more calorie dense. It’s easy to consume extra calories when eating foods that are sugar sweetened.
There are other problems with added sugar. Eating an excessive amount of added sugar can increase triglyceride levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease. The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, which amounts to an extra 350 calories. Filling up on sweet or bad foods generally means you are not getting required amounts of vitamins and minerals. And, as your parents told you, it can lead to tooth decay by allowing bacteria to multiply and grow.
Looking beyond direct effects on expanding waistlines, lab studies how mental functioning is related to diet. There is a troubling link between a diet rich in bad fats and brain-related ailments that can actually impair our ability to avoid overeating. So the more sugar you eat, the more you need. Furthermore, sugar lights up the same areas of the brain that cocaine does so, as you consume sugar, your brains tells you it wants more. Sugar also increases the bad bacteria in your stomach. It feeds the bad bacteria and thus squelches the necessary good bacteria.
Perhaps the biggest danger in a high sugar-high fat diet is the contribution that makes to dementia or other cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s. Studies show a diet high in saturated fat and sugar is associated with deficits in hippocampal-dependent learning and memory processes as well as with markers of hippocampal pathology.
Many Americans, especially those over 70 suffer from dementia, and a third of those over 85 have Alzheimer’s. Dementia and Alzheimer’s is a tragedy for both the one suffering from this affliction, and their loved ones. Removing sugar and saturated fats from the diet could reduce that suffering.