Sugar: the Sweetest Poison


In the UK, on average, 20.3% of our daily food energy comes from sugar, and although this is less than the US (20.6%) and Australia (20.5%), it’s still too much. In fact, we’re eating 6.5g more sugar a day than is recommended. So why is it so crucial that we keep our sugar intake to an absolute minimum? And what are the dangers of not adhering to these guidelines?

Sugar is incredibly addictive. However, many write it off as simply ‘unhealthy’ or as an indulgence; it’s interesting to consider whether the same people would feel the same about heroin. It’s thought that sugar has become so addictive in our modern age because the glucose it turns into gives us energy and our bodies crave it. In fact, even the taste of sugar can spike our energy levels. It also encourages the release of serotonin – a hormone that makes us feel happy – giving us a rush when we consume it. But what can this addiction do to us? We know the health implications of being addicted to alcohol or drugs, but sugar is a substance contained in almost everything we eat and we need certain sugars to survive, so avoiding it, unlike alcohol or drugs, is impossible.

It’s popular belief that fat makes you fat, when in fact it’s sugar which can encourage weight gain. This happens because excess glucose is turned into fatty acids in the liver, so when you consume more than your body needs, it’ll be converted to fat. Natural sugars, like the sugars found in fruit that makes it taste sweet, are actually great for keeping our blood sugar levels balanced, while processed, refined sugars found in cakes and chocolate are the ones to be avoided. These sugars can spike your glucose levels, encouraging the sudden release of insulin. However, because the body’s insulin levels have risen so suddenly, the adrenal glands are then forced to release cortisone to bring the blood’s sugar levels back down. The constant peaking and dipping of sugar levels can cause fatigue and even diabetes.

The best advice when it comes to limited your sugar consumption is to cut out processed sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks. There are also a lot of hidden sugars in readymade foods that you may not expect, for example soups and pasta sauces that you associate with being savoury all contain high levels of sugar. In addition, products which market themselves as ‘low fat’ often replace the fat with sugar to improve the taste. Get into the habit of looking at labels and estimating your daily sugar intake in order to keep on top of your health.