I’m sure that the issue of high dietary sugar intake is no surprise to any of my readers, but the fact that I am treating early signs of blood sugar regulation diseases in my practice every day tells me that although the message is heard, it may not be translating in a significant enough dietary change.
Recent medical research has confirmed over and over again that the obesity epidemic stems largely from the amount of sugar we eat and drink, rather than from dietary fats. In fact, the low-fat dietary changes since the 1980’s are very much to blame for our sugar additions today. As soon as you take the fat out of a food, it no longer tastes very good, so food manufacturers add more sugar to their products.
Canadians are not far behind Americans in their sugar intake. A 2011 Stats Canada survey showed that Canadians were ingesting an average of 104 grams of sugar per day! Before food processing, we got most of our sugar from fruits and vegetables and consumed about 30 grams per day. This level has risen significantly every decade, especially after the low-fat trends that began in the 1980’s.
What happens in the body with too much sugar?
When you eat a large amount of sugar at once, you overload the liver first which results in too much glycogen. Next the pancreas releases insulin to deal with this excess. Insulin is a hormone that tells the body to store fat. The more insulin produced, the more fat storage takes place.This is where there is so much misunderstanding. It is sugar intake that causes fatty liver and high triglycerides (fat in the blood), not dietary fat intake!
If overeating sugar happens day after day, the body will eventually become ‘insulin resistant’, meaning that the insulin response is chronically turned on causing the body to store fat very rapidly, and also crave sugar and simple carbohydrates even more. This is the phase where significant dietary intervention is needed, in order to prevent future diabetes and other chronic disease. In the clinic, I usually diagnose insulin resistance at a time where my patients have rapidly gained a lot of weight – for example 20-30 pounds in 2 years.
How much sugar is too much?
A healthy guideline is to limit your sugar intake to no more than 25 grams per day. If you start reading labels, you will find that this is very difficult to do if you include any packaged foods in your diet. During this time, you can leave out the sugar in fresh fruits and vegetables from your calculations, as long as you are not eating more than 2 or 3 servings of fruit per day.