So, you like biscuits. Right? That’s sweet! The UK’s love for biscuits knows no bounds. In 2019, 540,424 tonnes of these sugary treats were devoured – equivalent to a mind-blowing 31.7 billion chocolate digestives!
It’s no surprise that the humble chocolate digestive was crowned the 2020 favourite. So, let me ask, are you consuming too much sugar? The numbers speak for themselves.
But there’s some sour news for you – last year, the UK gobbled up a staggering 2,900,197 tonnes of sugary foods – a 3.4% increase from 2015. To put it in perspective, that’s the weight of 233,887 London Double Decker Buses!
On average, each person consumes 43.4 kilograms of sugar per year. That’s more than the daily recommended limit of 30 grams for adults, just from these products alone. Now that you see the issue let’s have a look at excessive sugar and its effects on the body!
Sugar is Essential for You – But Yes, Excess of it is Bad
We’ve all heard that too much sugar is bad for us, but let’s face it, we still overdo it. While sugar is okay in small amounts, too much can cause weight gain, type 2 diabetes, acne, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disorders. But not all sugars are created equal.
Natural sugars in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy are perfectly fine. Plus, these foods also contain fiber, minerals, and antioxidants that offer a steady supply of energy to your cells.
Added sugar is everywhere, even in foods you might not suspect, like bread, tomato sauce, and protein bars. With so many names for sugar on nutrition labels, it can be tricky to spot. But whether it’s called corn syrup or cane juice – sugar is sugar – and overdoing it can lead to weight gain and tooth decay.
Free Sugars: The Type of Sugar Most UK Adults and Children Overconsume
Most of the added sugars consumed by adults and children in the UK are “free sugars.” So, now you know the culprit behind sugar overload in the UK.
These sneaky sugars can be found in everyday foods such as biscuits, chocolate, breakfast cereals, and flavoured yogurts. They can be added at home or by food manufacturers or chefs.
But that’s not all – free sugars can also hide in natural sources such as sugars found in honey and syrups.
However, there’s some good news. The natural sugar in milk, fruits, and vegetables does not count as free sugars. So, you don’t need to cut back on these healthy foods. But it’s essential to remember that free sugars are still sugar, and too much of it can harm your health.
Just keep an eye on the “total sugar” figure on food labels to ensure you’re not consuming more sugar than you realise.
Sweet Truths: How Much Sugar is Safe to Consume?
The NHS has set clear guidelines for sugar intake.
- NHS recommends a maximum of 30 grams of sugar per day for adults.
- For children aged 7 to 10, the daily intake should be less than 24 grams.
- Children aged 4-6 should consume no more than 19 grams.
The Effects of Excessive Sugar on Your Body
Some of the effects of excessive sugar on your body include the following:
1. Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Excessive sugar intake has been related to an increased risk of diabetes, which is a leading cause of mortality and reduced life expectancy. Although no direct causal link has been established, studies suggest that eating excessive sugar can indirectly raise the risk of diabetes by contributing to weight gain and increased body fat.
Obesity, often caused by excessive sugar intake, is considered the most potent risk factor for diabetes. Prolonged high-sugar consumption also drives resistance to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, leading to a rise in blood sugar levels and an increased risk of diabetes.
Additionally, studies have found that people who frequently drink sugary beverages, including soft drinks and fruit juice, are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
2. Increased Risk of Heart Diseases
Consuming a diet high in sugar is linked to an increased risk of chronic heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. High-sugar diets can contribute to inflammation, obesity, high triglycerides, and blood pressure levels, increasing heart disease risk.
Furthermore, excessive sugar intake, especially from sugar-sweetened drinks, is associated with atherosclerosis (buildup of cholesterol or fats on the artery walls).
3. Weight Gain
The worldwide rise in obesity rates is primarily due to added sugar intake, particularly from sugar-sweetened beverages. These drinks are high in fructose, a simple sugar that increases hunger more than other sugars in starchy foods.
Excessive fructose consumption can also lead to resistance to leptin, a hormone that regulates hunger. As a result, sugary drinks fail to reduce hunger, leading to the consumption of high-calorie liquids. This contributes to weight gain and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
4. Causes Acne
A diet high in refined carbohydrates, especially sugary foods and drinks, has been linked to a greater risk of developing acne. This is because sugary foods cause a spike in insulin and blood sugar levels, which can increase oil production, inflammation, and androgen secretion, all contributing to acne development.
5. Increase Your Risk of Depression
Excessive sugar intake is associated with cognitive decline, memory issues, and emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression. A diet rich in whole foods may boost mood, whereas one high in added sugar and processed foods may lead to negative changes in mood and increase the risk of depression.
6. Accelerate the Skin Aging
When sugar reacts with the protein in your body, it produces advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that may contribute to premature skin aging. A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates can lead to the formation of AGEs and may accelerate your skin’s aging process.
7. Cause Fatigue and Low Energy
When you consume sugar, your body quickly digests and absorbs it, leading to a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. This spike in blood sugar can give you a temporary burst of energy, but it is often followed by a sudden drop in blood sugar, leaving you feeling fatigued and sluggish. This is commonly known as a “sugar crash.”
The Bottom Line
Excessive sugar intake can have a wide range of adverse effects on your body. From weight gain and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes to cognitive impairments and skin aging, the consequences of consuming too much sugar are serious.
But the good news is that it’s never too late to make a change. You can take control of your health & well-being by reducing your sugar intake and opting for healthier alternatives.