Is sugar making us fat?
As you may have seen in the press recently, there are lots of questions as to what effect sugar is having on our bodies and how we are becoming increasingly addicted.
Having read many articles and the book ‘Sweet poison’ by David Gillespie I would say the answer to ‘Is sugar making us fat?’ is definitely YES! There is not a single research paper done in last 15 years which would dispute that.
Sugar is converted directly to fat by your liver and destroys your appetite control so that you want to eat more of everything. The more sugar you consume the fatter you will be, and if you cut it out you will stop gaining weight and start losing it. This is not a diet as you can eat pretty much whatever you want and stop when you feel full as long as it doesn’t contain sugar. You won’t feel deprived at all once you have broken the sugar addiction, as it is highly addictive.
We have been told over the years that fat makes you fat. So we have all gone on low fat diets and took up exercise but unfortunately obesity levels have not decreased but increased. Numbers don’t lie and most of us are exercising much more than we used to but we’re still getting fatter at an alarming rate. Research has shown we are designed for equilibrium. Like all other animals, we won’t get fat unless our appetite control system is broken in some way. It is not plausible to suggest that over 70% of population has suddenly lost the ability to eat properly, so something must have broken our appetite control during the last 150 years.
When we eat fat and protein a hormone is released by our gut that tells us to stop eating when we’ve had enough. When we eat carbohydrates a different hormone is released by our pancreas that does the same thing. There is one carb however that doesn’t trip the appetite control switch, FRUCTOSE. Sugar is half fructose, half glucose. Our bodies do not detect fructose as a food and our liver converts it immediately to fat. Before you even finish your glass of apple juice, the fructose in the first mouthful will be circulating in your bloodstream as fat. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if we didn’t eat much fructose. In 1700s we were consuming around 2lb of fructose per person per year but in 2000s we are consuming around 66lb per person per year which is alarming as is mainly down to breakfast cereals, fruit juices, soft drinks and the increasing number of products with hidden sugar.
As mentioned earlier fructose is converted directly to fat in our bloodstream, if too much then hormones like insulin, CCK and leptin (which tells us when to stop eating) no longer work as well as they should. It is as if our appetite control is stuck at half off. As we are not told to stop we keep eating. So not only is fructose undetected and turned to fat, it actually increases the amount of other food they eat.
As blood sugar keeps rising we eventually cant produce enough insulin to remove sugar from our bloodstream. Doctors also describe this state as insulin resistance, the first stage of type 2 diabetes
Diseases linked to fructose consumption (so far)
- Weight gain
- Type 2 diabetes
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Depression & anxiety
- Fatty liver disease
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Liver failure
- Acute pancreatitis
- Kidney disease
- Tooth decay
Whether you know it or not you are addicted to a substance that is killing you in many ways. Fructose is highly addictive and like any other addiction you will need a plan.
Diets ask us to show willpower, asking us to eat less than we want to, even though our body is screaming at us or we are asked to spend a ridiculous amount of time exercising. This requires lots of will power and most of us don’t make it past 3 months and most of the time that weight will be regained within 12 months. So why put yourself through it??
The golden rule is don’t eat sugar the message that everything in moderation is vague and misleading as your definition of moderation is likely to be different from mine. Once you have broken the addiction (which will be tough) you will never need to exercise willpower again.
1st step – Right attitude
- Think about how is your life improved by having another piece of chocolate? The more you eat of it the less pleasure you will receive.
Sugar simply returns a sugar addict to normal in between bouts of deprivation
- Desire not to be poisoned and think of it as you have a fructose intolerance.
“Nothing can stop the man with the right attitude from achieving his goals, nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude”.
2nd Step – Eliminating habit
A critical factor in breaking sugar addiction is identifying habits associated with the addiction e.g. a biscuit with a cup of tea. You need to disassociate the 2 activities. Make a list of sugar eating habits like above and things like having a juice with breakfast, desert after dinner, eating a few pieces of chocolate whilst relaxing in front of the TV. Then prepare write avoidance strategies for the withdrawal for example, keep a jar of nuts by the kettle, remove all sugar containing deserts from house and have non sugar treats after dinner instead. You are breaking the connection between pleasurable habit and sugar.
Once you have broken the sugar habit, that pressure will not bother you. You will be able to find things to eat without sugar and it won’t bother you.
3rd Step – Eliminating the sugar
This is about giving you the shopping strategies you need to prevent too much fructose from contaminating your food supply.
Research has confirmed that we are able to consume fructose contained in a few pieces of fruit a day (around 10g) as it comes with fibre in order not to cause damage. With many sources of fructose in our foods an adult male is actually consuming 60-70g a day.
Sugars containing fructose
- Agave syrup (90% fructose)
- Corn syrup (55% fructose)
- Golden syrup (40% fructose)
- Honey (40% fructose)
- Maltitol ( converted to fructose by body)
- Maple syrup (40% fructose)
- Molasses (40% fructose)
- Polydextrose (10% fructose)
- Sorbitol (converted to fructose by body)
- Sucrose (50% fructose)
- Total sugars 59g
- Sucrose 0.5g
- Glucose 27.5g
- Fructose 31g
- Total sugars 15.5g
- Sucrose 0.1g
- Glucose 7.2g
- Fructose 8.1g
Crackers: are generally low in sugar but when adding flavours often means an increase in sugar. Choose plain/ unflavoured e.g. oatcakes and avoid sweet chilli crackers and caramel snack a jacks contain 30% sugar.
Drinks: sweetened drinks are a fructose expressway to your bloodstream; it’s the single most efficient way to get it inside you. So no fruit juice, have the piece of fruit instead.
When giving up sugar drink water or milk if you are thirsty, if they don’t appeal you are not truly thirsty but when withdrawing its acceptable to go for diet drinks that have sweeteners instead of sugar. Tea and coffee are fine with no sugar obviously.
The same does not apply to alcohol as we rarely drink it because we are thirsty. Wine is fermenting of its original sugars and dry wine contains barely any of these original sugars but sweet wine still contain significant amounts.
|Wine||Average sugar content|
|Dry dessert wine||1.1%|
|Sweet dessert wine||7.8%|
So you can keep dry wines, beers and spirits and get rid of dessert wines, ports, sherries, liqueurs and mixers (unless diet).
It is important to remember that while alcohol is not part of a sugar addiction, it is an addictive in its own right. It contains calories that if more than your body needs will result in weight gain. Also it is often the foods that we crave once having alcohol that are the problem. Alcohol consumption is like eating fruit, the occasional piece will not do any damage (in an otherwise fructose free diet).
Milk: lactose does not contain fructose so if you are not fructose intolerant it is fine. Most other milks e.g. soya milk replace lactose with sugar. If lactose intolerant buy unsweetened and READ THE LABELS.
Powdered drinks: flavoured coffee, syrups and diet shakes will be full of sugar. One meal replacement shake can contain up to 30g of sugar. Hot chocolates are a no even low cal ones as they are predominantly sugar.
Cereal: Before World War 2 cereals were only eaten by people as a digestive aid. The only cereals that contain even remotely acceptable levels of sugar are unflavoured oats, shredded wheat and wheat biscuits with no added sugar, honey etc.
Cereal bars: almost all cereal and snack bars contain extraordinarily high amounts of sugar. Some that are marketed as healthy when they are not at all such as Nakd rhubarb & custard bar with 52% sugar. Again READ LABELS.
Condiments: most contain over 15% sugar, except soy sauce, taco sauce or whole egg full fat mayo. Balsamic vinegar is surprisingly high in sugar within 12-15%.
Yogurt: In natural state yogurt is tart. If any you have don’t taste sour they have been sweetened with something. No added sugar means no sugar has been added but can come from fruit juice extract, which has the same effect. The best yogurts are ones like total 0% greek and onken natural yogurt.
Low fat foods: Be careful with these as the most common way of achieving their taste is to increase the sugar contents and then to increase salt content to balance additional sweetness.
Fruit: as mentioned earlier fruit should be treated with caution and not consumed in high quantities (no more than 2 pieces a day). Dried fruit and fruit juices have large quantities of fructose, so should be avoided.
Step 4 – Withdrawal
There is nothing fun about the withdrawal but it does end and when it does, you’ll be completely free from the desire to eat sugar again.
The best way to do this is to start today. You can’t drift into stopping an addiction, it’s a chemical addiction which means a chemical withdrawal that won’t be pleasant. It will take effort not willpower. Mark the end of your addiction with your favourite sugary treat. So whether it is a chocolate bar or sugary drink enjoy it as you are going to stop.
Withdrawal is different for everyone. It lasts different amounts of time and feels different. Some symptoms maybe hunger and to overcome eat what you want as long as it doesn’t contain sugar, it will soon pass. It isn’t actually true hunger as sugar addiction means your appetite control is stuck at half on/ half off. Also headaches and feeling under the weather can be the symptoms of withdrawal.
To go cold turkey you may need substitutes so maybe food or drinks with artificially sweeteners. These will soon become partially satisfying and other things more appealing.
Once you are sugar-free, you really can eat anything you like as long as it doesn’t contain sugar. Your body will moderate your consumption and keep you on the straight and narrow.
GOOD LUCK & RECIPES TO FOLLOW FOR WHEN YOU ARE FREE OF SUGAR.