Sugar: The Sweetest of Addictions

Posted: Thu 18 Apr 2013 at 5:41:14 PM by Jana Mathews

It has become more obvious in this day and age that maybe the saturated fat in our diets isn't the main culprit when we are talking about body fat and obesity. It's the prevalence of sugar in the food industry today that has been shown as one of the biggest hurdles in our fight for optimal body composition.

So what is it about sugar that we need to worry about? Well, can you believe that on average, Canadians consume 110.0 grams of sugar a day, the equivalent of 26 teaspoons?? This amounts to approximately 21.4% of total daily calorie intake! Sugar seems to be, in some form, in almost every food item out there. Not only that, sugar actually has the effect of altering hormone response and brain function so that we are inclined to eat more of it. Charles Poliquin explains that energy expenditure, wakefulness and the brain's reward centre are all down regulated when we eat sugar. Over time, dopamine signalling is reduced so you feel less pleasure when you have the sugary item and thus you want more sweets to get that 'good feeling.' At the same time leptin (the hormone that signals fullness/satiety), is not released in the process. So you can see how the vicious cycle starts.

If that wasn't enough, sugar has a very negative effect on insulin in the body which can lead us to store more fat. Poliquin explains that insulin is a hormone secreted by your pancreas after you eat carbohydrates. When carbs are consumed, they are absorbed into the blood stream, they elevate your blood glucose, the pancreas detects this and secretes insulin in order to help the body process the sugar. In a healthy body there is a binding process which occurs at the cellular level resulting in the glucose being used as energy. However, when the cells become less sensitive to insulin it won't respond in the same way. The pancreas thinks more insulin is needed in order for the binding to occur so it releases more. At this point, cortisol (a stress hormone) is released which causes the high blood glucose to be turned to fat. So we are now tired, lethargic and have little energy because instead of the glucose binding and being used for energy it's gone straight to fat stores. Not ideal for our fat loss goals is it??

Okay so you get it, sugar is the enemy...but what can you do about it? Sugar is everywhere so it's important we become aware of how much we are having in our foods. The first thing you can do is start eating more whole foods and eliminate processed foods which are packed with sugar. Take a look on a food label at the grams of sugar per serving and divide that number by 4 to reveal the number of teaspoons of sugar you are consuming. Scary right?? The easiest way to reduce sugar is stop adding it to foods! Other quick fixes include opting for whole fruits over juice as they contain more nutrients and fibre, eat dark coloured fruits/vegetables as they tend to be lower in sugar and watch out for fat free snacks which tend to be loaded with sugar in order to be palatable. We hate to burst your bubble on this front too but unfortunately sweeteners aren't your best alternative to sugar either. There are many reasons for this including the fact that they tend to make you crave carbohydrates and sugar and can deplete the body's stores of chromium which is key in helping regulate blood sugar (and prevent additional sugar cravings). But be strong on your quest against sugar as your whole body will thank you for it.

For more information refer to the following:
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