Sugar’s had a bad reputation since you were a child and your mother warned you that sugar-laden calories would lead to tooth decay. But recent research has linked sugar to increased aging, cardiovascular disease, obesity and even cancer. Has the time come for us to cut sugar out of our lives for good?
Some sugars occur naturally in fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. But most of the processed foods we consumer contain “added sugars” – sugars that have been added in production to enhance the flavor of a product. Common sources of added sugars include soda, cake, pies, chocolate and candy. An average-sized chocolate bar can contain up to six teaspoons of sugar, while a can of soda can contain up to seven.
Now I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to soda. It’s not uncommon for me to drink two or three cans each day. While I know all that added sugar is bad for my health, it’s not enough for me to give up the taste I crave, and I don’t like the taste of the diet versions of my favorite soda. But the latest research on added sugars has made me pause – is it time to quit the soda once and for all?
The added sugars in products like soda are the most dangerous kind, and have been linked to many health problems. One recent study claimed added sugars may increase the risk of high blood pressure even more than sodium (salt). In February 2014, a study led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a link between high added sugar intake and an increased risk of death from cardiovascular problems.
Perhaps most strongly, added sugars have been associated with a significant increase in obesity. I’m far from obese, but the scale has been creeping up slowly for the past few years. Could it be the amount of added sugar I consume in my soda?
Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California San Francisco, believes that sugar is a “toxic” and addictive substance. And it’s true that rats in a Princeton University study showed signs of craving and withdrawal when their sugar intake was reduced.
“We need to wean ourselves off. We need to de-sweeten our lives. We need to make sugar a treat, not a diet staple,” Dr. Lustig said. “The food industry has made it into a diet staple because they know when they do you buy more,” he added. “This is their hook. If some unscrupulous cereal manufacturer went out and laced your breakfast cereal with morphine to get you to buy more, what would you think of that? They do it with sugar instead.”
I think it’s time for me to put down the soda and think about cutting out added sugars altogether.
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