The Dangers of Sugar

Sara Health, NUTRITION

lump-sugar-548647_640The Dangers of Sugar

I received an email last week, 20 things you hoped Mum would put in your packed lunch. And oh my, the sticky fingered memories came rushing back. Party Rings and Iced Gems, Wagon Wheels and Capri-Suns, Choc Dips and Frubes. Packed lunch for this eight year old was where a love affair with sugar began, with no idea of the dangers of sugar, or indeed how toxic they would be. I’ve been in the health and fitness industry as a PT and Nutrition Practitioner for 27 years and at SK-Lifefitness, I was taught to teach low fat everything, which was fine if my clients cooked from fresh, but for many busy working people they were targeted with the healthy low fat ready meals, or they added a jar of sauce labelled “low fat”, which was then high in sugars to replace the fat. In more recent years with further research and now specialising in hormone rebalancing through good nutrition, I now know the dangers of sugar, and how important good fat is.  My nan would always buy me a jam doughnut or offer me a piece of cake as an afternoon snack, but of course all this was doing was sending my insulin and cortisol levels rising sky high, to come crashing back down making me desperate for more sugar. I see this time and time again in my clients who admit to having a “sweet tooth”. They are desperate to lose weight but are in fear of eating good Fat. They stress over what to eat, but turn to toxic addictive sugar when they are tired or emotional which becomes a vicious circle. Many of us have been guilty of skipping meals, as we were are too busy counting calories rather than nutrients.  Others will be exercising to excess and clocking up their pedometers and booking Zumba classes in a last desperate attempt to shift the fat, when all they are doing is stressing their bodies more and holding on to fat. Unfortunately we are all  in the midst of complex self-improvement schedules, relying on low calorie snack bars and diet meals to see us through a busy day. Fed to us as fat busting, these quick fix foods fill our fridge. A ‘guilt free’ meal is only a matter of minutes away! This all sounds great, doesn’t it? Apart from the fact it is not really working, as we are not understanding the dangers of sugar. As a nation we’re eating less calories than ever before. But, conversely, we’re also a nation gaining weight. Britain has become the “official fat man of Europe”, and our innate love of sugar (remember the Wagon Wheels?) is largely to blame. Distracted by our Fat quantity obsession, it’s all to easy to be ignorant of the refined Sugar that is packed into our ‘low calorie’ meals and dissolved in the energy drinks that we guzzle at the gym. With manufacturer’s playing into our insecurities with clever marketing, we are consuming a toxic, sugar-loaded diet, despite our often-good intentions. Measuring the rise in our daily sugar intake, The World Health Organisation has recently raised awareness of the “important association with weight gain and obesity” (Dr Franceso Branca, Director of WHO’s Department for Health and Development). This is partly owed to sugars’ powerful effect on opiate and dopamine activity in the reward centres of the brain, which is similar to the effects of cocaine and nicotine. Once we consume refined sugar, we crave more, regardless of whether we are hungry or full. Manufacturers reap the rewards, whilst our waistlines expand. Very few cells in the body can make use of sugar, so any excess that is not burnt off, sits on our waistline. Furthermore sugar promotes poor complexion, low mood, tiredness and a weak immune system. Clients often come to me after a burn out, an effect of the inability to listen to their own bodies, having run on the permanent adrenalin of a sugar high. With sugar threatening the health of our mind and bodies, its time to approach our food lifestyle differently. Yes, preparing your own meals does often take more time than slinging a ready meal in the microwave. But does this really outweigh the importance of taking back control of your body, and how you are fuelling it? Lets forget the concept of packaged diet meals and their empty promises. Forget the ‘treat’ meals that are laced with sugar and additives – where is the treat in feeling guilt and a blood sugar low shortly after? Good food is to be shared, enjoyed, valued and celebrated. Diet is the underlying key to optimum health and wellness, and provides us with the nutrients that we need to embrace life, feeling happy, fulfilled and alive. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and you don’t have to be a celebrity chef, just embrace good, wholesome, homemade food. Eating a nutritionally balanced diet doesn’t have to be dull after all.   Sources: Measuring Up; The Medical Profession’s Prescription for the Nation’s Obesity Crisis, Professor Terence Stephenson