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Sugar:why should we be wary of it?

Did you know that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum of 12 teaspoons of sugar per day? You may think you are off the mark, but the calculation of this amount should include natural sugar from fruit, honey, molasses or maple syrup. But by the way, why should we limit the amount of sugar consumed? Why should we be wary of sugar?

Sugar is essential for the body. But beware of excesses!

Sugar in its simplest form, glucose (sometimes called “fast sugar” because it passes quickly through the blood), is essential for the functioning of the human body because it is its basic “fuel”, the energy used by cells, especially brain cells, fats being another source of energy for the body. When we eat carbohydrates, these are transformed into glucose by the action of enzymes in saliva and then in the digestive tract. The glucose present in the blood must be “processed” in order to be used by the cells of our body. This is the role of insulin , a substance produced in the pancreas.

But when sugar is consumed in excess of the body's needs, glucose is converted into fat to be stored. This is why it is essential to control the amount of sugar you consume to stabilize your weight. Reserves are certainly necessary to prevent the body from breaking down. In the event of prolonged fasting or a diet low in carbohydrates, the liver and the muscles release glycogen which is transformed into glucose. But by dint of storing, the fats have no chance of being used and only accumulate.

Consuming sugar increases the risk of dying from heart disease

If you think sugar poses threats only to overweight or obese people, think again! Too much sugar increases the risk of dying from heart disease, even in people at their peak weight. Regardless of age, sex or level of physical activity, the risks increase proportionally to the amount of sugar consumed.

Fortunately, health is improving in a sensitive way, quickly after a programmed cessation of sugar consumption. A study conducted on 43 children aged 9 to 18 with metabolic syndrome, by scientists from the University of San Francisco (California), showed that after 9 days of eating freely, without calorie control, fruit being allowed but foods containing added sugar being excluded, the improvements were clearly visible:blood pressure and cholesterol had dropped, the liver functioned better, and insulin production was reduced by a third. Sugar levels in the diet had dropped from 28% to an average of 10%.

Some foods, because they are not processed, contain less sugar and fat. They should be favored especially since they increase the feeling of satiety, thus limiting the quantity of food consumed. These are whole grains, fruits and green vegetables. Avocados, nuts, and plant-based oils are foods high in healthy fats. On the other hand, it is necessary to considerably limit the consumption of foods rich in refined carbohydrates such as white bread and industrial cereals, pre-packaged or processed foods, cookies, cakes and ice cream. 74% of packaged foods contain sugar.

It is because sugar is an almost indispensable ingredient for manufacturers because it is a flavor enhancer, a coloring agent and a preservative all at the same time. In our kitchens, it is known for correcting the acidity of a dish, browning biscuits, promoting the rise of brioche dough. On the packaging, this added sugar is not necessarily called glucose but is also called dextrose, sucrose, glucose syrup, lactose… any name ending in “ose”.

Sugar impairs cognitive functions and psychological well-being

Consuming sugar activates the reward system and releases hormones like dopamine. If this happens occasionally, that is of course not a problem. It is when this becomes too frequent that the problems arise. Overactivation of the reward system triggers a series of harmful reactions that range from the irrepressible desire to eat a sweet food to a decrease in sensitivity to sweet tastes, thus calling for an increase in the doses of sugars used.

A study conducted in 2012 by the University of California at Los Angeles, showed the deleterious effects of excessive consumption of glucose syrup on a cohort of rats subjected to a diet containing water mixed with glucose syrup during 6 months. The result was clear:the rats showed difficulties in acquisition and memorization. Synapses had simply been damaged and communication between neuronal cells had been impaired.

Other studies have shown that the constant excess of sugar in the blood (chronic hyperglycemia) promotes the risk of cerebral inflammation capable of causing depression, a phenomenon affecting more adolescents, who are heavy consumers of sweets and carbonated and sugary drinks. . The hypothesis that excessive sugar consumption could promote Alzheimer's disease is being studied.

If reading this article makes you think that you need to change your diet, you have only one thing to remember:the WHO recommends consuming sugar only in a proportion of less than 10% of daily caloric intake. Then, it is recommended not to consume prepared meals. Otherwise, calculating your daily sugar intake can be tedious because you have to read the labels carefully and relate the indications to the portions you take.