“I’m Thirsty…Got Anything to Drink?”
Over the past three decades, our nation’s belt size has been creeping upward notch by notch and now we’re busting at the steams. According to the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2007-2008, over 66 percent of the adult population (20 years old and older) was either overweight or obese. Furthermore, obesity has now become one of the top preventable diseases in the nation. Also, with fat/adipose tissue being the largest endocrine organ in the body, obesity has increasingly been linked to multiple other chronic illnesses. In particular, obesity in women has been associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, metabolic disorder, Alzheimer’s dementia, certain gynecological cancers, and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases.
One of the biggest contributors to this weight gain comes from our Society’s dependence on sugar consumption.
Complications of Sugar Overload:
Along with the long-term effects of increased carbohydrate/sugar intake like obesity, cardiac disease, and diabetes, an over- consumption of sugars can also cause acute effects like headaches, tooth decay, and indigestion.
Particularly, women can develop problems with sugar sensitivity over time, often worsening peri-menopause. The body loses the ability to generate the enzymes to process all that sugar, which can worsen the symptoms of the hormonal imbalance. Woman may notice increased headaches, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, and depression. Furthermore, sugar overload may deplete levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter whose deficiency is linked to depression. Thereafter a vicious cycle can develop with lower levels of serotonin triggering more sugar cravings and increased consumption. Increased sugar intake is now also being linked to accelerated aging when the proteins in our bodies start to change into “advanced glycosylation end-products” ( AGE’s) that collect in organ, joint, and skin tissues as a form of debris. The sugars can then cause inflammation of the tissues, as well.
Our “Sugar Fix” Start?
Back in the days before World War II, it was estimated that the average fructose consumption was 16-24g/day while natural consumption of fruit and vegetables was about 15gm/day. Most recently, the NHANES III report showed fructose consumption up around 54.7 gm/day in 1994. In fact, the USDA has determined that sugar consumption has increased almost every year since 1982. USDA later projected that the added-sugar intake increased almost 20% between 1996 and 2005.
173 Years of US Sugar Consumption
Researchers Jeremy Landen and Steven Guyenet compiled a graph showing continuous yearly sweetener sales of added sweeteners like cane syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and maple syrup (no naturally occurring sugars from fruit and vegetables) from 1822 to 2005 based on reports from the US Department of Commerce reports and the USDA spanning 173 years.
To put this all in context, according to the researchers’ data, in 1822, we ate the amount of added sugar in one 12 ounce can of soda every five days, while today we eat that much sugar every seven hours:
But, I Only Eat the “Healthy” Sugars…
With that in mind, there’s a great deal of confusion as to which (if any) sweetener is “healthier” for your weight management. Some advertise that because the sweetener was “naturally occurring “ like honey or because it’s table sugar (sucrose) and not a high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)/corn syrup the consumer will have less risks for weight gain and co-morbidity issues. That would be nice;however, much of those same sugars break down similarly into glucose and fructose.
For Those Who Prefer a “Harder” Drink…
A warning for those who aren’t much for soft drinks but instead prefer something a little “harder”: alcohol is a carbohydrate and therefore has glucose and fructose as part of its make-up. In addition, alcohol is also a toxin. It is initially broken down in the liver during the first pass effect, which reduces the amount of toxic effects, but then the alcohol is processed as just another carbohydrate load.
Don’t Think That Artificial Sweeteners Are A Way Out:
So often we dieters try to continue our favorite treats and sweetened beverages by switching over to a look-alike, “sugar-free” version. Then while we pleasantly consume multiple servings of sugar-free versions of sport drinks and “sweet teas” we assume that we are going to continue to lose weight or at least not gain weight. After all, artificial sweeteners deliver zero carbohydrates, fat, and protein, so they can’t directly influence calorie intake or blood sugar. Unfortunately sometimes when we try to overuse those drinks, the weight loss stalls and we are left wondering what we are doing wrong. Break The Cycle:
A good goal is to keep added sugars from all sources below 10 percent of your daily calories. Or think of limiting yourself to no more than 5 artificial sweetener packets daily. The ultimate goal should be to use any type of sweetened drink as a treat and not to try to use it a major source of hydration. Always remember, to choose plain water as much as possible. The recommended water consumption is approximately 64 ounces daily – that’s eight 8 ounce glasses daily. In addition, try to maintain weekly 120 minutes or more of moderate aerobic activity.
Additional posts by Ndidi Feinberg, M.D.
- “Now Ladies, Let’sTalk…Heart to Heart!”, 01 Feb 2012 in Health & Wellness
- Are Poor Sleep Habits Putting You At Risk For Obesity?, 05 Dec 2011 in Health & Wellness
- Only 10 Percent of Weight Loss Can Help Save Your Ta-Ta’s, 19 Sep 2011 in Health & Wellness
- Remember When It Was So Easy…, 04 Jun 2011 in Health & Wellness
- Why Am I Not Losing Weight Despite My Increasing Activity Level?, 29 Mar 2011 in Health & Wellness
- Serotonin Supplement: How Do I Love Thee?, 31 Jan 2011 in Health & Wellness
- Lose Weight this Holiday Season, 01 Dec 2010 in Health & Wellness
- Why Am I Not Losing Weight Despite Increasing My Activity Level?, 08 Oct 2010 in Health & Wellness
- Are Poor Sleep Habits Putting You at Risk for Obesity?, 17 Aug 2010 in Health & Wellness