BY SHELBY CARL
What unnamed drug does the average American consumes 130 pounds of in a year? The answer is sugar.
American adults intake roughly 500 calories from sugar alone per day. Despite the government suggested dietary regulation of no more than nine and a half teaspoons a day, adults consume roughly 22 teaspoons, while children come in at a whopping 32 teaspoons a day.
A comprehensive study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that in general, sugar consumption decreased by age and as income level increased.
Food accounted for 67 percent of calories from added sugars and only 33 percent came from beverages. The study also found that 67.2 percent of calories from added sugars in food and 58 percent of added sugars from drinks were consumed at home, rather than from outside establishments.
Considering the health problems associated with a high-sugar diet, this might provide even more incentive to keep sugar out of the home.
Increased sugar intake also comes with an increased risk for: cavities, insatiable hunger, weight gain, insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, addiction, nutritional deficiencies and cognitive decline, among others.
Dentists have known about the detrimental effects of sugar on the mouth since 1967. Bacteria that live on the teeth feed on sugar residue and create an acid that can destroy enamel and cause cavities.
Sugar also decreases the body’s sensitivity to the hormone leptin, which tells the body when it is full. Studies suggest that increasing fructose intake causes the body to produce above average levels of leptin and over time, creates resistance to it. Together with insulin resistance, these two processes may be contributing factors to weight gain and the epidemic of obesity.
Insulin is a hormone that helps convert food into energy the body needs. Similarly to leptin, increased sugar intake causes the body to be desensitized to insulin and glucose builds up in the blood stream. Some easily recognized symptoms of insulin resistance are fatigue, hunger and brain fog, although many people may not recognize the signs, until it develops into diabetes.
Diabetes currently affects 8.3 percent of America’s population, which represents an increase of 128 percent from 1988 to 2008. Sugar intake contributes to diabetes in two ways: increasing insulin resistance and decreasing portion control.
With increased sugar consumption, the body becomes resistant to glucose and leptin, which increases blood sugar levels and the amount an individual, will eat.
High sugar diets are also associated with America’s No.1 killer, heart disease. One study with rats supplemented with a study by the CDC on almost 12,000 adults found that a diet high in sugar (versus those high in starch or fat) increased risk for death from cardiovascular disease.
Although there are no conclusive studies on sugar addiction specifically, researchers agree that sugar acts like a drug in the brain and “sugar-addled rats displayed bingeing, craving, and withdrawal behaviors.”
The American Heart Association also found that by increasing their sugar intake, Americans are more likely to be missing out on key dietary nutrients. A study by the Department of Agriculture found that if someone received 18 percent or more of their calories from sugar, he was also most deficient in folate, iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and calcium.
high-sugar diets are associated with a decline in cognitive abilities ranging from reduced performance in the hippocampus to Alzheimer’s. This could be one of the most detrimental short-term side effects for college students, as the hippocampus is primarily responsible for information retention and memory.
On March 31, 2014 the World Health Organization (WHO) finalized its decision to reduce recommend sugar intake to no more than 25 grams a day, or about six teaspoons. The guidelines apply only to sugar in manufactured products, not fresh produce. In fact, the WHO website states that most sugars people consume are hidden in processed foods such as frozen pizza, bread, yogurt, soup, and condiments.
While it remains to be seen whether the new dietary guidelines will affect American habits, it is a step in the right direction.