Sugar, or added sugar in particular, has been getting a bad rap in the Australian media of late.Up until recently fats were the culprit involved in everything from the country’s obesity epidemic to heart disease. Too much salt has had a cameo appearance from time to time, but sugar is now in the cross hairs.
So how much sugar is too much?
If you listen to all the media reports, any amount of sugar is too much, with some ‘so called’ experts in the field calling on people to ditch sugar out of their diets all together, which is practically impossible unless you want to live on a diet of ice cubes.
First lets define the term ‘expert’. As most people with a basic comprehension of the world around them would know, an expert is someone who is fairly good at what they do in their chosen field. So you would say an electrician is an expert at dealing with the wiring of your house, and a florist is an expert at arranging flowers. But you wouldn’t have a plumber come around and fix your computer. Even within fields there are specialities, such as an electrician that specialises in wiring up sub stations and industrial power plants. This type of specialist expert would generally not get involved in the rewiring of an old queenslander for example.
Yet we have so many reports from experts claiming that sugar is the number one cause of so many diseases, people are getting addicted to sugar, it’s more addictive than heroin, it causes type two diabetes, the list goes on. Yet have you ever taken the time to read the qualifications of the authors or, in the case of ‘journalism’ pieces, the experts? Generally they are cardiologists, or General Practitioners, or, in one very prominent case, a ‘Food Stylist’. Yes all very educated people, and experts in their fields, but they are not nutritional scientists. They don’t specialise in nutrition, full stop.
So why are we listening to what really amounts to unscientific opinion instead of cold hard, peer reviewed, evidence? Human nature I guess. But suffice to say the consumption of sugar has increased dramatically over recent decades, and yes there has been in increase in the weight of Australians, an increase of diabetes, stroke, and other diseases, but is sugar the cause?
In a word, No.
So lets get to some facts, and myths, about sugar.
Sugar causes diabetes! MYTH: Sugar does not cause diabetes, being overweight and putting too much stress on your pancreas is the number one cause. Also remember that diabetics need a certain amount of sugar in their diets, along with insulin medication, to help control the disease.
Sugar is addictive! MYTH: The only studies into sugar being addictive are all inconclusive about the addictiveness of sugar. Some say it may be, but the jury is still out on this one. Yes we all have that craving for sugar but it is generally a craving for energy intake. We just confuse that with a ‘sugar craving’.
Sugar needs to be eliminated from your diet! MYTH: Apart from being virtually impossible as you would have to subsist entirely on water, you need a certain amount of sugar in your diet to function. Like any food, moderation is the key. The world health organisation recommended in a study of world sugar consumption in 2015 that we all need to derive our total energy intake from 10% sugar. Whether it be found naturally or added to foods. It is also interesting that the WHO spoke volumes about the two myths above by not mentioning them at all in their report.
Natural sugars are better than added sugars! MYTH: Sugar is sugar, whether you call it lactose, fructose, sucrose, glucose, it doesn’t matter, sugar is sugar. Eating that banana instead of a bowl of ‘Honey Bunches of Oats’ will give you just about the same caloric intake and same sugar content.
Sugar feeds cancer cells! MYTH: Cancer cells are just like normal human cells, they justdon’t know when to switch off and stop re producing, and pretty much stuff you up. Both cancer and normal cells use sugar to get their energy needs. If you starve them of sugar you are starving your entire body of sugar and more than likely going to die quicker. In the absence of sugar, cells will also feed off fat cells and protein cells, like muscle cells. An expert oncologist and appropriate medical treatment will increase your survival rate exponentially compared to a sugar free diet.
Breakfast Cereals are loaded with sugar! MYTH: Yes we had to get to this one, no not all cereals are loaded with sugar. In fact we went through the nutritional information on all our products and found that out of over 100 varieties of breakfast cereals we stock nearly 60% of them contained less than 2 teaspoons of sugar, with 15% being less than 1 teaspoon. Yes there are varieties that have more elevated levels, and some of those are marketed towards children. But going through the list we found that a good number of those ones were only just (less than 1.05 grams or a 1/4 of a teaspoon) over the two teaspoon threshold. Funnily enough some of the worst offenders would be perceived as ‘healthy’ by most people, and some of the lowest sugar cereals were directly marketed towards children. (Sponge Bob Square Pants cereal is an example.)
Sugar is just one of those foods that needs to be eaten in moderation, as part of a well balanced diet, and regular moderate exercise. Sugar is not the enemy, bad science is, and also media hype. You deserve it to yourself to become informed so we have compiled a list of our low sugar containing cereals. Please remember that the milk you use also contains sugar (lactose) and that also needs to be accounted for.
Now to call my plumber…. my computer is a bit slow.