Topic of the Month July 2014: Pass (On) The Sugar
Itâ€™s been nearly two years since I commented on sugar consumption in the USA. New research evidence has surfaced that indicates a continued overconsumption of sugar and â€œsweetenersâ€ by many even though the sugar content of many processed and prepared foods has slowly (finally?) been reduced. It should be no surprise that the age groups most associated with sugar overconsumption are comparatively younger Americans. This does not mean that dietary levels of sugar in older populations have decreased significantly but it does indicate that younger people are still drinking highly sweetened beverages at an unhealthy pace. Parental control in this matter is, many times, non-existent and, therefore, young children and teenagers continue to consume sugar sweetened beverages at an unhealthy rate.
Although it is difficult to determine how much is too much when it comes to sweetened beverages and these sweeteners include high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which has become ubiquitous in our total food supply and can be found in almost every â€œpreparedâ€ food. What are the health issues related to sugar and HFCS consumption? Well, aside from the high caloric intake which causes overweight and obesity, the nutritional value is nearly zero. As a result of high levels of dietary sugar and HFCS, circulatory issues tend to arise along with fat weight gain and obesity.
In fact, there have been over a dozen studies (involving over 400,000 subjects) showing a correlation between sugar and/or HFCS intake to hypertension (high blood pressure)â€”even in teenagers. This condition seems to occur slowly and innocuously over time but research has shown that hypertension becomes a real possibility after about 18 months of regular consumption of sweetened beverages and foods.
How does this hypertension happen?
It has to do with how our arterial function and how dietary sugar and HFCS make our arteries struggle to maintain proper blood flow.
Our arteries are amazing in that they carry oxygen and glucose (energy from the food we eat) to the cells to help us produce energy for our daily lives and activities. When we exercise, the inner membrane cell walls of our arteries give off a chemical called nitric oxide which allows our arteries to open even wider (known as vasodilation) to allow greater blood flow when we need it. This nitric oxide is essential for arterial health and performance and allows our heart to work more efficiently. Sadly, sugar-sweetened beverages can–and will–lower nitric oxide levels in the blood. This means that the arteries become narrower and more constricted which, in turn, causes blood pressure to rise. Similarly, another essential nutrient that helps normalize and/or control blood pressure that is negatively affected by sugar intake is magnesium. The more sugar in the system, the more tense the smooth muscles of the blood vessels become and the higher the blood pressure due to lower levels of magnesium. This is why high blood pressure in teens as well as adults appears to be strongly related to the consumption of sweeteners like sugar and HFCS.
How much is too much?
Research seems to indicate that more than one serving PER DAY may be associated with a higher risk hypertension and high blood pressure. And donâ€™t forget that higher sugar intake is also related to the risk for Type II diabetesâ€”particularly in the absence of regular and vigorous exercise. Kidney stones have also been linked to sugar/sweetener consumption. As usual, moderation of sugar and sugar-sweetened beverage intake is major key to better health. Â Remember that every 12 ounce can of sweetened â€œsodaâ€ and many iced teas contain the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar!! And donâ€™t forget to look for and avoid the hidden sugar in many prepared foods when you shop. In other words, read and compare labels when you shop. The closer that one gets to fresh or frozen food without the added sugar or sweeteners, the lower the risk of many of the conditions and diseases discussed above. It all adds up!
Iâ€™m Dr. Paul Kennedy and thatâ€™s the â€œBe Fit, Stay Fitâ€ Topic of the Month for July, 2014. Good luck with YOUR program! I KNOW you can do it!