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Is it really all that bad for you?

Recently Jamie Oliver started his latest campaign which focused on the detrimental effects of sugar. In his Channel 4 show, he stated some pretty shocking facts:

26000 children each year have teeth pulled out by operations due to decay.

3.5 Million people currently have type 2 diabetes which is often a result of too much sugar in the diet. This costs the NHS £9 Billion a year.

7000 of those sufferers per year will have an amputation – that’s 130 amputations per week!

The organisation Action on Sugar, which is supported by 23 international health experts, claims that excess sugar is linked to obesity, cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The issue is really all the hidden sugars which is in processed foods. Jamie made 3 meals on his show which all looked relatively healthy but it was revealed that altogether the hidden sugar was the equivalent of 40 cubes per person! The recommended maximum daily level is 7 cubes for adults and between 5 and 6 for children.

One of the main culprits in this food was a stir-in sauce for a healthy stir fry – this contained 20 cubes of sugar per portion.

So the main message to take away – no pun intended – from this, is to prepare your own food from fresh ingredients and keep the obvious sugary snacks and drinks to a minimum to stay healthy.

Remember sugar is not an essential part of our diet, as it contains no essential nutrients, and it can be hidden by other tastes in processed foods.

One issue that is not often covered by these programmes is the claim by some scientists that sugar, in some ways, acts like a drug on the reward centres in our brain. For this reason, people who have a susceptibility to addiction can become addicted to sugar and junk food. If this is the case then therapeutic intervention is advisable. I have worked successfully with a number of individuals, who felt that sugar was like a drug to them, to help them cut it out of their diets completely. The highs and lows in our blood sugar, which we experience when ingesting sugar and refined carbs. also has an effect on our mental stability. Many people who experience symptoms of anxiety, panic or depression have found that by stabilising their blood sugar, by reducing refined sugar and refined carbs, has helped towards creating better mental health.

A final word of warning and advice about sugar substitutes.

Honey – although it contains a fair amount of beneficial antioxidants, especially some dark honey, it is predominately composed of sugar and should be avoided by those who are overweight or diabetic.

Agave Syrup – also a natural product, made from the sap of a Mexican plant, is sold as a healthy sugar substitute. I fell for the marketing initially until I did some research which shows that although Agave has a low glycemic index, which means that it does not raise blood sugar levels too high in the short term, it is however very high in fructose which has been implicated in fatty liver disease, increased cholesterol and accumulation of belly fat.

Xylitol – another natural product made from birch tree. Xylitol, however, is relatively healthy. It contains no fructose or sucrose but tastes sweet and is suitable for diabetics. It also has major benefits for dental health in that it reduces the bad bacteria in the mouth – the opposite effect of sugar.Some studies have shown that it can reduce cavities and tooth decay by between 30-85%. However, please be aware that it is highly toxic for dogs and should be avoided with those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome as it can irritate the gut in some individuals.

So the take home message is – if you really want to improve your physical and mental well being, perhaps avoiding sugar might be a positive step in the right direction.

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