As the holidays are upon us, our intake of sugar is sure to skyrocket. From cookies to pies and everything in between, we find ourselves unable to resist the holiday treats. However, you may need to rethink that second helping or gorging on the tin of shortbread cookies because you could be creating a deadly addiction.
Sugar is believed to have originated over 5,000 years ago, but the first recording of it was in 1099 in England. Western Europeans dubbed it as “new spice,” speaking of how pleasant it was. Only royalty and the wealthy could afford it and considered it “white gold.”
Sugarcane was brought to the United States in 1619. As sugar production increased so did the need for labor. Working in sugarcane fields was dangerous and hard, so the British West Indies imported over four million slaves from Africa.
Once slavery ended in the United States, slave refugees from Haiti migrated, and sugar plantations began in Louisiana all the way to Hawaii. Through the 1800s, canning, ice cream, and candy greatly increased the demand for the sweet substance. The consumption of sugar for the average American went from 4 pounds to 18 pounds in the 1800s, increasing to 90 pounds in the 1900s. Today, the average American consumes 180 pounds of sugar a year.
The body does require sugar, but the difference is natural versus manufactured. Fruit may contain over 18 grams of sugar, but it also contains fiber. Our bodies take a long time to digest fiber so the sugar is released slowly into our bloodstream, giving us a sustained source of energy and keeping us full for longer periods of time.
However, manufactured table sugar and high fructose corn syrup found in soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and processed fruit juices is an empty calorie additive with no vitamins, minerals, protein, or fiber. The uptake of liquid sugar to the bloodstream happens immediately, leaving us hungry with the tendency to overeat. It satisfies a craving but doesn’t give your body what it needs. It is similar to cocaine as it lights up some of the same pleasure centers of the brain, leaving you with a thirst for more and overloading the body.
As sugar consumption has risen, obesity, diseases, and type 2 diabetes rates have skyrocketed worldwide. The most dangerous and highest consumption of sugar is in soda, flavored coffee and flavored tea drinks. A 12-ounce soda contains around 10 teaspoons of sugar, far exceeding the daily allotment of sugar (six teaspoons for women and nine for men). Flavored coffee and tea contain 5 teaspoons.
Research by the University of California-Davis reported that LDL cholesterol, the classic risk factor for heart disease, can be raised significantly in just two weeks by drinking sugary beverages at a rate of what many Americans consume daily – four 12-ounce glasses of sugary beverages. For the first time in history, obese people outnumber those underweight. Liver disease that used to be primarily for alcoholics is now being directly related to our increased super-sized sugar appetite.
Even though the United States does not have a nationwide soda tax, many states and cities are passing laws for one in order to bring awareness and encourage reduced consumption of the beverages. In response, The American Beverage Association and has focused on reducing the sugar consumed from beverages. Some major brands like Pepsi have promised to do so by 2020.
The Food and Drug Administration is also helping to make aware of what people are actually consuming. A new nutrition facts panel on the back of packaged food and beverages has been enforced. Companies must list how many grams of sugar and artificial sweeteners (which are just as bad) have been added and what percentage of the recommended daily maximum that represents. In addition, the labels will reflect actual consumption and a larger size font in serving sizes, such as ice cream going from 1/2 a cup to 2/3 a cup, and calorie content.
Research on the effect sugar has on our body is an on-going study and new information will most likely be discovered. For now, take what has been shared so the next time your body is craving a sugar high, you can resist. If you can'