Does Sugar Really Matter?

There has been a lot of talk about the dangers of a high sugar diet. Is this really a concern, and why?

Although a small amount of added sugar may be okay for most people, it is estimated that most Americans consume nearly 66 lbs. of added sugar every year.

This level of sugar intake makes us prone not only to obesity, but illnesses such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, fatty liver disease, and may even be linked to Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of symptoms, which when present together increase the risk of developing diabetes, coronary artery disease and fatty liver disease.

These symptoms include:

  • a large waist size (35” or greater in women, 40” for men)
  • serum triglycerides (sugar fats) of greater than 150
  • low HDL cholesterol (less than 50 for women, 40 for men)
  • high blood pressure (135/85 mm or higher)
  • high blood sugar (100 mg/dL or higher)

An important study showed that in a group of people with normal glucose tolerance and varying levels of coronary artery disease, metabolic syndrome was more predictive of the number of coronary arteries blocked than both cigarette smoking and congestive heart failure. (Read the study here.)

People at risk for metabolic syndrome tend to gain their weight in their middle (the classic “apple” shape or “sugar belly”). With their sugar intake unchecked, they will go on to develop diabetes, fatty liver and be at risk for heart disease. Unfortunately, it is estimated that 56 million Americans have metabolic syndrome- about 1 in 5 people over the age of 20.

44% of the population are Diabetic or Prediabetic

Based on census data from 2010, diabetes mellitus affects 25.8 million Americans (all ages), or 8% of the population. When this data is adjusted to include only adults 18 years or older, 11% are affected. In this same group, 34% of the population have prediabetes, the stage before diabetes.

These two groups combined make up 44% of the adult population! Fifty percent of those with prediabetes will go on to develop diabetes within 5 years. Whereas diabetes mellitus type 2 used to be a disease of adults (otherwise known as “adult onset diabetes”), in the 2010 census 215,000 people under the age of 20 had this diagnosis, and the numbers have continued to grow.

So how much sugar is too much?

The American Heart Association, based on age and caloric needs per day, recommends less than:

  • 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar for women
  • 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men
  • 3-6 teaspoons for children

If you compare this to one can of soda pop, which has as many as 11 teaspoons (46.2 grams), you can see that the majority of us likely exceed the recommendations.

How to spot sugar on a food label

There are over 61 different names used to list sugar on nutrition labels. here are some common ones:

corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar syrup, cane crystals, cane sugar, crystalline fructose, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup solids, malt syrup

Get to know your food labels. You're probably eating more than you know. This is an outline of how to interpret food labels from the FDA. And this article from the Sugar Association further defines terms like "low sugar".

help reduce your sugar intake at Indiana medical weight loss center

Does your sugar intake put you at risk?

At Indiana Medical Weight Loss Center our approach includes an Initial Consultation where we start to figure out what's going on in your body. One of the reasons our methods have worked for over 24,000 patients is that we identify risks or conditions such as diabetes. These other conditions and issues complicate and even prevent weight loss.

Knowing all of this information helps you make the necessary nutrition, prescription, exercise, and lifestyle changes unique to you, so that you're not guessing anymore; you're getting results.

Follow Stacy Braff:
Dr. Stacy Braff has been a physician for over 15 years and is board certified in both Obesity Medicine and Internal Medicine. In 2013, she joined Meridian Health Services where she served as an attending physician as well as the Chairman of Internal Medicine, and completed her weight loss training to become board certified in Obesity Medicine. Along with her husband, Lanny Braff, she created Indiana Medical Weight and Wellness Center to help patients address the root cause of many of their illnesses – obesity. "Whether your desire is to be able to walk around the block without having to stop, improve chronic medical problems, be around to watch your grandchildren grow, or run a marathon, I would like to help you achieve your goals. We will help you become the best you can be."
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