Did you know that sugar and weight loss are related? Stay with us and we will tell you how.
In the US on average we consume about six cups of sugar a week. 200 years ago, we only ate 4 cups of sugar a year. Every day, we eat over 3 times our daily recommended intake of sugar. There are many studies into the addictive nature of sugar, from stimulation of the brain’s reward system to exposure to the advertising industry’s tempting adverts.
This guide is going to provide a comprehensive guide to sugar intake and weight, including:
If the body is flooded with too much sugar, our internal systems can’t process it effectively and store the sugar as fat. That’s why consuming too much sugar leads to weight gain. Our bodies transform incoming sugar into glucose, which naturally raises our blood sugar levels. When it gets too high, our pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. The insulin sends the excess glucose to our cells for processing. The cells in our body store a certain amount of the sugar to use for energy later, but have a limited capacity. The rest of the sugar left after this limit is reached is then convered into fat.
The US 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines state that added sugars should make up no more than 10% of an individual’s diet past. That’s about the same as a can of soda. Given that we currently eat 3 times over our daily intake, it’s easy to see how health problems can creep in. The guidelines recommend we limit drinks and beverages with added sugars.
A high sugar diet can lead to weight gain, but more importantly a range of health-complications including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Diabetes may be caused when the body is constantly firing insulin due to high blood sugar levels, and loses the ability to process this properly. Fortunately, reducing sugar intake for weight loss, can, in some cases, reverse the effects of some form of diabetes.
We generally all know the increased risks of a high sugar diet, yet why do we so often ignore medical advice? Firstly, consuming sugar releases something called dopamine in our bodies. Dopamine works with the brain’s reward system to boost your mood. So eating sugar makes us feel good. This can lead to sugar addiction, which some professionals argue is more addictive than cocaine.
In addition to the biological risks, the advertising of sugar-based products comes to over $850 billion each year. Half of this advertising targets teens, meaning that often kids are exposed to sugar from a very young age. This combination of physical and environmental exposure to sugar makes it naturally a very addictive substance across all age ranges.
Many people are aware of the health risks of high sugar intake, but find it hard to cut out of their diet. Fortunately there are a number of steps you can take to help in reducing sugar intake for weight loss.
One soda can will contain our daily sugar intake. By cutting back on sugary drinks like soda, you have a simple way to reduce the chance of a high sugar diet. Even drinks considered healthy – like smoothies – contain huge amounts of sugar. Replacing every second drink with a glass of water will have a huge impact on your long term sugar intake. For caffeinated hot drinks like tea or coffee, take these without sugar to immediately reduce your sugar consumption.
Let’s be honest, how many of us normally read the back of a nutritional label? But learning how to scan for sugars is the simplest way of eliminating added sugar from your diet. Over 22.5g per 100g is considered to have a high sugar level, while 5g or less sugar per 100g is considered a low sugar level. Start to look out for this in labels at the store before you purchase items.
Desserts like cake, pies, or ice cream make up almost 20% of an American’s daily consumption of sugar. Replacing these with fresh fruit, yoghurt or dark chocolate can still satisy your sweetness intake for the day. Swapping out cakes for fruit also has the added bonus of boosting your vitamin, minerals and fiber intake at the same time.
Sauces are a hidden source of sugar, and many people often consume them without ever being aware of the sugar intake. Ready-prepared sauces and soups are often part of takeaways or available in a jar on a shelf. Switching these out with dried herbs, fresh chilli or vinegar is a great way to get rid of that excess sugar while still enjoying a flavorsome meal.
Foods that are low-fat alternatives may compensate with an excess of sugar. Eating fuller-fat foods may sound counter-productive, but these products may actually contain more naturally occurring sugars that are good for the body and within the body’s recommended sugar levels. Read the labels of your favorite foods lower-fat alternatives to ensure that you’re not eating excess sugar.
The key to having a balanced diet is not to be afraid of natural sugars. Healthy products like fruit, veg and dairy contain natural sugars that are essential for our daily nutritional intake and will not lead to an unhealthy diet. Having said that, you don’t have to fill your whole food with fruit and veg. In general, reducing your processed food intake will ensure that you’re reducing your sugar intake at the same time.
Reducing sugar intake is an essential part of the weight loss journey. However, cutting out sugar entirely is actually bad for you, can lead to sugar withdrawal and an eventual relapse into eating excess sugar again. Don’t forget to treat yourself occasionally and be kind to your body. For many of us, sugar has been a way to cope with stress. Punishing yourself for eating too much sugar will lead to increased stress, leading to the same cycle again.
In the US, we consume 3 times more sugar than we need to. As our bodies have a limit on what we can store, they convert excess sugar to fat. This has a range of health complications, from weight gain and high blood pressure to the risk of diabetes. Sugar is a naturally addictive and highly-marketed substance. However, by reducing sugary drinks, desserts and sauces in our diets, we can immediately reduce our sugar intake. Reading food labels and eating full-fat foods with natural sugars will boost your nutritional value and help you be more aware of what you eat. However, it’s important to remember that cutting out sugar entirely is equally bad for your future health. Want to find out more? Talk to Dr. Anand Thakkar for more advice today.
Dr. Anand Thakkar is a licensed Internal Medicine physician. He is Board Certified in Anti-Aging & Regenerative Medicine. He has been a member of the teaching faculty for students at Chicago Medical School and has been featured on ABC, FOX, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes as a recognized authority in wellness, fitness & nutrition, weight loss, anti-aging, hormones & metabolic medicine, holistic medicine, lifestyle coaching and women’s & men’s health. His mission is to help people become the healthiest versions of themselves using movement, nutrition, and a whole-body approach.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Do not make any major changes to your lifestyle, diet, or exercise without the supervision of a licensed medical professional.