Sugar is EVERYWHERE! Lurking in salad dressing, bread or even the cereal you had this morning. The addictive sweet taste makes it almost unbearable to eat anything else. For World Diabetes Day, I’ve been given the opportunity as a Health Studies (Public Health) student to provide some information on why we should consider cutting down on our sugar intake.
Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, government policies have been enforcing change on our diet to tackle the rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the United Kingdom. The public was in for a surprise when former chancellor George Osborne introduced sugar tax in 2018, as an intervention to tackle sugar related health issues. This included the soft drink industry as total sugar content over 5g per 100ml would be taxed. But even after thinking twice about spending more money on a delicious sugar fest, what are the side effects of having sugar in your diet, and what are the benefits of slashing sugar?
1. Lower Blood pressure
Individuals that have at least 25% sugar in their calorie intake are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease compared to those that have only 10%. Now that’s shocking when almost everything we eat contains some added sugar, which is a big factor in causing high blood pressure as it increases the work rate of the heart and arteries and can cause long term damage over time.
2. Less risk of a heart attack
Research shows that every extra sugary drink consumed increases your risk of a heart disease by up to 25%. Consuming food/drinks that are high in added sugars only increases the pressure on the heart which can be life-threatening for someone with a poor diet. Improving your diet by sourcing your sugar from fruits instead of saturated fatty foods will reduce your chances of a heart attack.
3. Tooth Decay
Sugar is directly linked to tooth decay: when you have excessive amounts of sugar, the molecules mix with the saliva that lead to bacteria in the mouth. This can lead to plaque on the teeth and once it dissolves it progresses into cavities. Regularly brushing teeth reduces the chances of this and the likelihood of it leading to gum disease in the long term.
4. Reduce the chances of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Having a diet high in added sugar reduces the production of brain-driven neurotropic factors (BDNF) which is a chemical that helps the brain form new memories and thoughts of the past. Low BDNF is seen amongst those who are diabetic, as the sugar reduces this which has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Cutting down sugar is easier said than done. In fact long term illnesses such as diabetes have been prevalent for years and have even been labelled as an epidemic. Enforcing government policies on healthy eating have made a huge impact on diet but it is still not enough! Our attitude towards our diet needs to change. Try exercising in your local park, drink at least 2 liters of water every day and when you crave a chocolate bar, swap it for a healthier alternative like dried fruits!
This blog was written by Hannah Tolera, a BSc (Hons) Health Studies (Public health) student.
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