Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Giving Up On Sugar?


Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose)

Image via Wikipedia

A new report from Columbia University predicts if current trends continue, half of Americans will be obese- not merely overweight – by 2030, based on a BMI of over 30. The age group most affected would be those reaching their 40s and 50s where the prevalence of obesity could reach 60%.  This dire prediction will certainly add to the nation’s health care costs due to increased heart disease and stroke risks.

A new report from the CDC and Emory University says U.S. consumption of added sugars has dropped when compared to data from 1999-2000.  Sugary soda consumption showed the greatest decline, but energy drinks increased in popularity.  Nonetheless, another report points out that half the U.S. population over age 2 drink at least one sugary beverage every day, and 70% of boys aged 2 to 19 drink sugary beverages daily.  Surprisingly, 57% of the sugary drinks are consumed at home rather than from restaurants.

In a 5-year study of 4,166 people aged 45-84, middle-aged women who drank two or more sugary drinks a day were close to four times as likely to have high levels of blood fats as triglycerides and impaired blood sugar levels when compared with women who drank less than one sugar-sweetened beverage a day.

Women who drank two or more sodas a day also had more belly fat, but not necessarily more weight. The same effects were not seen with men and the reasons for this are not yet clear.

The implications of this study are that drinking sugary drinks may be helping to contribute to metabolic syndrome.  Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A high degree of belly fat is more dangerous and increases health risks since it lies deep inside and can produce hormones that negatively affect blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin production.

Compared to other more difficult lifestyle changes, e.g. increasing exercise or eating more vegetables, cutting back on sugar-sweetened drinks should be relatively simple.  However it may seem easier said  than done.

Sugary soda is found almost everywhere you look – in vending machines, fast food and other restaurants – they are part of our culture. They can become habit-forming and can lead to withdrawal symptoms for some – if you find yourself thinking that drinking just one soda a day is not acceptable, you may have a serious soda habit.  Nutrition experts continually say that any food can be part of any diet if consumed in moderation, but sodas are often not consumed in moderation like other foods or beverages.  People often do not realized how many calories are in that can of soda or for that matter how much sugar

  • There are 40.5 grams of sugar in a 12 oz can of Coke.
  • Forty grams of sugar is the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar.
  • 10 teaspoons of sugar is the equivalent of 20 sugar cubes.
  • Drinking one Coke a day for a year results in the consumption of 32 pounds of sugar.
  • Drinking one Coke a day, instead of an equivalent amount of tap water, for a full year theoretically could cause you to gain 18 pounds.

So how do you go about kicking a sugar habit?

  • Make a true commitment to decrease your intake. This is true for any lifestyle change.
  • Change to diet sodas gradually.  Make small decreases in sugary soda a day and make small increases in diet soda a day. However, diet sodas have their own problems as to the safety of some artificial sweeteners and their caffeine content.
  • Give up all caffeine which some think may the addictive part of sodas.  Look for caffeine-free drinks – it may take a few weeks to truly give up the craving.

What Are Some Soda Alternatives?

Have you heard of water?  This may seem a little boring at first – no sugar or caffeine kick here.  But try some flavored waters or add some lemon. It’s fairly healthy, it’s refreshing and there are tons of choices in terms of flavors and brands. So keep water bottles ready to go in your refrigerator, and every time you leave the house, take a bottle with you.

Try Tea (Green or Black) Tea is a healthy alternative to water for people who prefer flavored beverages. Unless you have to have sweet tea, tea is calorie free and contains powerful phytochemicals like the antioxidant in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Some are fruit flavored and caffeine-free.

You could have had a V-8 or try the new vegetable juice flavors in your supermarket, as well as fruit and vegetable juice blends. While they’re not super low in calories, each serving contains a serving of fruit and a serving of vegetable.

And then there is coffee. Coffee can be a calorie-free, flavorful alternative to soda. And you can easily find lower-caffeine coffees in coffee shops and supermarkets. But to keep coffee low-calorie, be sure to keep it simple, i.e. no Frappucinos (50+ grams of sugar).

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2 thoughts on “Giving Up On Sugar?

  1. Pingback: Soda’s Evil Twin – The Dangers of Fruit Drinks (Infographic) « Health and Medical News and Resources

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