Abstract This research paper examines the consumption of sugar in the average American diet, and argues that the average amount consumed is excessive. Sugar is detrimental to health, and is the root cause of obesity and a multitude of health issues. Health can be markedly improved by reducing the amount of sugar in the diet. A big glass of orange juice at breakfast is a healthy way to start the day, right? If it’s pasteurized, store-bought orange juice, any live enzymes are cooked out. What was thought to be super-healthy is basically equivalent to refined white sugar (Katz, 2009).
Sugar has snuck into the American diet in so many different forms that the average person isn’t aware of how much is being consumed (Rosen, 2008). Not just empty calories, sugar has a toxic, detrimental effect on the body. The human body simply isn’t meant to process the amounts of sugar that the average person consumes. The amount of sugar consumed by Americans has risen dramatically. Americans consume a whopping 152 pounds of sugar per year. That’s 40 pounds more per year than was consumed just 50 years ago (Keiley, 2006).
So much emphasis has been placed on the fat content of food, but it is likely the sugar consumption that is causing America’s rapid weight gain. It’s no coincidence that obesity rates have risen while the nation’s health crumbles. Of the adult population, approximately 68 percent to 72 percent are overweight or obese (Kalman, 2011). The rise in obesity is a global phenomenon, and it threatens life expectancy rates worldwide. For the last hundred years, the average life expectancy has risen, but due to chronic health issues caused by obesity, those longevity gains could soon be reversed.
The average life expectancy was 65 in the years 2000-2005 (Byles, 2009). This crisis of overconsumption effects even very young children, as they are given sugar-sweetened juices and even formulas sweetened with corn syrup. The numbers of obese children have increased “100 percent between 1980 and 1994” (Keiley, 2006). Baby formulas are often sweetened to make the product more palatable. Babies are born with a natural sweet tooth, but sweeteners intensify it (Sears, 2012). This early and unnecessary consumption of sugar sets the stage for a lifetime of addiction to sweets.
Various forms of sugar can be identified in the food supply, some more insidious than others. Nearly every processed food contains some type of sugar, whether high fructose corn syrup; sucrose, fructose or glucose. Those foods include pre-packaged dinners, sauces, salad dressings, pastas, breads and many more. High fructose corn syrup (HCFS) is particularly dangerous, because it is not a normal sugar. HCFS is extracted from corn, so most people believe that it must be healthy for the body.
However, the way the syrup is extracted from the corn is biochemical. HCFS is the cheapest and most plentiful sweetener available, so it’s the obvious choice for many food manufacturers. The body doesn’t recognize HCFS in the same way as natural sugars, and doesn’t signal the brain that the body has eaten enough. Therefore, it is easier to overeat and overindulge in foods and beverages sweetened with HCFS (Sears, 2012). The bulk of sugar consumption in the U. S. comes in liquid form from soft drinks, juices and other sugar and HCFS-sweetened drinks.
Children become hooked on soft drinks at a very early age – even as infants and toddlers. There has been a huge increase in drinking sodas in just the past 20 years. (Jacobson, 2005). Parents should realize that this is a serious problem, and limit their children’s consumption of sweetened drinks. Patel and Hampton identify another problem with children not getting enough water to drink in school and daycare settings. When children do drink liquids, they are often opting for beverages with added calories and sugar like milk, soda, sports drinks, coffees and juices.
They recommend that educators allow and make water available during the school day (2011). It’s common knowledge that eating too much sugar will cause obesity, but sugar has also been linked to heart disease, diabetes and gout (Leibman, 2010). Taking in excess sugar can lead to inflammation in the joints and tissues which can result in arthritis or cancer (Rosen, 2008). To top it off, sugar also causes tooth decay and gum disease (Keiley, 2006). In addition, sugar can make the human body more susceptible to illness.
Just drinking a sugar-sweetened soft drink decreases the bacteria-eating effects of a white blood cell called a neutrophil for 5 hours (Katz, 2009). Heart disease has recently been in the spotlight for being the number one killer of women in America (Galbraith, 2011). High sugar consumption raises the risk of heart disease, whether or not a person puts on extra weight. Two sugary beverages per day can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease by 20% (Leibman, 2010). Sugar feeds disease, and has been linked to insulin resistance.
Insulin is a chemical in the body which is secreted by the pancreas, and helps in maintaining a steady blood sugar level. Insulin Resistance Syndrome (also known as IRS) occurs when a person’s tissues have a reduced response to insulin. Insulin resistance is marked by overweight, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL (good) cholesterol; impaired glucose tolerance, dark skin patches called Acanthosis Nigracans, and Type 2 Diabetes (Scott, 2006). Insulin resistance affects one in three adults in the U. S. and about 15% of children 6-19 years old. A person can be insulin resistant, but not put on extra weight. These cases can be difficult for doctors to diagnose (Scott, 2006). To combat insulin resistance, nutritionists suggest losing weight, eating foods that have a low impact on blood sugar, getting regular cardiovascular exercise, and getting adequate sleep (Weisenberger, 2011). In order to kick the sugar habit, there must be a realization that there is a problem. Excess amounts of sugar need to be eliminated from the diet.
Experts advise finding naturally sweet alternatives to junk food, like fruit; eating small, protein-dense snacks throughout the day; cutting back on simple carbohydrates like chips and crackers, cutting out processed foods with any added sugars, and eliminating all sugar-sweetened beverages (Fiedler, 2011). Keiley and Bloyd suggest natural alternatives to sugar, such as eating fruit and using the natural sweetener stevia (2006). Stevia has no calories, and there is no impact to blood sugar. When a treat is necessary, Fiedler suggests stopping after one or two bites.
Eighty percent of the pleasure that comes from eating something sweet comes within the first two bites (2011). Some experts recommend that sugar consumption be limited to 100 calories per day. Most Americans are accustomed to 400 to 600 calories worth of sugar per day (Leibman, 2010). For most, cutting back on sugar is a struggle. It has been documented that weight loss is difficult without reducing the amount of sugar consumed. An article by Susan Harrington focuses on soda consumption, specifically by children and teens.
It’s interesting to note that the article discusses treatment of obese children and adolescents by incorporating a reduced-fat diet and exercise, with no reduction in sugar. The result was often modest weight loss, but a high frequency of relapse (2008). Individuals who successfully cut back on sugar were more likely to lose weight and maintain weight loss. Parents must also be vigilant in keeping their children away from sugar sweetened beverages and sodas; as well as sugary treats and processed foods.
Caregivers often give juice to children, believing that it is nutritious beverage choice. In reality, juices are usually high in sugar and low in nutrients. What children are fed from a very young age will shape their tastes and their health for the rest of their lives (Sears, 2012). If children do not start out addicted to sugar at a very young age, they will not have to struggle to overcome the sugar habit later in life. In conclusion, it’s obvious that sugar is not beneficial to the human body in any way.
It’s best to cut out as much sugar as possible, and opt for fruit or natural sweeteners like stevia to satisfy a sweet tooth. There are many more healthy alternatives to sugary treats than ever before, and the healthy alternatives are usually more filling and satisfying. Once a person cuts back on sugar and gets over the initial withdrawal period, they are usually amazed at how much more energy and stamina they have, along with the rewards of a healthier body. ? References Byles, J. (2009). Obesity: The new global threat to healthy ageing and longevity.
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