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The Bitter Side of Sweet

It’s clear that in America we have a numerous health problems, and added sugars cause a lot of them. As rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity rise in the United States, sugar is the real culprit. Many social events are centered around food and desserts that are high in sugars, making them nearly impossible to avoid. The American Heart Association defines added sugars as “sugars and syrups put in foods during preparation or processing, or added at the table.” Added sugars could be the obstacle standing between you and your optimal health.

One of the simple dangers of consuming added sugars is the overall increase of caloric intake. Every gram of sugar is four calories; if you eat something with 10 grams of added sugars, that’s 40 calories coming from sugar alone. This may not seem like a dangerous amount, however it adds up over time. SugarScience, an organization created by health scientists at UC San Francisco, claims that the average American consumes 82 grams of sugar per day. That’s 328 calories a day solely coming from sugar! Added sugars also affect your liver by blocking it from making insulin, the hormone which controls your blood sugar levels. This phenomenon leads to type 2 diabetes. Heart disease is another hazard of overconsumption of added sugars.

If we know sugars are so bad for us, why do we have such a hard time saying “no” to them? In various scientific studies, sugars have been found to be extremely addictive. Added sugars have been stated to have similar addictive properties of drugs such as cocaine. This is because the same hormone released in the brain from doing drugs is released when you eat something loaded with sugar. Eating something sugary releases dopamine, the “feel-good hormone,” which leaves you craving more. Therefore, the more sugar you eat, the more you crave it.

It’s hard to avoid added sugars when they find their way into foods that do not need sugar such as bread, peanut butter, and many other snack items. It can be confusing to decipher whether or not a food item you’re looking at has added sugars because they aren’t always labeled clearly in the nutrition labels. Added sugars often show up as different names in the ingredients list such as maltodextrin, sucralose, fructose, and dextrose, to name a few. There are over 50 names sugar can disguise itself as in the ingredients list, so make sure you look for these key words next time you are unsure about the sugar contents of something you are eating.

About the author

Hailey Kenyon

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