Nutritionist James Clare looks into the growing problem of sugar in our food supply, stating that it should be treated the same as tobacco.
We live in a time where our health is an implacable topic. We have easier access to fitness facilities, yet there is an ever increasing percentage of society that are considered obese or overweight.
So where are we going wrong?
It would seem we can’t blame exercise or a lack of opportunity to exercise, so this made me dig deeper and question what is happening in our food supply.
One theory suggested by Dr Robert Lustig, an American paediatric endocrinologist, is that sugar has entered over 80 percent of our food supply. In his book Fat Chance, Lustig labels sugar a poison. He has spent the past 16 years treating childhood obesity. His meta-analysis of large-cohort studies of what sugar does to populations across the world, alongside his own clinical observations, has him credited with starting the war on sugar.
If it reaches the status of tobacco, it will be because of Lustig.
He argues that the hormone related to stress, cortisol, is partly to blame. “When cortisol floods the bloodstream, it raises blood pressure; increases the blood glucose level, which can precipitate diabetes. Human research shows that cortisol specifically increases caloric intake of ‘comfort foods’.” High cortisol levels during sleep, for instance, interfere with restfulness and increase the hunger hormone Ghrelin the next day. This differs from person to person, but I was jolted by the realisation of the deliciousness of sweet foods during mornings after I had not slept well the night before.
We have a feedback mechanism in our bodies that communicates to us that we are full. The hormone responsible for this is Leptin. The problem with overeating occurs when we have a high sugar diet because the insulin released because of the sugar mutes the effect of Leptin – so we keep eating even when we are full.
As society keeps demanding food to be faster and cheaper, the food industry has responded. The response has manifested through an increase in fast food outlets. This suits the demand, but of the supply?
Sugar appears to be the most common ingredient in our food. Pick up any three random items from your cupboard, read the ingredients list and you’ll probably see it there.
The more the industry adds sugar, the more we buy. And the worse our health is becoming. Dr Lustig claims that “It would have happened decades earlier; the main reason it didn’t, was that sugar wasn’t cheap. The thing that made it cheap was high-fructose corn syrup. They didn’t necessarily know the physiology of it, but they knew the economics of it.” Adding sugar to everyday food has become as much about the industry prolonging the shelf life as it has about palatability. If you’re shopping from corner shops, you’re likely to be eating unnecessary sugar in pretty well everything.
I would go as far as suggesting that the issue we are facing is not due to a lack of knowledge. I believe society understands that being obese or overweight is not good for you. Society knew for well over a decade the dangers of smoking and all of the health associated risks of smoking yet it did not cause any drastic action.
Education has not previously been able to solve substance abuse. The issue we have with the abundance of sugar in our food supply is a substance of abuse.
As far as I’m concerned, we need to table legislation to curb this trend, in the same way we treated the tobacco epidemic.