Bittersweet: The lowdown on sugar

EVEN as children, we know all too well that sugar is in our favorite chocolates, candies and other food high in glucose, which can be detrimental to our health and well-being.
Through the years, our relationship with this sweet, edible, crystalline carbohydrate continues to be a paradoxical one and, in a sense, perverse.  As we grow older, we continue to love its sweetness.  Yet this very sweetness is the reason for our health maladies such as diabetes, blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation, and mental problems. A plethora of medical research has consistently revealed that sugar is a nightmare that tastes like a daydream. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a mix of too much sugar and sedentary lifestyle is the cause the death of millions people worldwide. Let’s find out more how sugar is killing us sweetly.
Biologically wired to love sweets
Our fondness for anything sweet is rooted to a scientific explanation — and we have our genes to blame. “Sugar is a powerful food additive because our bodies are hardwired to like sugar,” says anthropologist Solveig Brown, author of “All On One Plate: Cultural Expectations on American Mothers.”
In a separate research by Professor Susanne Klaus, a biologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam, said that sugar stimulates the brain — thus the release of dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical.
Brown reveals that sugar is “eight times more addictive than cocaine.” He went further by saying that all of our 10,000 taste buds has its sugar receptors, consequently triggering the brain’s pleasure center.
Brown said that children — regardless of culture — have an innate fondness for sweets and have the higher bliss point for sugar compared to adults. The latter is the reason why food products marketed for children taste sweeter.
The benchmark of sweetness is set during childhood, a reality which can be harmful for children who develop fondness for food that are too sweet.
“Early childhood experiences shape our food preferences, which means that the average American child, who has a diet high in sugar, is learning that foods should taste sweet,” said Brown.
The problem starts when children, at a very young age, are given food that are too sweet, causing them to dispel other flavors such as the taste of vegetables, Dr. David Ludwig, who is an expert in food and health, said.
When culture dictates the unhealthy habit
Aside from our genes, we have our own culture to blame. In every occasion, situation or mood, either good or bad, we tend to succumb to our cravings for sweets. Sugary treats are regarded as both a consolation during bad times and a reward during good times. We eat chocolates when we are depressed and we buy cakes for celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and whatnots. When this is the case, it becomes a hard habit — or more appropriately, culture, to break.
What is more alarming is that the food we eat nowadays are also loaded with hidden sugars. This includes bread, pastas, and sauces. Filipino food are comparatively sweeter than those of their western counterparts. Just look at how sweeter our spaghetti recipes are compared to those of Italians.
The not-so-sweet effects of sugar to our body
Experts has been contesting that the root of the health problems worldwide is rooted to sugar, and not fats.
“It’s not about obesity, it’s about diabetes. Our sugar consumption is killing us, and you can’t fix this until you fix the food,” said Dr. Robert H. Lustig, an internationally renowned endocrinologist and author of the book “Fat Chance: The Hidden Truth About Sugar, Obesity, and Disease.”
Lustig visited the Philippines last month as a guest speaker for the event hosted by the Philippine Center for Diabetes Education Foundation Inc. and United Laboratories, with a theme, “Fats and Sugar: Friends or Foes?”
“We were told it was the dietary fat that made you fat and it was the fat that made you sick, therefore eat less fat because that would mean eating fewer calories, therefore you would lose weight and therefore you would get better. And it hasn’t worked. It hasn’t work in any country,” Lustig said in an effort to give weight to the more serious effects of dietary sugar against  dietary fat.
The urgent need to reduce sugar intake
With all the emerging evidences against the ill effects of too much consumption of sugar, there is an urgent need to reduce, if not to cut off, our consumption of this tempting ingredient.
A nutrition expert from WHO reveals that sugar does not play a role necessary to our diet.
“Nutritionally, people don’t need any sugar in their diet,” says Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.
May this scientific revelation encourage you to ditch sugar, since its sweetness is not worth the illness that you have to pay in the end. To emphasize: with all its sweetness, sugar can’t promise you happy endings.

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