We all know that we need to cut down on how much sugar we’re consuming; it’s toxic to our lives. However, what many of us don’t realise – once we’ve cut out the chocolates, crisps, fizzy drinks and sweets – is just how many places sugar is hiding that we’d never expect it. Supermarket shelves are an explosion of sugar bombs, ticking away quietly.
Given that collectively we consume over two million tonnes of sugar in the UK each year, it’s important we start keeping an eye out for where it may be lurking. This is an excessive rate of consumption.
The issue is that manufacturers love using sugar in our foods and drinks; partly because it helps to make foods taste better – especially if they have had their fat removed, as this makes them taste bland – but also because it’s addictive. The more we eat it, the more we’ll want to buy their products again. It may help them sell more, but it’s hugely detrimental to our health.
“27% of adults in England are obese and a further 36% are overweight.”
When we consume more sugar than we actually need (many recommendations are that an adult should have no more than 6 teaspoons per day), our liver converts any excess sugar into fat. This gets stored around the body and is the reason that obesity is so prevalent in our society. In fact, as a government report from 2016 notes – “27% of adults in England are obese and a further 36% are overweight.” Likewise, 9% of children in England are found to be obese by the time they’re aged between 4 and 5.
Globally, the statistics aren’t much better. According to the World Health Organisation, worldwide obesity has more than doubled in the years since 1980. Additionally, in 2014 there were more than 1.9 billion adults, aged 18 and older, who were overweight globally (with a body mass index greater than or equal to 25). Of these, over 600 million were classed as obese (with a BMI greater than or equal to 30). To top this off, 41 million children worldwide under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2014.
“41 million children worldwide under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2014.”
The reason this is so concerning is because obesity is rapidly killing people. It is also linked with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and liver disease – amongst many other illnesses. Yet obesity is completely preventable and curable. It doesn’t have to be this way – and cutting sugar from our lives is one way of making a positive change towards combatting this.
It is also a great way of helping to curb tooth decay, which is caused by the bacteria in our mouths feasting on the sugary foods we eat. Tooth decay is one of the most common problems in the UK, followed only by the common cold. It is believed, as Action on Sugar reports, that 1 in 3 adults suffer from dental cavities and close to 1 in 4 children suffer from some form of tooth decay. This is, again, preventable – and sugar is the start.
Along with following my key advice for cutting out sugar (read here), it’s time to start reading the labels. Look for the word ‘sugar’ in all its many disguises – and there are many (see the full list here). Remember the conversion that 4g of sugar = one tablespoon of sugar. This will help you read the labels far easier. It’s also time to be much more suspicious of manufacturers. Just because something is labelled as ‘healthy’ or ‘low-fat’, don’t just assume it’s good for you. As these pictures below will show, it’s far more complicated than that… be wary! You’ll make better decisions.
Check out all these hidden sugars…