A sweet addiction: Is it as terrible as we think?

As I write at this very moment, I am currently munching on my deliciously sweet snack of cookies, while my chocolate bar scrumptiously sits in front of me waiting to be eaten. But am I the only one who depends on sugar this much?  

Unfortunately, no. 

When the word ‘addiction’ is used, many people automatically resort to unpleasant thoughts (I’m sure you can imagine what). Yet, addiction is actually a condition that is much more common than we perceive in our daily lives, especially in the form of sugar. Sugar is one of the most prevalent sent ingredients we find in our everyday food. It occurs naturally within almost all foods, such as carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, diary, and some grains. Consuming these foods with natural sugar is completely acceptable, because as your body digests these foods slowly, they supply a steady supply of energy that sustains your cells over a longer period of time. These natural types of sugar are indeed good for your health and can prevent certain diseases and unwanted health conditions.  

However, there is a problem when you consume too much sugar, and the bad kind too. The unhealthy types of sugar are the kinds that food manufacturers mix in in order to preserve a product’s shelf life further and add in some extra flavour that makes us go back for just one more bite. Consequently, humans have been consuming much too much sugar every day. According to the National Cancer Institute, adult men eat an average of 24 teaspoons of added sugar a day, which is equal to 384 calories.  

Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that “excess sugar’s impact on obesity and diabetes is well documented, but one area that may surprise many [people] is how their taste for sugar can have a serious impact on heart health.” 

It is commonly known that a higher intake of sugar increase blood pressure, cause weight gain and inflammation, liver disease, and diabetes. However, Dr. Hu and his research team have actually found a link between a high-sugar diet and a greater risk of heart disease. In fact, these primary health conditions as result of a high sugar-intake cause many secondary effects that ultimately leads to a higher risk for heart disease. For example, Dr. Hu reveals that though it is not completely understood how sugar affects the heart, high amounts of sugar can overload the liver causing an accumulation of fat and thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. In addition to this, too much added sugar can cause chronic inflammation and raise blood pressure which ultimately also leads to heart disease.  

 Now, the purpose of this article is not to frighten you when you go into the kitchen to find yourself a snack. It is more so a gentle reminder to keep monitoring your intake of added sugar.  

Reading food labels is one of the best ways to do this, and according to the ‘Heart Health’ section of Harvard Health Publishing, here is a small list of varied types of sugar that you can try and cut back on or maybe one day, cut out for good:  

Corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, malt sugar, and syrup sugar molecules ending in ‘ose’ (dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, and sucrose).  

Take it slow, do not try to immediately cut out all sugar. You will still probably find yourself looking for another sweet food to satisfy your cravings. But that is totally okay! Sugar is something natural (and delicious), and as long as you have it in moderation, your next visit to the dentist will definitely go smoothly.