Most Americans can’t actually answer either of these questions, and when they try, they are almost certainly under-estimating their real sugar consumption. In part because sugar creeps its way into almost all processed foods. And because we add it here and there, through a scoop of sugar here, a sweetened drink there, adding up to roughly 22 teaspoons of sugar every day according to a Business Insider piece from March 12, 2014.
Yet while we are continually increasing our sugar consumption, the World Health Organization is not only warning against this but also actually revising its health recommendations from 10% of one’s diet deriving from sugar down to 5%. This translates to about 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, or 10 Hershey’s kisses.
The World Health Organization is not alone, scientists and other health officials have been warning of the ill effects of sugar on the body for at least 50 years. Yet sugar consumption has continued to rise in the U.S., reaching near epidemic proportions and causing a long list of health problems, from cavities to diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
With the rise of sugar consumption and the associated health problems in many western countries, another concern has emerged within the health community: the question of glucose sugar vs. fructose sugar. Fructose is the naturally occurring sweetener in fruit and honey. Consumed in its natural state, fructose is the perfect sweetener. Unfortunately, fructose in the form of added sugar to foods and sweet drinks is foreign to the human body. Glucose is a simple sugar, critical to the human body as an energy source and a component of many carbohydrates. The human body not only metabolizes glucose easily; it actually produces glucose itself.
The human body metabolizes these sugars differently. Fructose can only be broken down in the liver. Excessive fructose consumption causes the liver to overload, rather than metabolize the fructose; the body instead turns it into fat. Fructose consumption leads not just to weight gain, but also to belly fat, the most dangerous type of fat on the body. Belly fat has been associated with higher rates of heart disease and diabetes. Studies have also found a high level of leptin resistance in people who consume large amounts of fructose sweetener. Leptin is the body’s natural indicator of fullness; it is the body’s way of telling the brain it has consumed enough food. Increase resistance to leptin allows for excessive food consumption, and in some cases what many consider an insatiable appetite.
Additionally, in a study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, 32 overweight or obese individuals whose diet consisted of 25% of their daily calorie intake from either glucose or fructose sweetened drinks, the glucose group not only gained less weight, but they had lower cholesterol and LDL levels, lower rates of insulin resistance. Elevated insulin resistance associated with fructose levels are concerning as well as an early indicator of diabetes. Insulin resistance occurs when the body becomes accustomed to a high level of sugar, almost a sugar addiction, leading to the consumption of more and more sugar to sustain the body’s demand for insulin.
While the science continues to study the full effects of glucose and fructose on the body, it is clear that too much sugar is detrimental to the body. Even more apparent is America’s addiction to sugar. For those looking to lose or maintain weight or simply achieve good health, limiting sugar is key. In the meantime, satisfy that sweet tooth with Mother Nature’s candy ~ a sweet piece of ripe fruit, packed with fiber, vitamins and fructose the way it was meant to be enjoyed.