Cupcakes, donuts, cookies—oh my! We live in a seriously sweet-crazed world, where most of us consume sugar at just about every meal, whether we’re aware of it or not. Since the 1970s, our calorie intake from sugar has increased by about 50 percent. And according to the American Heart Association, people in the U.S. eat an average of 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day (that equals roughly 320 calories, in case you were wondering).
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. Experts have long blamed the empty calories in added sugar for contributing to America’s ever-growing obesity problem. But is there more to the story than just excess calories? Should we also reduce our sugar intake to prevent disease? Are all sugars the same? And can avoiding sugar help prevent cancer? Fear not, dear reader, we’ve got the lowdown:
- Not all sugar’s created equal: While the body is perfectly equipped to handle foods containing moderate amounts of sugar, such as fruit, it’s not built to process a can of Coca-Cola, which contains nine teaspoons of added sugar and zero health benefits. To talk specifics, foods containing glucose—a sugar that helps generate energy in the body and can be easily broken down—are fine. Foods containing fructose are a different story, since the body turns fructose into fat.
- The link between sugar and cancer: While there is currently no substantiated research on the role sugar plays in cancer development, there is enough data that cancer experts advise steering clear of excess sweets. Why? Because being overweight can increase the risk for different types of cancer, including breast cancer.
- The not-so-sweet side effects: A lifetime of excessive sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which means the body has trouble dealing with blood sugar and breaking down fat. Insulin resistance can lead to inflammation, high blood sugar and weight gain. Plus, it also increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Now that you’ve got the facts, it’s time to reduce the amount of sugar you eat. Keep an eye out for part two, where we discuss easy ways to cut down on sugar—and don’t worry, we’re not going to make you quit cold turkey!