Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that's extremely calorie-dense. At four calories for each gram of sugar, it's easy to go overboard on sweet treats and beverages and not know it. According to medical experts, sugar consumption, especially the added sugars from soft drinks, is directly tied to weight gain and obesity -- increased body fat.
What Is Sugar?
Sugar is a nutritionally valueless carbohydrate that gives you nothing but calories. Sugar goes by many other names when listed as an ingredient on the foods and beverages you buy. Sugar is also known as dextrose, corn syrup, corn sweeter, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, fruit juice concentrate, honey, lactose, maltose, sucrose, malt syrup and molasses. The American Heart Association, or AHA, indicates that the average American gets an inordinate amount of sugar each day -- more than 22 teaspoons, or around 355 calories. When you consume more calories than you burn each day, the excess is stored in your body in the form of fat -- on your belly and other parts of your person.
Sugar and Obesity
Sugar occurs naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables and dairy products. However, the AHA indicates that the sugar added to your food is responsible for the increase in obesity. Obesity is generally defined as a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or more; morbid obesity is defined as a BMI of 40 or more. One of the main culprits that you may not think about is the added sugar you get from soft drinks and other beverages with added sugar. The average 12-ounce soda has 130 calories and 8 teaspoons of sugar. According to Harvard Medical School, the calorie content of sugar-sweetened beverages can be deceiving because of the thin, watery texture that makes them easy to consume.
Other Health Problems
There are profound health implications related to excess body fat. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. any type of sugar causes tooth decay; if you make a habit of drinking soft drinks or snacking on sugary treats, you're more likely to get cavities. The February 3, 2014 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine" reports that eating too much added sugar also increases your risk of heart disease and cardiac death.
Restricting Sugar Intake
Sugar is addictive to the palate simply because it makes food taste so good, which makes you want to eat even more. Continued consumption of sugary foods may even lead to addiction, much the same as drug addition, according to a review in the July 2013 issue of "Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care." Researchers state that the sugar/sweet reward to the brain may be even stronger than that of cocaine. Foods with added sugar, such as soft drinks and other sweetened treats, fall under the category of discretionary calories. This is the number of calories you have left over after you take into consideration the calories you get from a nutritious, well-rounded diet. The AHA indicates that you have far fewer discretionary calories to "spend" on sugar than you may realize. Women should get no more than 100 calories a day from added sugar, or 6 teaspoons, and men should get no more than 150 calories or 9 teaspoons.
- Harvard Medical School: Sugar and Obesity
- American Heart Association: Sugars and Carbohydrates
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: What Are the Health Risks of Overweight and Obesity?
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: America-Drowning in Sugar
- Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine: Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults
- Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: Sugar addiction: Pushing the Drug-Sugar Analogy to the Limit