By 2019, overweight and obese adults will outnumber those normal weight in half our provinces!
Obesity has become a global crisis and here in Canada the obesity rate amoung adults has more than tripled between 1985 and 2011. We've been told for years that in order to lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we consume, but researchers are finding out that this is isn't necessarily true, and that not all calories are created equal.
There has been a backlash against fat, and more recently gluten, but scientists argue that neither of these are the culprit. Instead, it is sugar.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2004 Canadians consumed 100 grams of sugar a day, eating an average of 88 lbs a year! Male teens consumed the most sugar at an average of 138 lbs a year. Americans eat even more.
We are hardwired from birth to seek out sugar and it's been described as addictive. Eating sweet foods stimulates the same part of the brain as drugs and alcohol, and we don't have to go very far to find this stimulation. Sugar is in everything from ketchup to bread to salad dressing and more. It is estimated that out of the 600,000 of food items sold in US grocery stores, a whopping 80% have added sugar. Even options that are advertised as being alternatives to sugar, such as honey, agave syrup and fruit juices are all sugars themselves.
Furthermore, as a result of the fight against fat, low fat products are more common in our stores than ever before. However, low fat products actually contain more sugar than regular products, as they have lost taste as a result of removing the fat. And they not only contain added sugar, but also high-fructose corn syrup (glucose-fructose on Canadian labels). Corn syrup is much sweeter and cheaper than sugar and is in all sorts of foods you would not expect, such as deli meat and cheese. Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are also heavily added to low-fat products marketed to children.
So how can we make sure we are not eating too much sugar? Well, in Canada there is no guideline by which to measure our intake of sugar. The nutrition facts panel on our food labels does list the grams of sugar in one serving, however it does not list the daily intake percentage because Canada has yet to set a recommended limit on sugar consumption.
According to the World Heath Organization (WHO), sugars should make up less than 10% of our total energy intake per day, a number we already exceed. Canadians can reach this level by consuming just one can of regular pop. The WHO further suggests that we would see additional benefits if we cut it down to 5%. For many Canadians, cutting their sugar consumption down to these levels would be big challenge, but our health may depend on it.
In addition to adding taste to low fat foods, sugar also functions as a perservative, allowing foods to sit in a warehouse for months. Doctors believe that sugar is uniquely dangerous because the fructose component in sugar is metabolized primarily by the liver. And it's not just the extra pounds added by eating sugar that worries doctors. There are a host of other health issues that can be linked to sugar consumption, such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and possibly even Alzheimer's disease, as form of insulin resistance in the brain, or "Type 3" diabetes.