Added sugar is a major diet problem, and one of the reasons obesity is becoming so common in western countries. We go through an enormous amount of artificially-added sugar designed to help food taste better, with the average American consuming 57lbs of added sugar every year.
It's a real issue, and one we might not even be aware we're dealing with: we might believe we eat healthily, but unless we're checking the labels of the things we love, we might unwittingly be falling victim to the added sugar trap. It can't be solved by a portion size guide
A study published by the University of Zurich found even moderate amounts of added fructose and glucose had a serious effect on our bodies. The study examined 94 healthy young men as they consumed various kinds of drinks, some with additional sugars and others without. They didn't consume any more calories than they normally would have, even with the addition of the drink: they had altered their diets to take this into account.
The researchers eventually found fat production had nearly doubled in the group who consumed a sugary drink every day, even though they weren't actually consuming any more calories than they normally would. The sugary drink wasn't just high in calories, but the act of consuming the sugar was speeding up the participants' fat production by spiking their blood sugar.
Lead author Philipp Gerber said: "Eighty grams of sugar daily, which is equivalent to about 0.8 liters of a normal soft drink, boosts fat production in the liver. And the overactive fat production continues for a longer period of time, even if no more sugar is consumed.
"The body's own fat production in the liver was twice as high in the fructose group as in... the control group -- and this was still the case more than twelve hours after the last meal or sugar consumption." If you consume one sugary drink a day, your fat production increases for twelve hours every day, half your life.
Tips to avoid added sugar:
It's harder than you think to avoid added sugars. Although the obvious answers are avoiding sodas and fizzy drinks, sweets and chocolate, lots of other foods like common sauces and foods marketed as "low-fat" often have lots of sugar added in order to make them taste better. You could get a cut of lean meat or tofu, then drizzle it with a sugar-laden chilli sauce.
A few ways you can navigate this problem is to eat natural foods like fruit, vegetables and cuts of meat rather than processed stuff as much as possible. Eating full-fat versions of your favourites, like yoghurt and cheese, rather than the low-fat versions is probably healthier, as you're consuming less added chemicals to compensate for taste.
However, the best habit you can get into is reading labels, and avoiding products with a high percentage of sugar.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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