Kicking the Sugar Habit
Kicking the Sugar Habit

It’s a bit mind boggling how much sugar Americans consume yearly.  In the early 1700’s sugar was only for the wealthy and was uncommon. At that time, consumption was about 4 pounds a year. By the 1900’s Americans were consuming 90 pounds a year. Jump to 2008 and Americans were eating ½ pound of sugar a day, or 182 pounds a year.  No wonder we have issues with diabetes, obesity and hyperactivity.

It does not help that sugar has 56 different names too.  It’s hidden in everything and often under names we may not recognize as sugar, such as Maltodextrin, Crystalline Fructose, Ethyl  Maltol, Diastatic Malt. It sweetens everything in our food supply; even items you may not think have sugar. Plain yogurt can hide sugar to make it taste better.  Often sugar will be listed as the 7th, 8th, or 9th ingredient on a food label to fool you into thinking the food doesn’t have a lot of added sugar in it. If it’s listed as one of the top three, you can be sure it’s loaded with extra sugar. It’s rather scary when two or three types of sugar are listed as well.

The sugar habit is as bad as a few illicit drugs, and an equally difficult habit to kick. As with any bad habit, giving up sugar can have a dramatic effect on your health.

A recent study conducted at the University of California San Francisco and Touro University looked at the effect of removing sugar from the diet of children and replacing it calorie for calorie with a starch. The study included 43 volunteers, all of whom were overweight and had one other metabolic marker such as high blood pressure.  Researchers noticed metabolic changes in as little as two weeks. Some of the children dropped significant weight, so much so the researchers had to increase their daily caloric intake.  Their triglycerides and LDL all improved.  Researchers argue that rather than consider sugar empty calories that cause weight gain, it’s more important to think of those calories as having negative threatening effect on one’s entire metabolic system.

While the study had a small sampling, the results still beg the question, if reducing the sugar intake of children already predisposed to metabolic illnesses has a positive effect, what effect can it have on adults?

Now, how does one give up sugar?  Start with reading labels and looking for hidden sugar. Opt for sugar in the form of fresh fruit rather than processed chocolate, cookies and snack cakes. Eliminate the liquid sugar calories from soda and drink more water.  Take it one day at a time and be kind to yourself as you ween yourself off sugar.