Sugar is the new tobacco

Following a new study at Liverpool University, food companies are now being told to cut the amount of sugar because sugar is ‘the new tobacco.’

Doctors and academics say levels must be reduced by up to 30 per cent to halt a wave of disease and death. Large amounts of sugar are found in large proportions in the most unlikely foods and drinks. For example, the equivalent of 11 teaspoons are found in a small Starbucks caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream. A Mars bar contains 8.

Unfortunately the typical Briton consumes 12 teaspoons of sugar a day and some adults will consume as many as 46. The maximum intake recommended by the World Health Organisation is 10, although this guideline is likely to be halved.

The UN agency says there is ‘overwhelming evidence coming out about sugar-sweetened beverages and other sugar consumption’ being linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Sugar Facts

We can all usefully remember the following sugar facts:

Sugar can damage the heart

It is widely accepted that excess sugar can increase the overall risk for heart disease. A 2013 study; the Journal of the American Heart Association concluded that sugar can actually affect the pumping mechanism of the heart and could increase our risk of heart failure.

Sugar consumption promotes belly fat

Adolescent obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years and childhood obesity rates have also doubled. One cause for this may be beverages containing an increased amount of fructose.

Sugar is a silent killer

Sugar is just as much of a silent killer as salt is. A 2008 study found that excess fructose consumption was linked to an increase in a condition called Leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that tells us when we’ve had enough food. The problem is we often ignore the signals that are sent from the brain to us. For some people though, leptin simply doesn’t work, leaving the person with no signal that the body has had enough food to function and that leads to overeating and potentially chronic obesity. 

Sugar is linked to cancer production and survival rates

Sugar can be harmful to insulin levels and its production. One connection that has been well documented in the literature is the link between insulin resistance and cancer.

A 2013 study found that sugars in the intestine triggered the formation of a hormone called controlled by a protein called β-catenin that in turn, increases insulin released by the pancreas. Researchers found that β-catenin may in fact affect the cells susceptibility to cancer formation. Further studies have found negative associations between high sugar and starch intake and survival rates in cancer patients.

Sugar and alcohol have similar effects on the liver

Authors of a 2012 study showed evidence that fructose and glucose in excess can have as toxic an effect on the liver as the metabolism of ethanol – the alcohol contained in alcoholic beverages had similarities to the metabolic pathways that fructose took.

Excess sugar may shorten your life

A 2013 study estimated that 180,000 deaths worldwide might be attributed to sweetened beverage consumption. The United States alone accounted for 25,000 deaths in 2010.

The study concluded that these deaths occurred due to the association with sugar-sweetened beverages and chronic disease risks such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.


14 Jan, 2014

6 thoughts on “Sugar is the new tobacco

  1. Very good information. I think the consumption of sugar has increased due in part to the food industry making fast food.

    Everybody wants to eat in a hurry because they have so much to do and need to eat quickly. We don’t sit down to meals like our grandparents and parents did with good nourishing food.

    We need the quick fix and of course we’re passing this bad habit on to our children. That’s why there is an increase in the diseases you’ve mentioned here.

    We need to learn to eat a more natural diet with good organic foods like vegetables and fruits.

    1. Thanks Lisa! Yes you’re absolutely right in what you say, but others will probably argue that fresh food costs more than your average processed fast food and for many people that’s simply not do-able.

      If we ate less of the processed fast foods and bought cut price from the less expensive stores we could perhaps move over to fresh food. We also tend to eat a variety of different foods at one meal. That also will cost a fair bit.

      There are chefs out there who are trying to show the public we don’t have to eat expensive to eat good wholesome food and I agree with that. We just have to change the way we buy and look for bargains in store.

      That way we’ll also cut down on our sugar intake and that has to be a good thing.

  2. Yikes, guess I’ll have to work on cutting my intake down, as I have put on quite a bit of weight in the past few years!

    I think I’ll have to wean off slowly considering I think cold turkey would be too rough! Thanks for sharing the information.

    1. Thanks Randy. Yes we start off with good intentions, but then slowly life gets in the way and we let go of ourselves and our diets!

      I am sure any small steps you take will be significant ones Randy, not to mention a great help.

  3. This is such good information and timely as a New Years resolution, as I’m sure we can all cut down on our sugar intake. From the information, it looks like even without adding extra sugar to coffee or cereal, we are greatly exceeding our RDA. Wow!

    That is quite a sobering thought given the health implications.

    1. Yes it takes something like this to show up for us to realise the health implications. I personally get ill from food that contains sugar so I’ve had to make myself aware and very quickly.

      Unfortunately though, this problem will impact everyone’s future health if we don’t act now and reduce the amount of sugar we consume. It will also put more of a strain on the medical profession, which is already crumbling.

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