Bad habits: In the space of 150 years, we have gone from eating no added sugar to more than a kilogram a week. *MCT Photo
Bad habits: In the space of 150 years, we have gone from eating no added sugar to more than a kilogram a week. *MCT Photo

Debbie Jones is currently a vice president of the International Diabetes Federation and a diabetes nurse educator at the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Diabetes Education Centre. She writes a monthly diabetes column for the Bermuda Sun to help educate people about one of the island’s biggest killers.


 

Back in the 70’s, Dr John Yudkin provided the evidence the consumption of sugar and refined sweeteners was associated with coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 

His research studies showed that sugar raised blood triglyceride and insulin levels resulting in weight gain.

John Yudkin was a physician, as well as a nutritionist. He called sugar “sweet and dangerous.” 

He conducted his research on rodents, chickens, rabbits, pigs and college students and found that consuming sugar raised triglyceride levels, which are a known risk factor for heart disease. Sugar also raised insulin levels, linking sugar to type 2 diabetes.

Back in the 1970’s, no one took Dr Yudkin seriously and it was not until the mid 2000’s that sugar was once more looked at as a cause of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In the space of one hundred and fifty years, we have gone from eating no added sugar to more than a kilogram a week. 

Obesity

The obesity rate has doubled in the past ten years. The more sugar we eat, the more we want to eat and the food manufacturers are managing to put sugar in everything from bread to the barbecue sauce, ketchup and salad dressings, not to mention sugary drinks.

It’s the added sugar. What do we mean by added sugar? You can only tell if an item has added sugar if it has a food label, so that means the food is processed. Fresh fruits and vegetables do not have a food label! So when you pick up an item in the grocery store, look at the sugar content on the label and always remember to look at the serving size because the label is only referring to one serving. The amount of sugar is the amount of sugar that the food manufacturer has added to the product. Four grams is one teaspoon.

The American Heart Association’s 2009 guidelines suggest women have no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day and a man no more than nine teaspoons. So this means if a soda contains ten teaspoons of sugar, and a fruit drink contains twelve teaspoons, you should not have it. Water is best.

The trouble is, of course, we like the taste of sugar and the more sugar we eat the more we want to eat. 

Therefore, we have to start thinking more about the food we are eating and make a conscious effort to eat foods that are healthy. 

So in thinking about breakfast, what about eating a fresh orange instead of juice and eating a bowl of oatmeal rather than sweetened cold cereal? 

For lunch, a sandwich or salad, and of course, a glass of refreshing water is a good choice. 

Dinner should include fresh vegetables, and again, a glass of water.

What we are saying is - get back to basics. We need to start eating the way our grandparents did and stop eating processed foods and drinking sugary drinks. No one is suggesting this is going to be easy, because processed foods are readily available, convenient and cheap. 

It takes time to cook a healthy meal and taste buds need to be reprogrammed to enjoy water. However, the benefits are worth it. Being healthy and enjoying life has to be more important than eating junk food and being sick.