The UK’s new tax is aimed at reducing obesity in children. Too much sugar can cause obesity in children and adults, but it also increases the risk for many other serious diseases. These range from heart disease to cancer. Sugar’s calories are only part of what is causing the problem.
Insulin is equally important. Insulin is produced by the pancreas when glucose levels in the blood increase. This insulin opens the cells’ doors to let glucose in. Too many sugary foods can raise blood glucose levels, which causes the pancreas to produce more insulin. As a result of the constant bombardment of insulin, the cells alter their locks to make the insulin key ineffective. As the cells become desensitized, blood sugar levels increase and the pancreas produces more insulin. The dangerous condition of high blood sugar and insulin can go undiagnosed and cause many diseases, even in people with normal weight.
Why is elevated insulin and glucose so dangerous? High blood sugar is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Free radicals are also produced, which can damage blood vessels. Three meals per day is a tradition that allows antioxidants time to repair damage. Snacking on sugary food may lead to less respite. This increases the risk of heart attacks.
No reprieve. www.shutterstock.com
Insulin, glucose’s partner, is also a “fertilizer,” promoting cell growth and increasing the likelihood that a normal cellular will become cancerous. Raised insulin levels have been linked to a variety of cancers and could be a risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer. The double whammy that is high in insulin and high in glucose can be a major driver of disease.
Prediabetes is a medical term that has been coined because of the health implications of elevated blood sugar. One report claims that has tripled in the UK since 2003. Most people don’t know that they have this condition and take no action to correct it. Prediabetes is more common in obese people, but 25% of prediabetic individuals are of normal body weight.
About one in twenty people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes each year. A recent review of many studies found that prediabetes was also associated with a small but significant increase in the risk of several different cancers. The public’s health is greatly affected by detecting and treating prediabetes. The NHS Health Check, an NHS prevention program for people aged 40-74, detects prediabetes and allows patients to reverse the condition by adopting healthier lifestyles. It is better to adopt a healthy lifestyle and prevent diabetes from occurring.
Sugary foods and drinks are a great way to prevent high blood sugar and insulin. Sugar added to processed food is especially harmful. Fruits are high in sugar, but they also contain fiber. Fiber reduces blood glucose levels by slowing stomach emptying. Sugary drinks do not provide this feeling of fullness. Sugary drinks are void of nutrition and vitamins, but fruit is a good source of vitamins. Fruit (but not juice) has been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
You can also reduce blood sugar spikes by eating sweets only after consuming foods high in fiber, such as cereals, vegetables, or beans. Other plant foods contain natural chemicals that block glucose absorption in the gut. The best example is apples. My research has shown that onions contain chemicals that can lower spikes in blood sugar. The ability of plant foods to lower blood sugar may be one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so effective in managing and preventing diabetes, despite its sweet foods.
The makers of sugary drinks are now complaining that the new tax is a victim to their products. Many other sources of sugar contribute to the epidemic. Food manufacturers should not reduce their sugary products but rather reformulate them.