Each year on October 31st, millions of children (an estimated 36 million between the ages of 5 – 13, according to the U.S. Census Bureau) throughout North America dress in costume and go door to door being rewarded with lots of sugary treats in exchange for reciting the phrase “trick or treat.” It is estimated that American consumers purchase approximately 598 million pounds of candy just during the Halloween season each year (estimated retail value $1.9 billion dollars). I don’t think it is a small coincidence that we see significant spikes in the number of children getting colds and influenza at this time of year after reloading their sugar arsenal.
Of course, plenty of adults certainly have their “sweet tooth” as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control:
25.8 million people in the United States (8.3% of the population) have diabetes. Of these, 7.0 million have undiagnosed diabetes.
In 2010, about 1.9 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people aged 20 years or older.
If current trends continue, 1 out of 3 U.S. adults will have diabetes by 2050.
Among adults, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness, kidney failure, and amputations of feet and legs not related to accidents or injury.
Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates in 2007.
A person with diabetes has a shorter life expectancy and about twice the risk of dying on any given day as a person of similar age without diabetes.
Nancy Appleton, PhD, clinical nutritionist, and author of the book “Lick the Sugar Habit,” has compiled a list of 142 other negative effects that sugar has on our bodies. Here are some of them:
|Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection (infectious diseases)|
|Sugar feeds cancer|
|Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease|
|Sugar increases cholesterol|
|Sugar greatly assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida Albicans (yeast overgrowth), which can result in many other health issues|
|Sugar can decrease growth hormone (which can cause us to age and put on weight)|
|Sugar can weaken eyesight|
|Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children|
|Sugar can interfere with the absorption of protein|
|Sugar causes food allergies|
|Sugar can impair the structure of DNA|
|Sugar contributes to osteoporosis|
Unfortunately when you purchase most processed foods today, they contain some form of sugar. When you become a label reader, you will likely find sugar in one of these many forms (this list is not even complete): sugar, confectioner’s sugar, glucose, glucose solids, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, honey, icing sugar, invert sugar, galactose, lactose, sucrose, malt syrup, maltose, maltodextrin, barley malt, jam, maple syrup, molasses, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, corn sugar, beet sugar, palm sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, refiner’s syrup, rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, cane juice crystals, caramel, carob syrup, date sugar, dextran, dextrose, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, treacle, turbinado sugar, diatase, ethyl maltol, alcohol.
Unless you adopt a very restrictive, all natural, whole foods type of diet, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to avoid sugar entirely. However, the first step to improving your diet is by being aware of the many names sugar takes and the multitude of places it can lurk. Knowing the range of damaging effects that it can have on your body may inspire you to begin cutting back a little bit at a time. Honor your body and it will serve you well.