Why we should lay off sugar

Pharmacist and diet pioneer warns against the sweet white stuff

15 May 2019

Too much sugar is bad for you!

When it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, sugar is one of the biggest public enemies as a diet that is high in sugar leads to a constant release of insulin.

“It is important for us to keep our sugar intake at a minimum as an excess of sweetened foods and beverages can affect our health negatively,” SA pharmacist and diet pioneer Gert Coetzee says.

He says a high level of circulating insulin eventually leads to insulin resistance which can cause type 2 diabetes.

Not only this but obesity rates are rising worldwide and added sugar is thought to be one of the main culprits.

Excess sugar can cause weight gain as it is high in calories while offering few nutrients such as minerals, vitamins and protein that the body needs to function at optimum.

Coetzee says drinking a lot of sugary beverages – for example energy drinks and sodas – is linked to an increase in visceral fat, which is deep belly fat associated with conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Consuming too much added sugar also increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, inflammation and atherosclerosis (a disease characterised by fatty, artery clogging deposits).

The sugar tax implemented by the SA government on all sweetened drinks and is in part aimed at encouraging people to consume less sugar.

Coetzee warns that added sugars can appear in many unexpected foods, so checking the contents of food before buying it is one way to avoid consuming too much sugar.

It can be hard to know if a product contains sugar as sugar comes in different forms. Ingredients such as cane sugar, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, glucose, fructose, honey, sucrose and malt extract are all forms of sugar.

Coetzee lists reasons why he believes we should stay away from sugar:

  • Sugar damages your immune system, as consuming too much sugar curbs the immune system cells that attack bacteria. This hinders the body’s ability to fight infections and diseases. The liver uses one type of sugar (fructose) to produce fat. When too much fructose enters the liver, it gets turned into fat that can ultimately lead to liver disease.
  • Sugar may increase your risks of developing certain cancers. A diet that is rich in sugary foods can lead to obesity, inflammation and insulin resistance which are all risk factors for cancer.
  • Sugar causes insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes. When uncontrolled amounts of glucose can’t be used properly by the body, the pancreas starts to secrete insulin in order to remove it from the bloodstream which can cause the body to become insulin resistant. When the body becomes insulin resistant, the pancreas can’t do its job properly anymore which contributes to type 2 diabetes.
  • Sugar is empty calories with no nutritional value and consuming too much of it can rob your body of essential minerals. This can weaken the bones and teeth, leading to osteoporosis and tooth decay.

Sugar intake can cause essential minerals such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium to be drained from the body.