Healthy Eating

The obesity epidemic- Sugar is not Sugar anymore


It’s human nature to pass on the blame and justify your actions even if it is something as simple as “overeating because it tastes so good”. Some people blame their genetics and some blame the environment along with all the tempting food products that are readily available today. It might be a combination of both (and much more). What is important is to understand that the obesity epidemic is spreading across the globe and not just in the United States. Also, having no clue on how to possible bring it under control; it only continues to quadruple at a rapid pace. Over the last 3 decades, our average sizes and weights have sky rocketed. For instance, we now weigh on average 30 pounds more than what our ancestors did only as far as 30 years ago. Certainly our genes didn’t evolve at that rapid a pace, so it has to be the environment.
High fructose corn sugar was invented in a laboratory in Japan, as a sugar that was sweeter, and cheaper. Thus it soon became the miracle molecule for the food industry and since then our health has only gown downhill. As the name suggests, high-fructose corn sugar is “FRUCTOSE” and I would call it the “bad sugar”. It is no doubt very sweet, but also has negative health benefits. Slowly and surely, this high-fructose corn syrup has made its way into almost 100% of our food products in our grocery stores. If you look closely in your aisle for “breads”, among the 20 + varieties available, it would be rare to find even 1 that has no artificial corn sugar. Even your favorite soda with zero calories would be loaded with it. Ideally, since this form of sugar is much sweeter, one would expect that all of our current food items would have it in smaller amounts. However that is not true. This is because high fructose corn sugar is also very cheap and now very easy to make. From the manufacturer point of view, and keeping production costs to the minimum, they create products with longer shelf life and that can be mass-produced. In the process, they compromise on the taste due to the addition of a large number of preservatives (in the form of sodium).

These things would probably taste as bland as cardboard. To counter that, they get loaded up with sugar- the cheap and sweet bad sugar. Now the end consumers, not only ingest large amounts of unnecessary sodium (salts) but also artificial sugar, which is not as friendly with our metabolism.
Going into the biochemistry of food and its basic components, the major culprits are sodium and sugar. Sucrose, the good sugar, is very low in sweetness and is rarely used commercially.  Glucose is the energy currency of our body at the cellular level and most natural sugars have glucose. Fructose is the one that is not as easily absorbed and is metabolized in our bodies the same way as alcohol, which means it gets directly converted to fat (and not glucose).  Not only that, but this artificial fructose also alters the hunger-satiety balance in human body. Ghrelin initiates hunger signals, and after a full meal, leptin signals satiety and mediated by the brain, sends a signal to stop eating. Food items loaded with high fructose corn syrup, completely mask this hormonal balance. For instance, consuming a can of soda, having atleast 150-200 calories should give you a feeling of fullness atleast to some extent, but it does not. The sugar in these kind of drinks go undetected by leptin, and are still hungry. At the same time, high sodium in such drinks, makes you more thirsty so you tend to gulp down this bottle of soda much faster and in much greater quantities, which is usually bigger than the ideal portion size of a meal. Hence, more calories.
The end result- loading up of countless calories, body fat and body weight- and thus Obesity. Of course there are many more factors, but artificial sugars have most certainly had the most drastic impact. How do we stay away from this? For starters, look closely into our refrigerators and its contents and replace tins and cans with fresh raw materials.


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