Wednesday 5 February 2014

Sugar and the Health of the Nation

Last autumn I came across a YouTube video presented by Dr Lustig, a paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California in San Francisco. The presentation was called: Sugar: The Bitter Truth. I posted it on my blog in August and many of you may have seen this. In the last few weeks I have
been interested to see that sugar has once again hit the headlines. A new group has been set up called 'Action on Sugar'. This group believes that it is possible to achieve a reduction in sugar consumption of 20 to 30% over the next 3 to 5 years. They plan to lobby the food industry to achieve this change. It is thought that by reducing sugar consumption by around a quarter the obesity epidemic which is being seen across the nation could be halted or even reversed. Such a reduction in obesity would also go a long way to reduce chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Action on Sugar list the sugar content of some commonly eaten foods and drinks. The figures are quite startling. For example:

Coca-Cola Original 330ml: 9 teaspoons of sugar
Heinz classic tomato soup 300g: 4 teaspoons of sugar
Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream with skimmed milk: 11 teaspoons of sugar

Dr Lustig made five recommendations, which if followed can make a big difference to our personal weight and well-being. Over the past five months, I have been very mindful of his recommendations and have been making a concerted effort to implement them. The recommendations were:

1. Get rid of all sugared liquids from your home or work; only drink water or milk.

2. Eat your carbohydrates with fibre (remember, highly processed food often contains little fibre).

3. If you want a second helping, wait 20 minutes first.

4. Buy your screen time (TV, computer, etc) minutes for minute with physical activities (i.e. 30 minutes of surfing the net cost you 30 minutes of exercise or cleaning or walking, etc).

While making an effort to implement these four points, I have found point 3 to be particularly interesting. It is amazing how after eating a meal I can still feel hungry. However if I wait 20 minutes I feel full. This is because it can take 20 minutes for the hormone leptin to feedback to our brains, letting the brain realise that you are no longer hungry. This is a great tip and another reason why it is important to consume our food more slowly, giving the body the opportunity to realise when it has eaten enough.

I also should mention the value of the 4th point. Regular exercise is so important. I have just bought a copy of the new book written by Dr Michael Mosley called 'fast exercise'. As the title suggests, this book is about exercising, fast. Fast as in taking a short time and fast as in high-intensity. I have not completed the book yet, but I'm sure I will talk about it again sometime soon.You may want to get a copy of it yourself.

Find out more about Action on Sugar here.