Gonzaga: Bitter side of sugar

Ecoviews and Issues

EXCEPT for diligent diet watchers, I presume we all had sugar overload the past month of revelry and celebrations. It was hard not to give in, what with the Negrense wide array of “pastries”—sweet desserts that came in various forms, colors, and richness. Blame the sweet tooth of the Negrense that comes with a great price. I have not checked the latest health statistics for Bacolod, but seven years ago when I started research and writing for Fighting Sickness: Natural & Herbal Way, the city has one of the highest incidence of diabetes, cancer and heart disease in the country.

Yes, sugar is sweet—it is the major life blood of Negros, but do you know that if we have to follow the American Heart Association’s recommendation, no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men should be consumed. But the average Negrense gets way more. It is easy to overdo sugar. Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar, and no nutritional benefit. Add to that a 2 teaspoon sugar added to that delectable “suman sa ibos” for breakfast that comes with coffee with two teaspoons of sweetener, soda at mid-day for snacks with piaya, lunch with hidden sugar in the sauces, another dessert, or natural high sugar from favorite fruits. Afternoon merienda brings added sugar from favorite snacks, and oh, supper likewise contains yet other forms of sugar.

The poor Negrosanon, is not exempt from sugar overload. Through ADs, and habit picked from significant others, they have also picked soda drinking to get the “energy boost”. Worse for others who turn to alcohol for the ‘push’. Sad to say, even the children of the poor have turned to “softdrinks” to fill their stomach for false fill of energy.

But, what happens with sugar overload? Deadly bodily harm in the following forms:

1. Heart Disease. We have no available Filipino data, but in the US, one in 10 Americans gets 1/4 or more of their daily calories from added sugar. If you eat that much, one study found that “you’re more than twice as likely to die from heart disease than someone who gets less than half as much.” It is not clear why this is so. But one explanation points to the extra sugar raising your blood pressure, or releasing more fats into the bloodstream. Both ends can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other heart diseases.

2. Diabetes. Sweet drinks, bottled, canned or mixed like “sa palamig”, can boost your odds for type 2 diabetes. That can happen because when sugar stays in your blood, your body may react by making less of the hormone insulin, which converts the food you eat into energy. Or because of so much sugar in your body, the insulin does not work as well. If you are overweight, losing even 10-15 pounds can help you manage your blood sugar. To be honest, am preaching this to myself.

3. High Blood Pressure. It is usually thought, salt is the culprit for this condition, also called hypertension. But recent studies show that white sugar may be more the culprit. Among Filipinos, add white commercial well milled rice, which acts like white sugar in our bodies. The findings show that sugar raises your blood pressure by making your insulin levels too high—a state that can make your blood vessels less flexible, and cause your kidneys to hold onto water and sodium.

4. High Cholesterol. High sugar diets are bad for your heart, regardless of how much you weigh. Tasty Negrense sweets, cookies, native cakes, señoritas, barquillos, pulvoron, brazos de mercedes, and so many more, can raise blood fats called triglycerides, and hinder the work of an enzyme that breaks them down.

5. Liver Disease. Most packaged foods, snacks, and drinks are sweetened with fructose— simple sugar from fruits or veggies like corn, that our liver turns it into fat. If you regularly consume fructose into your body, tiny drops of fat build up in your liver. This is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Radical diet changes can reverse it. Over time, left unattended, swelling and scarring can damage your liver.

6. Cavities. Remember the dentist’s warning: sugar rots your teeth. But how? By feeding the bacteria in your mouth, leaving behind acid that wears away your tooth enamel. Common offenders are high sweet drinks, dried fruits, candy, and chocolates. Sour candies are no exception, the bare among the worst—almost as acidic as battery acid.

7. Poor Sleep. Consuming too much sugar during the day can raise your blood glucose levels and cause “energy spikes and crashes”—real culprit of heart disease. Commonly, we may struggle to stay awake at work or doze off in class at school. So upon reaching home, we binge on comfort food in the evenings— a bowl of ice cream or cookies, which can pump you with sugar that can keep you awake at night. Or give listless sleep, as sugar residue can also cut short the time you are in deep sleep. Thus, you wake up feeling tired, not refreshed.

8. Mood Problems. Feeling low, even depressed? Your sweet cravings may be a cause. A number of studies have linked sugar and mental health problems. The latest studies showed that men who ate more than 66 grams of sugar a day, (almost double than what is recommended) were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, or depression than men who ate 40 grams or less. Too much sugar could cause depression through swelling, or inflammation in your brain—more common in people suffering from depression.

9. Gout. Painful arthritis is commonly traced from eating too much red meat, organ meats, and lobster. The same goes for fructose, when your body breaks it down, it releases a chemical called purines which can make uric acid build up in your blood, in turn forming hard crystals in your big toe, knees, and other joints.

10. Kidney Stone. As is commonly known now, one gets this when chemicals in their urine turn into solid crystals. Normally, the body flushes out some kidney stones without much pain, but others can get stuck in your kidney or other part of your plumbing and block urine flow. Too much fructose from table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or processed foods, raises your chances for kidney stones.

11. Aging. High sugar drinks as identified previously, may lead to early ageing. As some studies have shown, a DNA called telomeres cap the end of your chromosomes to protect them from damage. Longer telomeres is better, while shortened telomeres may go hand in hand with age-related diseases like diabetes. One study found that people who drink 20 ounces of softdrinks per day have shorter telomeres. Researchers have construed that it would be like adding more than four years to the age of your cells.


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