Sugar is present in the modern diet in a myriad of forms. Not only is it an obvious component of sweet foods such as candy and desserts, sugar also hides in many unexpected places. Many processed foods, including surprising foods such as hot dogs and crackers, contain high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners. We often choose sweetened drinks such as energy drinks, mochas and sodas when we need energy. The Western world has an insatiable sweet tooth, which appears to be affecting our health in a variety of negative ways.
The Harmful Impact of High Sugar Intake
Many of us were told as children not to eat sugar because it is bad for our teeth. While this is true, it also has other deleterious effects. A recent analysis of sugar found that it increases our risk of diabetes, metabolic disorders and even cardiovascular disease. Sugar contributes to obesity because it is high in calories and can cause insulin fluctuations that lead to binge eating. High sugar intake may even have addictive qualities, as people often experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they cut back.
In addition, many people drink high-sugar drinks to re-hydrate. This also may pose a health risk. A recent study found that rats who drank sweetened beverages actually became more dehydrated. In some cases, the dehydration was so severe that it led to permanent damage to vital organs such as the kidneys.
Kicking the sugar habit is challenging because we not only eat it but drink it as well. Many of the drinks we use to give ourselves a needed energy boost are chock full of this sweet health risk.
Are Artificial Sweeteners an Answer?
Soda is one of the largest sources of sugar for many people in the Western world. To cut back on sugar intake, many people choose diet soda and other artificially-sweetened beverages. While this reduces the amount of sugar you are ingesting, artificial sweeteners also may have a health cost. A group of women were followed for years, with scientists tracking their diet and their health. At the end of several years, those who drank both regular and diet soda had a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic syndromes. While the exact reason that artificial sweeteners contribute to disease is unknown, doctors recommend that people looking for flavored alternatives to water instead choose iced tea or water with citrus juice.
We have yet to address the main reason that many people choose soda, coffee drinks, energy drinks and other sugary beverages. Many choose these beverages not just for flavor but for energy.
The Sweetest Epidemic
Diabetes and obesity are a growing health risk not just for adults but also for children. To stop the increase in disease, many experts are considering putting warning labels on sweetened drinks. While many adults may ignore these labels for their own beverages, parents may be reluctant to buy products bearing them for children. Children are taking in more sugar than they did even in 2000, a trend that could have grave consequences as these sugar-addicted tots grow older and are allowed to make their own dietary choices. Making parents and children aware of the health consequences of their favorite drinks could help to instill healthy habits that last a lifetime.
Are you ready to cut back on sugar intake but not sure how to get through the day without it? There are several healthy and natural alternatives for boosting energy. Herbal supplements containing maca, ginseng and other plant medicines can help increase energy while also imparting a variety of positive health benefits. However, when it comes to beverages, water remains the healthiest choice. Americans will need to kick the sugar habit in order to stem the tide of increased obesity and metabolic disease, which will prove a challenge in a society where sweet food and drinks are the norm.