Killing Effects of Sugar Stars on Interactive Website
Sugar affects at least 11 different major systems in your body. Continue reading →
There's no way around it. Sugar is bad for you. A new interactive website shows you just how bad and the developers hope their tool will encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles.
If you're anything like the average American, you eat pounds and pounds of refined sugar. According to the USDA, the average person consumes 150 to 170 pounds annually. A healthy amount is not more than 36 pounds per year.
That means you need to keep the sugar down to between 25 grams and 37.5 grams per day.
Since sugar is in just about every kind of processed food, many people don't even realize how much they're eating. But this interactive tool could be the eye-opener that gets folks to start reading labels.
The tool comes from The Benenden Healthcare Society in York, England. Users can chose to look at the effects of sugar on a man, woman or five-year-old child.
Right away, you might guess that too much sugar can cause weight gain and also tooth decay. But sugar affects at least 11 different major systems in your body. The tool lets you peruse those various systems, such as the brain (anxiety, depression, memory loss); skin (wrinkles); circulatory (high blood pressure); and digestive (cramps and bloating); to name a few.
What's particularly disturbing is seeing how it affects young children. Sugar can weaken the immune system and bones and destroy vitamin D and calcium.
Anyone who consumes too much sugar is at risk for developing diabetes.
"Sugar is a food that is often hard to resist, and cutting sugar out of your diet can be challenging," John Giles Medical Director at Benenden said in a press statement.
But the hope is that more information will lead to better decisions.
Added sugars in foods should make up less than 10 percent of daily calories, said US government dietary guidelines issued Thursday that for the first time urged specific limits on sweets. The guidelines, which are released every five years by the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, aim to address a widespread issue of obesity in the United States. More than one-third of adult Americans -- or nearly 79 million people -- are obese. While this is the first time the U.S. government has officially recommended limiting sugar intake, research on the ill effects of the sweet stuff have been out a while. Take a look at some of the more surprising facts about sugar in the slides ahead.
According to 2012 statistics compiled by the U.S. Agriculture Department, the keeper of the statistics on America's sweet tooth, the grand total amount of sugar consumed by the average American is 76.7 pounds every year. That breaks down to 22 teaspoons of sugar a day per person. Much of that comes from unexpected sources, such as in cranberries and Clamato juice, as "Last Week Tonight" host
. The total annual figure is down from previous studies that estimated we consume 95 to 100 pounds of sugar each year. Still, 75 pounds is a lot of sugar.
A May 2012 study showed that eating a diet high in fructose over a long period of time can impair your brain's ability to learn and then remember information. The research,
was done on rats, but our brains are similar enough to the rodents that the findings extend to humans. There is hope: the same research found that eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (including salmon and flaxseed oil) can counteract the effect.
This is a tough one to believe if you've witnessed kids near the end of a cake and ice cream party. Sugar sure seems to have a buzzing effect on kids (and adults). But according a 1994
sugary diet does not have an adverse effect on the behavior or cognitive skills of children. Sugar does, however, change one thing: parents' expectations. A
by the National Institutes of Health found that after hearing their children had just eaten a lot of sugar, parents were more likely to say their kid was hyperactive -- even when the supposed sugar fix was actually a placebo.
If it's brown, it's better for you than white, right? Maybe when it comes to rice and, in most cases, bread, but not so much when it comes to sugar. Brown sugar is actually just refined white sugar with molasses added. While molasses adds a touch more minerals to each spoonful (calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium), those amounts are so scarce they hardly justify the calories.
Speaking of brown, brown bread may not always be all that it's made out to be. Brown bread is, in general, more nutritious than white bread. Brown breads made from whole wheat usually contain more fiber than white bread, as well as higher amounts of important nutrients such as vitamins B-6 and E, magnesium, folic acid, copper, zinc and manganese. That said, an
, found that five of 15 surveyed brown loaves contained a form of added sugar that was not present in white bread loaves. Bread manufacturers explained the added sugar was meant to counteract the "bitter" taste of wholemeal flour. They argued that the added sugar amounts was negligible. Nonetheless, the findings are food for thought.
This one is a little complicated -- and surprising. It's known that wildflowers generally don't stand a good chance of lasting in a given field of grasses. That's because most grasses grow so aggressively that they quickly outcompete the less hardy newcomers. One way to change the equation, found a
, is to add sugar to the soil. The researchers (who were based in Estonia) added 1 kilogram of sugar per square meter every year for 10 years. The sugar, it turns out, lends microbes in the soil a boost, and since microbes, too are competing with the established plants for carbon, the established plants grow more slowly. Since it's generally easier to compete with microbes than with established grassy plants, the sugar treatment leaves room for pretty flowers to take root. So sprinkle sugar in a grassy field and more wildflowers will grow.
Eating high-sugar foods lights up your brain on an MRI in the same areas that are triggered by cocaine or heroin, according to research by Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children's Hospital. His findings support earlier research on rats that showed how addictive the sweet stuff can be. A 2007
that showed that 94 percent of rats that were allowed to choose between sugar water and cocaine, chose sugar. Even rats who were addicted to cocaine switched their preference to sugar, once it was offered as a choice.