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Could Sugar be Harming Our Bodies Beyond Merely Providing Empty Calories?

Atheer – External Sources

The idea that sugar could be a fundamental cause of global obesity and diabetes epidemics, with severe effects on the human body that go far beyond merely adding empty calories, should be seriously considered.

According to Science Daily, journalist and author Gary Taubes in the BMJ today argues that in the midst of such a huge public health crisis we need to do more to discourage sugar consumption while we improve our understanding of how it can affect us.

Doctors have long suspected that sugar is not simply a source of excess calories, but rather a fundamental cause of obesity and type 2 diabetes, he writes. Until recently, fat consumption and total energy balance have dominated the debate about obesity, as sugar has been largely ignored.

Official estimates are that one in eleven people and one in sixteen in the United States and the United Kingdom respectively have diabetes.

In 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, Margaret Chan, described the obesity and diabetes epedepics as a slow-motion disaster, suggesting that the likelihood of us being able to prevent the current situation from exacerbating was almost impossible.

Taubes asks why, despite all our best efforts, have these epidemics gone unchecked? A simple explanation could be that our understanding of the cause of the disease is flawed.

The past decade has seen a renewed interest in the possibility that calorific sweeteners, particularly sugar and high fructose syrups, have major roles in causing obesity and diabetes, as major public health organisations now recommend significantly restricting consumption of these supposed free sugars.

Taubes argues however that these recommendations only target sugar for its calories rather than as a potential causal agent of disease, proposing that the problem could be the sugar itself.

The evidence that sugar has harmful qualities independent of its calories is still ambiguous, says Taubes. “If it is true though, it changes how we must communicate the dangers of sugar consumption.”

He argues that setting an upper limit to the amount of sugar that should be consumed in a healthy diet is a good start, adding however that we don’t know if the level recommended is safe for everyone.

“It could be that for people who have obesity or diabetes, or both, even a little is too much. Also the ubiquity of sugar rich products may make it difficult for many people to maintain a healthy level of sugar consumption.”

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