Oh but I love sugar!
Nicolett Weston, FNP
"But I love sugar!" This is the protest I received from my 5
year old when I denied him the brightly packaged, age-appealing, and sugar
filled drink he had his eye on. Sound familiar? We have a problem. Americans
consume more sugar- primarily in the form of sugary drinks than any other
country. We are bombarded with marketing for these tasty drinks everywhere.
These companies spend a lot of money marketing to children in particular.
Not only that, they are available in larger portions than ever before.
What you drink makes a bigger difference to your health than you think.
Calories in drinks are not hidden, but many people don't realize just
how many calories beverages can contribute to their daily intake. Soda
is usually the target of these conversations, so let's use it as a
quick example. There are approximately 16-20 teaspoons of sugar in 20
oz. of most sodas. The average can of sugar-sweetened soda or fruit punch
provides about 150 calories, almost all of them from sugar. Drinking one
soda a day can equal an extra 15 pounds of weight per year. However, sodas
aren't the only source of liquid sugar that you should steer clear
from. There are multiple beverages claiming to be 100 percent "all
natural" juice, "healthy" teas or juices, energy drinks
or sports drinks. These are also loaded with sugar and empty calories.
High sugar intake can be harmful to your health and may lead to obesity,
heart disease and diabetes. Not to mention tooth decay, low energy, and
if the drink is also caffeinated include insomnia, palpitations, and even
high blood pressure to the list of unfavorable side effects.
On average, Americans consume nearly 50 gallons of soft drinks each per
year. We are in an obesity epidemic and high sugar drinks are huge contributors
to this problem. This is likely due to the fact that liquid calories go
down easily and quickly. People who drink sugary beverages do not feel
as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid foods, and majority
of people don't compensate for their high caloric content by eating
less food. You do not get the same feeling of fullness after drinking
200 calories of a liquid as you do from eating whole foods. Therefore
you keep eating and even tend to eat more as the day goes on. These drinks
often stimulate an appetite for other sweet, high-carbohydrate foods-regardless
of whether they are sweetened with sugar or a calorie-free sugar substitute.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), two out of three adults
and one out of three children in the United States are overweight or obese.
The nation spends an estimated $190 billion a year treating obesity-related
health conditions. It's only going to get worse unless we change our
habits and choices, especially when it comes to our kids. Over the past
20 years, calories consumed in the form of sugary beverages has increased
by 60 percent in children ages 6 to 11. The Harvard School of Public health
reports that sugary drinks are the top calorie source in teens' diets.
These are empty calories with no significant nutritional value. Beverage
companies in the United States spend billions of dollars marketing carbonated
beverages, with a significant portion of marketing aimed directly at youth.
Our youth are exposed to hundreds of television ads, billboards, and in
the case of my little guy- the fancy displays.
The extra calories may not be the worst part. The steady stream of sugar
in our bodies increases the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure,
unhealthy lipid profiles, inflammation, and heart disease. Diets high
in sugar are associated with increased insulin resistance, which is related
to diabetes, as well as increased levels of inflammatory markers that
are known to raise chronic disease risks.
The inflammation may affect arterial plaque buildup and clots, which can
lead to heart disease and stroke. There are some experts who feel that
consumption of high sugar and carbonated beverages exacerbate chronic
pain syndromes including arthritis, migraine and headaches, and syndromes
such as fibromyalgia. In addition, these drinks often also contain red
and yellow dyes, carmel color, and other ingredients that could exacerbate
many different conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Does this mean we can only drink water? No, of course not. Pay attention
to what you are drinking and read the labels. Many drinks claim to have
vitamins, antioxidants, and other healthy ingredients but are often loaded
with sugar. Do you have to cut them out completely? No, but you can try
this. Think of these drinks- soda, fruit juices, lemonades, sweetened
teas, energy drinks, and sports drinks -as desert. Like any desert, you
can have them in moderation. Save the calories. Enjoy them as a treat
once in a while. There are plenty of healthy and tasty alternatives. Change
one drink at a time. If you are having a hard time giving up the high
sugar drinks- start slowly. Add slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon
to your water. You can always substitute for sparkling water. Make your
own unsweetened tea while incorporating mint or other herbs for flavor.
Carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day. Encourage your
kids to make the same changes. Make healthier choices as a family. Limiting
your consumption of sugar containing drinks is an easy way to reduce calories,
prevent weight gain or lose unwanted weight, and prevent multiple health
problems. Not to mention, you will feel better!
Join us at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital for a free Cholesterol Screening
and Health Fair on Saturday, visit the "Rethink Your Drink"
booth to learn more about health beverages. See you on May 9, 2015 from
7:00am to Noon. For more information visit www.mdmh.org
Questions and or comments regarding this week's health column please
contact Nicolett Weston, FNP at Corvallis Family Medicine, a Marcus Daly
Memorial Hospital owned clinic, 1037 Main Street, Corvallis, MT 59828.
Working together to build a healthier community!