Sugar Awareness Week: What are the risks of sugar on our health?

In recent years, there’s been a growing concern surrounding sugar and the impact it has on our health, with many likening the sweet-tasting soluble carbohydrate to an addictive drug just as dangerous as cocaine. At the very heart of this discussion is Action on Sugar, a proactive charity based at Queen Mary University of London, working hard to reach an agreement with the British food industry and government on the harmful effects of a high-sugar diet, while also bringing about a reduction in the amount of sugar contained in processed foods.

As part of this mission, they organise an annual Sugar Awareness Week to inform the public, which will run from the 12th to 18th November this year. This provides an opportunity to both celebrate the progress made so far, and look at practical solutions for an even less sugar-saturated future. This year, the theme of the awareness week will be ‘Eating Out’, as the charity strives for clearer nutrition labelling on menus in restaurants, partnered with a crackdown on the portion size, sugar and calories of dishes.

Sugar Awareness Week runs from the 12th to 18th November this year

But should we really shudder at the sight of sugar? The key to a healthier lifestyle is understanding how it plays a part in your own, unique nutrigenic profile. At Qlu Health, our NutriQlu nutrition test has the power to provide insights into your personal dietary requirements and eating habits, including your body’s sugar preference and saturated fat content caused by high sugar consumption. Before you embark on this state-of-the-art process, it’s important to familiarise yourself with some of the most common risks of sugar, as well as a few which might be unfamiliar. Spoiler: they extend far further than tooth decay and weight gain.

Sink your teeth in

This one goes without saying – we all know from those many trips to the dentist’s chair that sugar found in fizzy drinks and sweet treats is the main culprit for tooth decay. This occurs when bacteria in the mouth feed on consumed sugar to produce acids which cause protective enamel to rot. The most basic steps towards preventing cavities, toothache and the threat of tooth loss are cutting your consumption of sugary snacks, and brushing your teeth thoroughly after you do indulge in something sweet.

Tip the scales

If you struggle with your weight, one of the first things you should do is minimise the quantity of sugar contained in your diet, as sugar contains around four calories per gram without any nutrients, and these excess calories are stored in the body as fat. To delve deeper into this common health concern, it’s worth breaking down the contrasting roles of two types of sugars: although you won’t be able to differentiate between them using your taste buds, your body does process them differently.

On one hand, glucose is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle as it is used in the production of energy, while fructose, a sugar added to many fruit-flavoured drinks, is only metabolised in the liver and produces more fat. Overall, a high-sugar diet and obesity are interlinked and both increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes – a lifelong condition that causes blood sugar levels to soar when the hormone insulin is unable to regulate the amount of glucose in your blood.

If you’re unsure of your own cardiovascular disease risk factors, take our CardiacQlu test for personalised information on heart-related conditions and suggestions on how you can reduce the risks for yourself.

Change of heart

What’s most worrying about weight gain caused by sugar is that it can have a knock-on effect on more harmful health conditions. It’s been scientifically proven that those who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure than people with an average, healthy weight. If you’re unsure of your own cardiovascular disease risk factors, take our CardiacQlu test for personalised information on heart-related conditions and suggestions on how you can reduce the risks for yourself.

Older, not wiser

These days, there are so many anti-ageing creams and cosmetic procedures available on the market to keep you looking fresh and youthful, but did you know that your diet plays a part in premature physical ageing when sugar clings onto protein in the body? If you like to sweeten your morning coffee with a sachet or two of sugar, think twice because saying goodbye to that habit once and for all could make you look five years younger in the long run.

More stress than good

One of the main reasons why we snack on sugary food and drink is that it tastes good, so we mentally associate sugar with feeling fantastic too. This is a slippery slope though – the rush we get from a sugar fix after a doughnut or chocolate bar is always followed by a crash when insulin and stress hormones work to stabilise your body’s sugar levels. Side effects of this are feelings of irritability, sluggishness and the so-called ‘sugar shakes’, along with physical stress on the part of the brain which monitors your memory.

Now that we’ve outlined the main health concerns coupled with a high-sugar diet you might be wondering how to get that sweet tooth under control once and for all, but stay calm if you’re someone who can’t get enough of the sweet stuff – we’re dedicated to giving you valuable, positive insights into how to manage your health, so keep your eyes peeled on the QluHealth blog during Sugar Awareness Week for more information on nutritious sugar alternatives, and when sugar can be beneficial.


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