In ancient times, sugar was regarded not as something to be avoided but rather as a cure-all for anything that ailed you. In every culture, sweetness has a symbolism related to goodness. It was valued so highly partly because it was so rare, obtainable mostly in tiny quantities as honey. Now, we demonize it, and yet we can’t seem to stop gorging on it. Few plants have caused more human misery than sugar cane — through obesity, tooth decay, and Type 2 diabetes. Yet despite everything we now know about the harm caused by sugar and other modern sweeteners, such as high-fructose corn syrup, it never stops being something we seem to delight in.
There’s no doubt that sugar adds to the prevalence of obesity in America. Therefore, every food product that includes sugar may be contributing to the scope and costs of the obesity epidemic, accelerating the volume of premature deaths among millions of people in the United States.
Obesity and overweight rates have steadily grown. Type 2 diabetes, once unheard of among kids or even young adults, now is an increasingly common diagnosis among children. Obesity and obesity-related diseases have become the world’s leading killer.
Fortunately, sugar affects all of us differently, and for many people it is neither addictive or deadly. Just like many other substances that carry inherent risk, sugar can be safely used in moderation by most people without wreaking havoc on their lives or contributing to their premature deaths.
While calories from any food have the potential to increase the risk of obesity and other cardiometabolic diseases, nutrition researchers agree that sugar-sweetened beverages play a unique role in chronic health problems. The disease risk increases even when the beverages are consumed within diets that do not result in weight gain.
Doctors have long suspected sugar is not simply a source of excess calories but a fundamental cause of obesity and type 2 diabetes. But until recently, fat consumption and total energy balance have dominated the debate about obesity and the nature of a healthy diet.
Official estimates are that one in 11 people in the United States has diabetes, and latest estimates suggest that obesity and diabetes may now cost the US healthcare system as much as 1 billion dollars per day. In 2016, World Health Organization (WHO) director general Margaret Chan described the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes worldwide as a “slow-motion disaster” — and suggested that the likelihood of preventing the current “bad situation” from getting “much worse” was “virtually zero.”
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, and major public health organizations are now recommending strict limits to the consumption of these sugars. Much of the current discussion about sugar focuses on the effects of excess energy intake and weight gain, and the subsequent risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and some forms of dementia. But while being overweight or obese increases your risk of these diseases, excess weight is not a prerequisite.
While the development of diseases is no doubt also based on genes and lifestyle factors other than diet, the evidence of the potential harms of high-sugar diets is accumulating. It’s certainly compelling enough for many to consider limiting how much sugar we eat and drink. Whether or not the sugar itself is the culprit, sugary foods are linked to health problems, and that should be reason enough to cut down.
If you’re looking for ways to treat severe obesity, schedule an appointment with VIPSurg. Drs. Tsuda and Ryan and their team of experts can help find the right treatment for you.