Is Sugar the New Fat?

Last March, the World Health Organization (WHO) presented the following new guideline to sugar intake: “In both adults and children, the intake of free sugars should be reduced to less than 10 per cent of total energy intake and a further reduction to below five per cent of total energy intake provides additional health benefits.”

Free sugars refer to sugars that are added to food, as opposed to the natural sugar that exists in fruits and vegetables, which is not as unhealthy.

The WHO says that limiting your sugar intake will decrease your risk of obesity, which is associated with heart attack, as well as stroke, certain cancers and dental cavities. Glucose is a simple sugar that is an essential energy source for humans. But not all sugar is created equal.

The recommended calories per day depend on one’s age and gender. For example, an average male between the ages of 51 and 70 years of age should take in between 2,150 and 2,650 calories per day, depending on how active he is, and an average woman in the same age group between 1,650 to 2,100 calories. Do some simple math: 10 per cent of 2,000 is 200 calories, which is about 50 grams of sugar.

What most people don’t realize is that there is also added sugar in such foods as bread, pizza, salad dressing, flavoured yogurt and ketchup. In general, “real” foods, like fruits and vegetables, are the best sources of sugar.

And although the sugar in fruit is okay, that in fruit juice or punch is not because it is ingested without the benefit of the other components of fruit, especially the fibre.

And there’s the rub: fibre slows down the absorption of sugar and thereby decreases the unhealthy spikes in our blood glucose levels. There is extra concern about high fructose corn syrup, a type of added sugar found in many cakes and pastries, because it may cause weight gain and is associated with a fatty liver.

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