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Does sugar consumption cause obesity?

Important Points:

  • Obesity
  • Added sugars
  • Empty calories
  • Chronic disease

Does sugar consumption cause obesity?

Sugar has been vilified over the years with claims of its disastrous effects on our health. Are these claims true? Does drinking a soda a day guarantee one ill health? What of the effects of excess sugar on obesity? Let’s explore these claims and determine whether excessive sugar intake does indeed lead to obesity.

  1. What is obesity?

Obesity rates have skyrocketed over the past century. In 1962, 46 percent of adults in the U.S. were considered overweight or obese. By 2010, that figure had jumped to 75 percent.

So, what exactly is obesity……

Obesity is a complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It is a medical problem that increases your risk of other diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.

  Weight (Pounds) x 703       OR         Weight (Kilograms) 

 
Height (Inches) x Height (Inches)      Height (Meters) x Height (Meters)  

Obesity is diagnosed when your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. To determine your body mass index, use one of these formulas:

BMI =  

BMIWeight status
Below 18.5Underweight
18.5-24.9Normal
25.0-29.9Overweight
30.0 and higherObesity

For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. Because BMI doesn’t directly measure body fat, some people such as muscular athletes may have a BMI in the obesity category even though they don’t have excess body fat.

Sugar and obesity

Obesity is a complex problem with multiple causes. But among the likely suspects, sugar is a top favorite. As sugar consumption has increased, so too has the size of our waistlines.

Added sugars is a controversial and hotly debated topic. Consumption of added sugars has been implicated in increased risk of a variety of chronic diseases including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) as well as cognitive decline and even some cancers, but support for these putative associations has been challenged on a variety of fronts.

The sugars in your diet can be either naturally occurring or additives. Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars are sugars and syrups put in foods during preparation or processing or added at the table.

Numerous dietary and lifestyle habits can lead to weight gain and cause you to put on excess body fat. Consuming a diet high in added sugars, such as those found in sweetened beverages, candy, baked goods, and sugary cereals, is a contributing factor in weight gain and chronic health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Many people consume more sugar than they realize. It’s important to be aware of how much sugar you consume because our bodies don’t need sugar to function properly. Added sugars contribute zero nutrients but many added calories which can lead to extra pounds or even obesity, thereby impacting our health.

The ways in which added sugar intake leads to weight gain and increased body fat are complex and involve many factors.

Factors explaining why added sugar is fattening….

Added sugars are sweeteners added to foods and beverages to improve taste. Common types of added sugar include fructose, corn syrup, cane sugar, and agave. Excess sugar may cause you to pack on weight because it’s high in calories while offering few other nutrients.

Though using small amounts of added sugar is unlikely to cause weight gain, regularly indulging in foods high in added sugars may cause you to gain excess body fat quicker and more drastically.

2. Impacts blood sugar and hormone levels

It’s well known that eating sugary foods significantly raises your blood sugar levels. Though enjoying a sweet food infrequently isn’t likely to harm health, daily consumption of large amounts of added sugar can lead to chronically elevated blood sugar levels. Prolonged elevated blood sugar — known as hyperglycemia — can cause serious harm to your body by causing insulin resistance and resulting weight gain.

3. May lead to overeating

Foods high in added sugars tend to be less filling. Eating foods rich in carbs — particularly refined carbs high in added sugars — yet low in protein can negatively impact fullness and may lead to weight gain by causing you to eat more at subsequent meals throughout the day or overeat at any one particular seating.

Animal studies indicate that fructose impacts signaling systems in your hypothalamus increasing levels of hunger-stimulating neuropeptides — molecules that communicate with one another to influence brain activity — while decreasing fullness signals. Additionally, your body is predisposed to crave sweetness. In fact, research shows that sugar consumption is driven by the pleasure derived from the sweet taste of sugary drinks and foods.

4. Linked to obesity and chronic disease

Numerous studies have linked high intake of added sugars to weight gain and chronic conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. This effect has been observed both in adults and in children. Recently, a review of 30 studies in more than 242,000 adults and children found a significant link between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity.

  • Health problems associated with obesity

People with obesity are more likely to develop a number of potentially serious health problems, including:

  • Heart disease and strokes. Obesity makes you more likely to have high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels which are risk factors for heart disease and strokes.
  • Type 2 diabetes. Obesity can affect the way your body uses insulin to control blood sugar levels raising your risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.
  • Certain cancers. Obesity may increase your risk of cancer of the uterus, cervix, endometrium, ovary, breast, colon, rectum, esophagus, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney and prostate.
  • Digestive problems. Obesity increases the likelihood that you’ll develop heartburn, gallbladder disease, and liver problems.
  • Gynecological and sexual problems. Obesity may cause infertility and irregular periods in women. Obesity also can cause erectile dysfunction in men.
  • Sleep apnea. People with obesity are more likely to have sleep apnea, a potentially serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
  • Osteoarthritis. Obesity increases the stress placed on weight-bearing joints and promotes inflammation within the body. These factors may lead to complications such as osteoarthritis.
  • Obesity’s affect on quality of life

People who are obese often find themselves struggling with some issues that might diminish their overall quality of life. Some of these issues might include:

  • Depression
  • Disability
  • Sexual problems
  • Shame and guilt
  • Social isolation
  • Lower work achievement
  • How to avoid obesity

Whether you’re at risk of obesity, currently overweight, or at a healthy weight, you can take steps to prevent unhealthy weight gain and related health problems.

  • Exercise regularly. You need to get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, such as swimming or fast walking, to prevent weight gain.
  • Follow a healthy-eating plan. Focus on low-calorie, nutrient-dense unprocessed real foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, and some grains. Avoid industrial seed oils (vegetable oil) and refined sugars, and limit alcohol. Eat two to three regular meals a day with no snacking in between.
  • Know and avoid the food traps that cause you to eat. Identify situations that trigger out-of-control eating. Try keeping a journal and write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you’re feeling, and how hungry you are; awareness helps you stay in control of your eating behaviors.
  • Monitor your weight regularly. People who weigh themselves at least once a week are more successful in keeping off excess pounds.
  • Be consistent. Stick to your healthy weight plan all the time.
  • So, is sugar friend or foe?

The above information shows us how added sugars interferes with your hormones, increases hunger, and displaces healthy foods leading to weight gain. Excess body fat significantly increases your risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Therefore, it is wise to consume added sugars with caution as being proactive is better than reacting.

References

  1. Endocrineweb (2018): Insulin Resistance Causes and Symptoms, Retrieved from

https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/type-2-diabetes/insulin-resistance-causes-symptoms

  • Healthline (2019):6 Ways Added Sugar Is Fattening. Retrieved from

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/does-sugar-make-you-fat#section1

  • American Heart Association (2018): Added Sugars. Retrieved from

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars

  • NCBI (2016): Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding. Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133084/

  • John Hopkins Medicine (2019): Obesity, Sugar and Heart Health. Retrieved from

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/obesity-sugar-and-heart-health

  • Mayo Clinic: Obesity. Retrieved from

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obesity/symptoms-causes/syc-20375742