Sugar has been the subject of bad health for decades. Many people will, without hesitating, link excessive sugar with weight gain and tooth decay. For a long time it been a proven medical fact that an excessive amount of sugar is unhealthy, but now research is suggesting too much of the sweet stuff is bad for us in other ways, including being linked to high blood pressure and hypertension.
Evidence published this week in Open Heart, an online journal dedicated to research in all areas of cardiovascular medicine, suggests it is sugar, more than salt, which contributes to high blood pressure. It reports basic science, population studies and clinical trials now show added sugars are likely to have a greater role than salt in causing high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes.
“Dietary approaches to lower high blood pressure have historically focused on cutting salt intake. But the potential benefits of this approach are debatable, the report says. “Sugar may be much more meaningfully related to blood pressure than sodium (salt).”
Despite any sudden fears of sugar you may have, it is important to remember we need sugar for good health. The World Sugar Research Organisation says, sugar is an “important source of food energy.” It is important for the cells in our body to function. Without it, our bodies would cease to function properly.
Scientists often divide sugars into two groups: intrinsic and extrinsic. The European Food Information Council explains that intrinsic sugars are those that are naturally within the cellular structure of food and are mainly found in fruits and vegetables. Extrinsic sugars are those which are free in food or added to it. Extrinsic sugars are further divided into milk sugars (lactose) and NMEs (non-milk extrinsic sugars). NMEs includes table sugar, honey, glucose syrups and fruit juices.
Besides causing teeth decay, excess extrinsic sugar can also be responsible for excessive inflammation of the body organs, including the kidneys, advance cellular aging, and neuronal defects which can affect memory. More commonly, eating foods containing extrinsic sugars can contribute to you becoming overweight. This can increase the risk of developing health conditions, such heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
How Much Sugar Per Day?
The recommended daily amount of sugar in the UK is for no more than 11% of a person’s daily food calories to come from added sugars. This works out at about 50g of sugar for a woman and 70g for a man, depending on how active they are.
However, the government’s 2014 National Diet and Nutrition Survey, showed the recommended daily sugar intake of 11% was being exceeded by many people of different age groups. The good news is that this did not include the over 50s, with the majority of the age group only just nudging over the recommended 11% levels.
Earlier this year, UK government scientists halved the recommended amount, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) saying people should not exceed more than 5% of their daily calories from the sweet stuff.
Controlling Your Sugar Intake
It is important to make sure we get natural intrinsic sugars into our diet, but, like extrinsic sugars, they should be controlled. So try not to eat a lot of fruit each day to keep a balance of this sugar in your diet.
To control your daily levels of the sweet stuff it is best to avoid extrinsic sugars as best you can. Don’t make eating cakes, chocolates, biscuits and sweets a regular habit, just enjoy them as an occasional treat. Such indulgences can be tempting, especially at this time of year, with the traditional Christmas desserts and chocolate treats filling the supermarket shelves, so try not make them available in the home. That way you can avoid any temptation.