As an increasing percentage of our calories have been sourced from processed foods – over a number of decades – the average amount of sugar consumed by individuals per year has skyrocketed. Processed foods contain a number of unhealthy ingredients, but perhaps none have been as detrimental to our collective health as added sugars.
There’s almost no escaping them. Refined sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, are added to nearly every processed food offered to consumers today.
Combine this with the fact that nearly 80% of the calories consumed by the average American comes from processed foods and it isn’t that surprising that sugar consumption has doubled in the last 100 years.
In the year 1822, every 5 days people were consuming an amount of sugar contained in just one of today’s 12 ounce sodas. Today, the average person is consuming this much sugar every 7 hours! 1
Unsurprisingly, obesity rates have increased in lockstep fashion with the increase in sugar consumption over the years: 2
Average sugar consumption in the U.S. and U.K. has increased from around 35 kilograms per year to 70 kilograms per year since 1900. Obesity rates have increased from 3% to over 40% over the same time span.
While it isn’t fair to place all the blame for the obesity epidemic on sugars being added to our food, it’s more than fair to give it the lion’s share.
Excess sugar consumption damages the metabolism, throws hormones out of whack, wreaks havoc on the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, directly contributes to the accumulation of belly fat, is inflammatory, raises high-density LDL cholesterol (i.e. the bad type), causes arteries to clog, leads to heart disease, and greatly increases the risk of developing cancer.
One of the reason sugars are particularly problematic, particularly as it pertains to refined sugars, is that they are highly addicting. When our diets are high in sugar, chemical reactions ensue in the pleasure center of the brain, causing us to crave more and more sugary sweetness.
This is why it takes a plan like this to break your addiction to unhealthy processed foods.
As if this weren’t enough, the refined fructose that is added to our foods is metabolized exclusively by the liver. This process leads to fat collecting around the liver (the precursor to fatty liver disease) and other surrounding organs. This organ-smothering fat is called visceral fat and it’s the worst kind.
Visceral fat leads to inflammatory hormones being produced by the body that has been shown to be a direct contributor to metabolic disease, heart disease and diabetes, along with weakening the immune system. 3
In case you’re wondering, the natural fructose in fruit isn’t metabolized the same as the fructose in refined sugars and doesn’t lead to the same inflammatory (and disease-inducing) responses. Unless you’re intentionally limiting carbs for a specific fitness or fat loss goal, or under a doctor’s direction, fruits are nutritious sources of calories that should always be a staple in your diet.
The natural sugar in fruits isn’t the problem. It’s the refined sugars and artificial sweeteners being added to the “food” supply that cause adverse reactions within the body that foments disease, junk food addiction, and rapid fat gain.
Added sugars provide us no benefit, nutritional or otherwise. Sure, they excite our taste buds, but at what cost? They’re slowly killing us and will continue to do so unless we do something about it.
As with the problem of rampant heart disease, the solution for reigning in our sugar consumption must begin with personal responsibility, self-discipline, and educating those in our sphere of influence to make them aware of just how detrimental added sugars truly are to their health and vitality.
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