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According to Central Statistical Office every one of us consumes about 42 kilograms of sugar a year (23 table spoons, 115 grams per day). Sounds a lot? Definitely. Especially when you compare it with WHO recommendations that only about 5-10% of our daily energy should come directly from sugar – that is about 5-10 tablespoons (25-50 grams). So you don’t add sugar to tea? I’m afraid it’s not enough. It is easy to exceed these standards just with a glass of apple juice and strawberry yoghurt.

Liver, heart, bran and others

It turns out that WHO based these limits on very good reasons. In 2012 Nature published (pretty controversial) article, according to which adding sugar to different products should be regulated by law.  Among other ideas, authors suggested additional tax from sugary products (it is not that impossible as it sounds, just four years ago Danish government implemented fat tax, and sugar tax was also in plans), limiting sales of such products at schools and age restrictions for buying chocolate bars or sweetened drinks. Researchers connect sugar intake with increasing rates of many diseases, and compare its activity to alcohol.

No wonder, it has been proven that too much sugar may harm our liver, leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. A growing evidence shows that excessive sugar consumption affects human health in many ways. Importantly, sugar induces all of the diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, including: hypertension (huge risk factor for heart diseases, strokes and many others), high triglycerides and insulin resistance (when cells fail to respond to the normal actions of the hormone insulin), leading also to diabetes. Some researchers also connect cancer tissue development with sugar intake, not to mention obesity problem.

On the other hand, it is also worth saying, that sugar, similar to other carbohydrates, is the basic energy source for our bodies. Writing or reading this article would be much more difficult without it (brain uses approximately 1/5 of energy provided). Hence, although it might not be the best idea to completely give up on it, reducing its intake could be smart.

Better than cocaine

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to do that. In 2007 PLOS published article, that showed an experiment, where rats allowed to choose mutually-exclusively between water sweetened with saccharin (an intense calorie-free sweetener), and intravenous cocaine (a highly addictive and harmful substance), the large majority of animals (94%) preferred the sweet taste of saccharin. The same preference was also observed with sucrose, a natural sugar. Also when researchers were increasing doses of cocaine, intoxicating and addicting rats with larger doses of drug. Intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and addicted individuals. That leads us to losing control and sugar addiction. Who can say that it does not apply to him?

Be aware. Watch what you are eating. Maybe it’s worth changing your diet?

Samanta Makurat

Chemistry student at the University of Gdańsk, fascinated with molecular modeling. Nature enthusiast.

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