National Sugar Awareness Week 2020: How sugar affects health

National Sugar Awareness Week 2020: How sugar affects health

Thursday, 16 January 2020
National Sugar Awareness Week 2020: How sugar affects health

National Sugar Awareness Week was founded by Action on Sugar and aims to raise awareness on sugar and the damaging effects it can have in our diets, affecting our eyes and overall health.

Starting on Monday 20th January 2020, this campaign uses the opportunity to celebrate the success of the food industry as well as the governments and NGO’s progress. They discuss sugar and calorie reduction for the future, looking at where it stands in the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan.


Sugar and childhood obesity

Child standing on weighing scales


Government reports have shown that poor diet and lack of exercise are big risk factors for children in terms of obesity. The amount of sugar consumed by children on a daily basis is a massive contributor to weight gain and the National Diet and Nutrition Survey provided insight into this, highlighting drinks as accounting for 30% of 4-10 year olds’ daily sugar intake. Processed and added sugars in their diets go above the maximum level recommended, resulting in obesity.


There are many questions surrounding the issues of childhood obesity and whether sugar poses a dangerous threat to a child’s health. One of the topics that often gets discussed is the role parents play in childhood obesity.


Is childhood obesity the parents’ fault?


Government research has shown that parental health has a direct effect on children. Children who have been bought up in a family where at least one parent is obese are more likely to become obese themselves later in life. This has a ripple effect as children who are obese are more likely to be obese when they get older and as a result their children are more likely to be obese.

Articles based on various studies have also shown that children usually eat what their parents eat and those whose parents eat junk food and drink sugary drinks are more likely to do the same.

Whilst it has been estimated that one in four 14-year olds are obese in the UK and many studies are blaming parents for this, others suggest that parents are responding to their children’s genetics, adapting their diets to suit their natural weight and size.


How to deal with obese children?

adult holding doughnut in one had and passing a bowl of fruit to child with other hand


Children who are a healthy weight are more likely to be able to concentrate at school as well as be fitter, healthier and be more confident than overweight or obese children.


As a parent there are many steps you can take to tackle childhood obesity and help your child to reach and maintain a healthy weight. This includes:

  • Reducing sugary drinks and snacks and replace sweet treats with lower sugar alternatives.
  • Encouraging more physical activity throughout the day.
  • Serving child sized portions.
  • Making sure they get enough sleep.
  • Setting a good example by being a good role model.


Cutting down on sugary foods can certainly make all the difference. Sweets, cakes, biscuits, sugary cereals and fizzy drinks are very low in nutrients and extremely high in calories.

 

How dangerous is sugar to our health?

blood sugar tracker document on desk


Eating too much sugar has numerous health risks which not only include obesity, which can then contribute to developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Other reasons that sugar is bad for your health include:

An increased risk of developing heart disease

Excess amounts of sugar in the diet can result in obesity, inflammation and high triglyceride, blood sugar and blood pressure levels, all of which are contributing factors of heart disease.

High-sugar consumption has also been linked to atherosclerosis, a disease which clogs the arteries with fatty deposits.


A higher chance of developing acne

Refined carbs, sugary foods and sugary drinks when consumed in high quantities, has been linked to a higher risk of acne.

Sugar raises blood sugar and insulin levels increasing androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all which contribute to the development of acne.


A higher risk of Cancer

Sugary foods can be the cause of certain cancers including oesophageal cancer, pleural cancer and cancer of the small intestine.


An increased risk of depression

Processed foods which are high in sugar can cause depression as a healthy diet plays a role in improving your mood.


Acceleration of the skin ageing process

Whilst wrinkles are a natural characteristic of ageing, foods high in sugar can make wrinkles worse and speed up the ageing process.

When sugar and protein react in your body, advanced glycation end products are formed. These compounds damage the collagen and elastin in your skin and thus contribute to the skin ageing process.

A higher risk of fatty liver

Fructose is a type of sugar broken down by the liver and converted into energy or stored as glycogen. There is only so much glycogen the liver can store before it converts excess amounts into fat. Therefore, excess sugar added to your diet in the form of fructose can lead to a fatty liver.


A higher risk of tooth decay

Sugar causes bacteria in the mouth to produce acid which damages your teeth and causes decay. Sugar sweetened drinks have an excessive amount of sugar in them and so replacing these with sugar-free drinks can help reduce the chances of tooth decay.


Can too much sugar affect your eyes?


Consuming too much sugar can also have a detrimental effect of your eye health, causing a wealth of vision problems such as:

Diabetic retinopathy

Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can damage the delicate blood vessels in the retina which can lead to blindness.


Cataracts

Cataracts can cause a clouding of the lens within your eye, making it hard for the eye to focus light on your retina which can result in blurred vision. High blood sugar levels can cause the lens to swell and therefore increase the chances of developing cataracts.


Glaucoma

Excess pressure in the eye can cause glaucoma and is a result of high blood sugars. This can cause damage to your optic nerve, resulting in blindness. Diabetics are twice as likely to develop glaucoma.


Macular Degeneration

Excessive blood sugar levels can also lead to age-related macular degeneration, causing blurred vision and dimmed vision. 


What happens if you stop eating sugar?


Sugar reduction in your diet can improve the health of your body, your eyes and your mind. However, if you're somebody who regularly indulges in sugary treats, cutting down won't be a piece of cake. 

At first, you may experience headaches, fatigue and an irritable mood. This is because sugar releases dopamine and serotonin, you'll find that eating sugar will make you feel great but only temporarily. 

For more information on sugar and the effects on the body, follow Action On Sugar and keep your eyes peeled. 

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