The Not-So-Sweet Side of Sugar

ImageWe all know that excess sugar in our diet can cause weight gain and lead to diabetes.  But the latest research now reveals more serious effects of added sugar.  Here’s the latest article by IDEA Health & Fitness Magazine

Now there’s another reason to encourage clients to limit their sugar intake: Eating added sugar is associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a study published February 3 online in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study focuses on sugar added in the processing or preparing of foods, not naturally occurring sugars in fruits and fruit juices.

Recommendations for added sugar consumption vary, and there is no universally accepted threshold for unhealthy levels. For example, the Institute of Medicine recommends that added sugar make up less than 25% of total calories, the World Health Organization recommends less than 10% (but in March 2014 proposed a further reduction to below 5% for additional benefits), and the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to less than 100 calories daily for women and 150 calories daily for men, according to the study background.

Quanhe Yang, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, and colleagues used national health survey data to examine added sugar consumption as a percentage of daily calories and to estimate association between consumption and CVD.

How Much Sugar Are We Eating?

Study results indicate that the average percentage of daily calories from added sugar increased from 15.7% in 1988–1994 to 16.8% in 1999–2004, but decreased to 14.9% in 2005–2010.

In 2005–2010, most adults (71.4%) consumed 10% or more of their calories from added sugar, but for about 10% of adults it made up 25% or more of their calories.

The Risks of Too Much Sweetness

The risk of heart-related death increases 18% for people consuming an average American diet with about 15% of daily calories from added sugar, compared with those whose diets contain little to no added sugar, the study authors found.

The risk is 38% higher for people who receive 17%–21% of their calories from added sugar, and more than double for people who get more than 21% of their daily diet from added sugar, Yang said.

Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, who wrote commentary on the published research, says, “Yang . . . shows that the risk of CVD mortality becomes elevated once sugar intake surpasses 15% of daily calories—equivalent to drinking one 20-ounce Mountain Dew soda in a 2,000 calorie diet. From there, the risk rises exponentially as a function of increased sugar intake, peaking with a [400% higher] risk of CVD death for individuals who consume one-third or more calories in added sugar.”

Another key point: The study found that the added sugar that Americans consume as part of their daily diet can—on its own, regardless of other health problems—more than double the risk of death from heart disease.

“[This] new paradigm [that Yang’s research falls within] hypothesizes that sugar has adverse health effects above any purported role as ’empty calories’ promoting obesity,” notes Schmidt. “Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick.”

Guideline for Better Health

So what is a good general guideline for sugar consumption? “Until federal guidelines are forthcoming, physicians may want to caution patients that, to support cardiovascular health, it is safest to consume less than 15% of total calories as added sugar,” says Schmidt.

IDEA Fit Tips, Volume 12, Number 3
March 2014
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10 Tips to Help Kids Eat Healthy

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Creating a Healthy Home can be easier than you think.

Creating a nutritionally healthy home is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure the health of your child. To start, make smart food choices, and help your child develop a positive relationship with healthy food. Your children will learn their food smarts from your example.

Here are the top 10 tips for getting children to eat healthy food:

1Do not restrict food. Restricting food increases the risk your child may develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia later in life. It can also have a negative effect on growth and development.   Also by restricting food you will actually increase the risk of overeating later in the day which will cause weight gain.

2Keep healthy food at hand. Children will eat what’s readily available. Keep fruit in a bowl on the counter, not buried in the crisper section of your fridge. Remember, your child can only choose foods that you stock in the house, by limiting junk food you will, by default, teach your child how to choose healthier foods.

3Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad.” Instead, tie foods to the things your child cares about, such as sports, academics and hobbies. Let your child know that lean protein such as turkey and calcium in dairy products give strength to their sports and academic performance, the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables add luster to skin and hair and the carbs in whole grains will give them energy to play.

4Praise healthy choices. Give your children a proud smile and tell them how smart they are when they choose healthy foods. Kids thrive on positive reinforcement!

5.  Don’t nag about unhealthy choices. If your child chooses unhealthy foods infrequently, ignore it. However, if your child always wants fatty, fried food, redirect the choice. You might try roasting potato sticks in the oven (tossed in just a bit of oil) instead of buying french fries. Or, if your child wants candy, you might make fresh strawberries dipped in a little chocolate sauce. Too busy? Then keep naturally sweet dried fruit at home for quick snacks.  With consistent effort taste buds change and soon your child will be craving healthy foods.

6.  Never use food as a reward. This could create weight problems in later life. Instead, reward your children with something physical and fun — perhaps a trip to the park or a quick game of catch.

7.  Sit down to family dinners at night.  If this isn’t a tradition in your home, it should be. Research shows that children who eat dinners at the table with their parents have better nutrition and are less likely to get in serious trouble as teenagers. Start with one night a week, and then work up to three or four, to gradually build the habit.

8.  Prepare plates in the kitchen. There you can put healthy portions of each item on everyone’s dinner plate. Your children will learn to recognize correct portion sizes.  Too often people go for seconds and even thirds just because the food is right there.  You might notice that you need less food to feel full!

9. Give the kids some control.  Ask your children to take three bites of all the foods on their plate and give it a grade, such as A, B, C, D, or F.  When healthy foods – especially certain vegetables — get high marks, serve them more often. Offer the items your children don’t like less frequently. This lets your children participate in decision making. After all, dining is a family affair!

10.  Consult your pediatrician.  Always talk with your child’s doctor before putting your child on a diet, trying to help your child gain weight, or making any significant changes in the type of foods your child eats. Never diagnose your child as too heavy, or too thin, by yourself.  If weight change is recommended seek the help of a professional Dietitian.

Stay Leaner and Fitter Throughout the Years

We’re all getting older, it’s a fact of life we don’t necessarily like to think about.  But we must think about it, that is, if we want to age gracefully and healthily and maintain our ideal healthy weight.

As the years go by, our body composition continually changes.  After the age of 35 we start losing 5% of lean muscle every 10 years.  After the age of 40, we lose 1% of lean muscle every year!  As the body loses lean muscle mass, it starts to increase fat stores.  This is why people start looking flabby and soft as they get older.

To top it all off, women have hormones to deal with.  Women’s hormones are constantly changing with every stage of life starting with puberty, pregnancy, and all the way to menopause.  During the menopausal years, low levels of estrogen account for the increased weight gain around the belly.  Losing weight can be extremely challenging at this time.  In general, many women notice an increased amount of belly fat as they age, even if they aren’t gaining any weight.  The natural aging process, hormones, and of course, our genetics, all play a contributing role in this shift from lean mass to fat mass.  Although these factors are all naturally occurring and we have no control over them – there is still a way to fight back! 

Exercise is one of the greatest defenses against age.  One of the reasons the body stores more fat as it ages is because the metabolism starts to slow down.  When we are young, the body has more lean muscle, and muscle requires more energy to maintain.  Muscle is our metabolism.  The more lean muscle we have, the more efficiently our metabolism runs, simple as that.  Aging replaces muscle with fat and therefore, has a halting effect on our metabolism.  The only way to fire up the metabolism is to maintain muscle mass with regular exercise and strength training.

The American Council on Exercise has published an article called, “Is it true that metabolism decreases with age?“.  Dr. Digate Muth provides an expert explanation of the effects of our metabolism on age-related weight gain.

In the end, it all boils down to one simple fact – in order to fight the effects of aging and related weight gain, we must make regular exercise and physical activity part of our lifestyle.  This is what I consider to be the “fountain of youth” and we all have access to it.