Sweeter Than Fiction: The Truth About Sugar and Its Effect on Weight Loss
We all know sweet treats are just that. Treats. But is the recent hot topic of “sugar addiction” fake news or good nutritional advice?
Animal studies suggest that sugar consumption and withdrawal can lead to behavior and neurochemical changes in the brain that resemble the effects of substance abuse. But human studies are far less convincing. A study conducted at Edinburgh University in Scotland found no strong evidence of people being addicted to the chemical substances in foods. They found the brain does not respond to nutrients in the same way as it does to addictive drugs, such as cocaine. The verdict is still out on this one, but, as many people have experienced, the more sugar we have, the more we want.
So, for the average person looking to shed pounds, is sugar consumption something to worry about?
It is important to understand that sugar is everywhere! Fruit and milk naturally contain sugar. For someone looking to lose weight, naturally occurring sugar should not be the focus.
As a Registered Dietitian and coach of the Jump Start Weight Loss Program at the CaroMont Health and Fitness Center, Pam Cornelius says added sugar that appears in our processed foods should be monitored and if possible, eliminated. If you notice the words sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, or any form of syrup, evaporated cane juice, honey or molasses on a food label, that means added sugar.
Good news, by January 1, 2021, “Added Sugar” will be required on all food labels but until then check your ingredients list. Of course you’ll find added sugar in the usual suspects like soda, cookies, cake and ice cream. But did you know it’s hiding in salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, bread, soup, breakfast cereals, protein bars and many other processed foods?
Why are we concerned about too much sugar?
If you’re working to lose weight, a steady diet of added sugar is not going to help. But aside from weight gain, too much sugar can increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and metabolic syndrome. Sugar is known to be an inflammatory which can worsen joint pain and increase your risk for rheumatoid arthritis. New studies are being conducted to investigate if there is a link between sugar intake and cancer.
Is sugar in moderation okay, or is it best to work to remove it completely?
We don’t actually need any added sugar in our diet to be healthy, but most people enjoy it. So I always recommend that it is consumed in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day for women (24 grams) and no more than nine teaspoons for men (36 teaspoons).
Some people have a hard time just cutting back their sugar intake. Or maybe you aren’t seeing the desired results of a weight loss program due to excess intake of added sugar. If that is the case, I would recommend our very successful weight loss program, Jump Start, which follows the Mayo Clinic diet plan. We ask participants to remove added sugar for two weeks to help change their taste buds and break the habit. Once they add some sugar back in after the two weeks, they typically find many foods and beverages too sweet.
We frequently find Jump Start participants choose to stay off soda and sweet tea after their two week sugar fast. Eliminating just one 20 oz soda from our diets over the course of the year can lead to a 25 pound weight loss. They also learn to replace frequent consumption of sweets and snacks with fruit. This is imperative to their success and health. By losing weight, lowering their sugar intake and getting more activity, participants also lower their blood sugar and blood pressure. We have had several participants lose 70 pounds over the course of a year and they all have decreased the amount of added sugar in their diets.
The best part about joining the Jump Start Weight Loss Program? It tackles not just participant’s sweet tooth, but encourages a whole body, sustainable lifestyle change focusing on making healthier choices and consistent exercise. Interested in joining the Jump Start Program? Talk to your doctor, call us at 704.834.3787 or visit us on Facebook to request more information.