Suicide In A Spoon

By Raymond Onyango.

 The ongoing sugar shortage and its looming absence from supermarket shelves countrywide, continues to be a huge source of concern for the great majority of Kenyans. The resulting fear over the potential lack of the commodity has led to panic buying and many retail outlets have resorted to instituting limits on the amount of sugar a single customer can buy, if only to help guarantee supply. This is hardly surprising when you consider that according to the World Health Organization, the average Kenyan consumes 21 kilograms of sugar in a year. Break that down into 52 weeks in a year and you have an average consumption of about half a kilogram per Kenyan, per week – more than twice the average of the neighboring countries ofUganda and Tanzania.

Is Too Much Sugar Making Us Sick? 

It would seem that this elevated consumption of sugar is steadily beginning to affect our collective health as a nation. In fact at an international conference in Russia, in May this year, the minister for Medical Services, Professor Anyang’ Nyongo’ was quoted saying that almost half of all the hospital beds in this country are occupied by people suffering from lifestyle diseases – including high blood pressure and diabetes. Within the next decade, he estimates that the number of people seeking medical care for such lifestyle induced conditions will far outstrip all other ailments in the country’s health care system – a truly dire prognosis.In fitness circles sugar has been variously described as the biggest dietary scrooge of our time – quite literally suicide in a spoon – resulting from the numerous health conditions precipitated by uncontrolled sugar intake.  Refined sugar does not actually qualify to be called food – it is a chemical. During the production process, all the vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and virtually every aspect of nutritional value is removed – all that is left is empty calories!

The Relationship Between Sugar, Insulin & Mood Disorders

It is with these empty calories that the real trouble begins. The Glycemic Index is a measure used to describe the effect of various foods on the body’s blood sugar levels. Each food is given a specific rating. The lower the rating, the slower the digestion process and the release of sugar into the blood stream. Any food with a higher rating will cause your Pancreas to release a hormone known as Insulin into the blood, to help combat the higher glucose levels and lower them. More sugar, means more insulin, which in turn promotes fat storage and obesity. Obesity as you well know by now, is closely associated with increased incidence of several lifestyle related diseases – especially high blood pressure and adult onset diabetes.Beyond just making you fat however, sugar also has a much immediate effect on your energy levels and overall productivity as an individual. Refined sugar intake usually leads to an energy rush, also known as a sugar high, but this is eventually followed by a virtual crash in energy levels as your body releases insulin into the blood stream to balance out your sugar levels. There is also increasing evidence that sugar also makes your blood thicker and stickier, inhibiting oxygen transport to the brain and working muscles and actually diminishing athletic performance. Perhaps the biggest questions regarding the effect of sugar on our health arise when discussing mood behavior in children and sugar. Many parents are aware that sugar can dramatically affect the behavior of a child, and in recent times there has been a lot of research that would seem to corroborate the incidence of conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) to the excessive consumption of sugar by underage children.  You only need to attend a birthday party for a group of 5 year olds, where they are serving cake, ice cream and soda. Take note of what you see there and then come back and disagree with me if you choose!

Healthy Eating? Think Again!

Ironically one of the things that is driving this huge increase in our sugar intake is the growing obsession with ‘ healthy eating’. Sugar appears in the places where you least expect it.  Over the last decade or so, many food manufactures are moving away from traditional cane sugar and transitioning into high fructose corn syrup.  This change has occurred mostly because in the attempt to stay health conscious and reduce the levels of saturated fat in our food, producers are now replacing the fat with sugar. You will find sugar in everything from tomato sauce, baked beans, potato chips and even fruit juice. For this reason it is prudent to read food labels carefully if only to educate yourself on what it is that you are actually consuming.One last thing to bear in mind, the next time you’re craving a candy bar or a soda is that your immune systems rely on our white blood cells to remove invaders from our bloodstream though a process known as phagocytosis.  Sugar has been demonstrated to lower this activity significantly – depressing your immune system and leaving you more susceptible to disease. So there you have it, sugar does not only make you fat, slow and unfit, it also makes you sick and cranky.  Reason enough perhaps, that you should use this ongoing shortage as the perfect excuse to review your sugar consumption habits.

Have a sugar free weekend will you!