Long being touted as a worthy low calorie replacement for fat, sugar of late has become public enemy number one. A series of books has been published with alarming claims about the danger of sugar in even small quantities. One of the more publicised books is “Sweet Poison” written by David Gillespie. In this book the author makes claims that sugar is toxic to our bodies and is one of the main causes of western disease like heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Many who have tried no sugar diets have found incredible weight loss results and improvement in health.
So is sugar really toxic to our bodies? Is sugar poison?
Studies carried out testing this very question has been less convincing. There is some evidence that shows sugar alone can cause damage to our livers, including increased blood lipids and blood pressure, however these results have mainly been seen in mice being fed much larger quantities that the average person.
The theory that our consumption of sugar has dramatically increased in the last 15 years, coinciding with increased rates of overweight and obesity, heart disease and diabetes over the same period is one of the central arguments used to support the toxic sugar theory. However what is less spoken about is over the same time period, average consumption of total calories has also sky rocketed along with a sharp decline in physical activity. In fact the average weight gained over this time period is accounted for by the extra calories that we are consuming.
As you can see, the argument that sugar is clearly accountable for all our health issues is not as simple as some claim. There seem to be many factors at play.
So what about the incredible success of no sugar diets?
As mentioned earlier, many who have cut sugar out of their diets have experienced great weight loss results and other health benefits. Surely this is evidence enough you say? Well not exactly.
Think about the types of foods that are high in added sugar. Many of these foods are also high in calories and fat. Many of these foods are highly processed with added sodium. When people go on a diet to cut out sugar, they are also cutting out most take away foods and most processed foods. When people cut out sugar, they tend to replace processed foods with extra vegetables, legumes and high fiber alternatives. A no sugar diet is also very likely to be lower in calories which can explain the weight loss.
So do no sugar diets work? Absolutely. But the reason they work may in part be due to sugar, and in part due to the benefits of a diet higher in whole foods lower in processed foods. By choosing foods that are whole and un processed, high in fiber and low in salt, you are also choosing a diet that is low in sugar without even knowing it! If you eat this way you will most likely lose weight and enjoy significant health benefits along the way.
Author | David Finnin | Accredited Dietitian, Accredited Nutritionist |http://www.dietforyou.com.au