Words By Dr Elen ApThomas There has been much in the press recently about the negative effects of sugar. Is sugar really that much of a problem? Yes it is! Research is now showing us that sugar and fructose are a much greater health hazard than saturated fat and in fact is one of the leading causes of heart disease. Many people know that eating high levels of sugar can cause type 2 diabetes. This means that our body is no longer able to move the sugar out of our blood stream and put it into our cells. The sugar causes lots of inflammation and damages the wall of our arteries causing many problems including heart disease, stroke and poor circulation. What a lot of people don’t realise is that to absorb sugar from food we have to convert it into glucose and fructose and it is actually the fructose that causes the greatest problem. Glucose is used by every cell in our body but we don’t have the ability to use fructose well so we convert it into fats that damage the walls of our blood vessels, are stored as fat in the liver and make us put on weight really easily. If you need even more reasons to reduce your sugar intake it is alarming to know that the higher our sugar intake the greater our risk is of developing cancer and if we are unfortunate enough to already have cancer then sugar is the cancer cells favourite food to eat to then grow, strengthen and spread. One of the biggest problems with sugar is that it is highly addictive. After having a sugar hit our blood sugar levels rise and we feel good for a while but 2 hours later our blood sugar level drops and we feel tired and crave the next sugar hit. Even more concerning is the fact that sugar and similarly with recreational drugs causes the release of dopamine in the brain which is linked to our reward feel good pathways. The more we have the more we crave it just to make us feel good emotionally. So how do we break the cycle? Focus your sweet treats on the naturally occurring sugars in fruit as they come with high levels of fibre and lower levels of glucose and fructose. This slows down our absorption of sugar allowing our body to cope better. Starting the day with a high protein breakfast such as eggs or protein shakes allow our body to get energy from protein instead and help to stabilise blood sugar levels keeping our energy higher and reducing our sugar cravings. Taste buds adjust to lower levels of sugar once they haven’t been exposed to sugar for a few weeks helping us to be satisfied with lower amounts and importantly we need to find other ways of rewarding ourselves and our children that aren’t sweet treats such as more savoury foods, a walk in nature or a massage.