Sugar is the new tobacco

Here in the UK, health issues are the new black. Until recently who would have thought that a feature item about sugar and health could have hit the front page of a national newspaper? To co-incide with this Canadian TV also ran a feature item about sugar and health. As someone who has spent years giving health education advice in a a primary care setting this has to be music to my ears.

From alzheimer's, to diabetes and obesity it all seems to be in the public eye and so it should be. These 3 issues alone are major public health concerns; resulting in collosal costs to the health service, to say nothing about the misery that chronic health conditions causes.

Since I've started writing about health  issues I've been astonished to discover just how  controvertial disease prevention can be; often with  leading experts holding opposing views, all supported by the science! This is particularly the case with sugar and it's role in causing obesity and diabetes.

Now another  team of health experts from around the world are adding their voice to the anti-sugar mix. Spear heading this anti-sugar campaign  is the the UK campaign group - Action on Sugar, who have referred to sugar as "the new tobacco".  Sugar, they say, is behind the unprecedented obesity and diabetes epidemic and they want to see less of it being consumed. They are calling on manufacturers to lower the amount of sugars used in their products. They're also on a mission  to expose the prevalance of hidden sugars in everyday foods such as processed cereals, low fat yogurts, soups, sauces and even bottled water.

I for one am glad to see the debate move away from fat to sugars. For too long the medical experts have led us down this low fat/high carbohydrate route and it's clearly not working; so its a relief  to see some shift in thinking! On a more political note I've recently become aware of  the science behind the proven addictive quality of sugar and the sinister nature of how, by adding sugars to their products, multi-national food manufacture are  able to manipulate our eating behaviours  to boost sales and increase profits. All at the expense of our health.

To me it seems obvious that high levels of sugar consumption leads to obesity. Studies in the Bristish Medical Journal have now demonstrated a stong  link between high sugar consumption, obesity and, by association, cardio-vascular disease, cancers, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthrits and hypertension.

So, what are we to make of it all? For me it's a no brainer. Just do without. It's by far the safest and cheapest option.  Processed sugar has virtually no nutritional value and, speaking from personal experience,  you would be  surprised how quickly your  palate can adjust to life without it. You might also be amazed just how creative you become when exploring alternatives.

The chances are if you're reading this you have already decided to eliminate processed sugar from your diet. So, a  word about  alternatives and sweetners. There are many on the market and from what I've read the safest option is Stevia. I personally avoid sweeteners with aspartame and xylotol as these carry with it health risks and just taste ghastly. However, xylotol is regularly used by Diabetics and seems to have it followers. So it's up to you which way you'd rather go.

For  2014 the message for me seems to be, go natural - whether it's cooked or raw. Where possible choose fresh organic produce. However, for the times when tinned or packaged food are necessary, always read the label. Engage with your food and enjoy what you eat.

So, whether you're a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or carnivore, when chosing what to eat, make positive choices that willl benefit your  health and fitness. One of these choices is to cut out processed sugar and the foods that include them. Life is for living and enjoying. Listen to your body. Act with insight and awareness and you really can't go far wrong.

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