The World Health Organization has warned about the serious dangers of consuming large quantities of sugar over the course of many years, when the sugar is standalone form, meaning not bound together with other nutrients like fibre.
Sugar in standalone form occurs mostly in processed food and junk food, and when high levels of it are consistently eaten, the result will usually be an increase in body weight, the scale of which depends on various other lifestyle factors.
If a person whose body type and lifestyle makes them susceptible to weight gain, consuming large amounts of standalone sugar will likely lead to obesity, and from there to a plethora of secondary health problems.
These include but are not limited to:
Type 2 diabetes – the pancreas, the organ that produces insulin (the substance which is responsible for regulating the levels of glucose in our bloodstreams), could stop producing enough insulin or our bodies’ cells could stop reacting to insulin.
Cancer – some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer, are more likely to occur among sufferers of obesity. Free sugar also increases the speed at which cancer cells grow in the body.
Coronary heart disease – this causes heart attacks and heart failure, and is responsible for over 70,000 deaths in Britain every year. It kills about a tenth of all British women and about a sixth of all British men.
Depression – being severely overweight usually affects a person’s emotional well-being and can lead to mental health problems such as depression.
One of the dangers of standalone sugar lies in the fact that it can be easy for people to consume it in large quantities before they lose their appetite or feel the urge to stop.
Norman Fowler, a nutrition lecturer and personal training tutor at Discovery Learning, explained: “Because standalone sugar isn’t bound with other things, it goes straight into the digestive system without making the eater fill any fuller. If you eat an apple, you’d feel a bit fuller because of the fibre in the apple alongside the sugar, and wouldn’t want to eat another apple straight away, but you can eat all the segments of a chocolate orange and all the standalone sugar contained within it without feeling full and wanting to stop at any point.”
The World Health Organization recommends we limit the amount of standalone sugar we consume to about twelve spoonfuls every day. This means we should each try to have just one high-sugar item of food or drink a day. Admittedly this can be hard to stick to, so try to limit yourself to one dessert each evening, and no more than four or five pints of beer each week if you drink.