Food with sugar additives such as ice cream should not be eaten regularly as it increase chances of obesity By Arthur Baguma JOAN carries candy to work and keeps some in her bag all the time. Her favourite dessert is cake and chocolate. She even adds a little sugar in drinking water to sweeten it. Despite the dangers associated with sugar, it remains one of the most addictive substances. Eating even a small amount of sugar, for example, candy or a bite of cake creates such a desire in some people that they cannot stop. Medical experts say sugar is the major source of energy, but it also poses fatal health problems if abused. Most foods, including carbohydrates are made of complex sugars which are broken down into simple sugars, says Dr. Misaki Wayengera, a molecular pathologist and lecturer at the College of Health Sciences, Makerere University. Misaki says it is important to take natural sugars mainly from fruits and natural foods and avoid synthetic sugars which are mainly found in processed foods and soft drinks. He warns that manufactured beverages or sweet soft drinks contain synthetic sugars which if taken in huge amounts are a health risk. For instance soda or packed juice contain synthetic sugars which strain the pancreatic cells. If you take a lot of synthetic sugars, you end up developing diabetes a state when the body does not produce enough insulin. Insulin enables the body cells to take up glucose and use it to produce energy. A lot of sugar damages the kidney, eyes, heart and other body organs, says Misaki. Medical research shows that excessive sugar consumption is believed to cause many common health problems like hypoglycemia, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, indigestion, gout, hyperactivity, lack of concentration, depression and anxiety. According to a recent report by the American Heart Association (AHA), exceeding your recommended sugar intake could lead to obesity, heart disease, and not-so-healthy eating habits. According to the report the recommended sugar intake for adult women is six teaspoons (20g) of sugar per day, while for adult men it is nine teaspoons (36g) daily and for children, it is three teaspoons (12g) a day. The report states that sugars, such as high-fructose, corn syrup or ordinary table sugar added to soda, bread and other processed foods are responsible for the increase in calorie consumption and the subsequent rise in obesity. Natural sugars Natural sugars in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains do not need to be avoided. They make up part of a healthy diet, says Rachel Johnson, the associate provost and professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington. Even the occasional soda is not a bad thing. Were not saying that you should eliminate sugar from your diet or that you cannot have sugar-sweetened foods, she says. But when you cannot stay within the recommended sugar allowances, you need to make up for it with extra exercise. And rather than waste your sugar intake on soda and other empty calories, use it in a way that enhances the flavour and palatability of already nutritional foods like flavoured yogurt or milk. The report further states that people who have unhealthy sugar intake also consume less vital nutrients, such as zinc, iron, calcium and vitamin A. Dr. Hanifa Bachou, the head of the Nutrition Department at Mulago hospital, notes that the amount of sugar one consumes should depend on their level of activity and age. She explains that sugar gives one energy and if the energy is not expended, it is converted and stored as fat, leading to obesity. One should take sugar in moderation during old age and when not very active, Bachou advises, adding that it is important for people to eat foods that provide them with crude or un-refined sugar. The more refined the sugar, the less the nutrients. That is why brown sugar is more popular. Bachou warns that another health risk associated with sugar is dental decay. Doctors say sugar is a carbohydrate and is part of many other foodstuffs such as lactose in milk, maltose in grain, fructose in fruit and sucrose (refined sugar). In a book, Nutrition, Cooking, and Healing; Paulette Millis writes that the dangers of eating too much sugar are a suppressed immune system. Millis says sugar lowers the ability of white blood cells, which fight disease, to destroy bacteria. A couple of teaspoons of sugar can sap the cells strength by 25%. A large piece of pie or ice cream renders ones white cells 100% helpless. This effect lasts from four to five hours. Consider a 900ml serving of processed and packaged orange juice or one 683ml of cola; either of these will supress the immune system by 50%, 30 minutes after ingestion and will last five hours. If you have sugar at every meal, which many do by eating processed foods alone, the immune system is constantly made ineffectual. This makes one susceptible to diseases from colds to cancer. The best way to cut added sugars out of your diet is to limit processed foods as much as possible and satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit. How to cut down on sugar Eat whole unprocessed foods with nothing added, for instance whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables as well as unprocessed meat, poultry and fish. Eliminate soft drinks, sugary fruit juices and baked foods with sugar additives Replace refined sugar with brown rice syrup Do not use sugar substitutes, especially aspartame, or aspartame sweetened foods. These break down into substances which degrade into toxins Let desserts be special, not an everyday affair. Serve dessert alone, away from protein and fat meals. Fruit desserts are the best Use unsweetened juice; make your own fresh squeezed juice rather than take processed and sweetened juices If you must use canned fruit, choose one without sugar additives or take fruits canned in their own juice Snack on whole foods like nuts and seeds, fruits, or veggies rather than candy or sweets Eliminate processed cereals entirely and make whole or cracked grain cereals, or granola using fruits as a sweetener. Eliminate refined sugar when taking cereals and fruits and beverages; use natural sweeteners if necessary. The best way to avoid sugar is not to have it in your house To help reduce cravings, supplement your diet with a good quality high potency multi-vitamin and mineral, 2 to3g of Vitamin C, an anti-oxidant formula and essential fatty acids like flax or fish oil.