Beauty

Sugar ‘is the new tobacco’

By Amy Lawrenson

For decades now fat has been the enemy with low-fat products touted as the healthy choice for dieters. But recently the tide has been gradually turning and today experts are comparing the sweet white stuff to tobacco.

‘Sugar is the new tobacco,’ said Simon Capewell, professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Liverpool. ‘Everywhere, sugary drinks and junk foods are now pressed on unsuspecting parents and children by a cynical industry focused on profit not health.

The obesity epidemic is generating a huge burden of disease and death,’ he adds. 
So it looks like excessive sugar consumption has been making us fat, not the fat itself.

Dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams, author of Future Proof Your Skin [Eudelo Publishing], told ELLE ‘sugar has been named as the ‘last legal drug’.

Consumption leads to oxidative stress, low-level inflammation and ageing (not only in our skin, but our entire body).

A study confirmed that people with higher blood-sugar levels tend to look older than those with lower blood-sugar levels. Newest evidence even shows that sugar can shorten our life span. In our skin, sugar reacts with collagen to form so-called ‘Advanced Glycation End products’ (AGEs), which leave our collagen fibers of inferior quality.’

And while it may not surprise you that a Mars bar has the equivalent of eight teaspoons of sugar, what if we told you a tin of Heinz tomato soup has four? Or that a typical low-fat yoghurt can contain a whopping five teaspoons?

In fact the average Brit consumes 12 teaspoons of sugar every day, with some having as many as 46. While the recommended daily amount (set by the World Health Organisation0) is 10 – this looks likely to be halved.

Capewell is part of a new US-UK campaign group called Action on Sugar. Its chairman Graham MacGregor, a professor at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London says, ‘We must start a coherent and structured plan to slowly reduce the amount of calories people consume by slowly taking out added sugar from foods and soft drinks.

‘This is a simple plan which gives a level playing field to the food industry, and must be adopted by the Department of Health to reduce the completely unnecessary and very large amounts of sugar the food and soft drink industry is adding to our foods.’

Added sugar is in a high proportion of the processed foods we consume. Yoni Freedhoff, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa, said sugar needs to become an occasional treat, not a ‘crutch’.

And while sugar is the enemy we do need a little of it to give us energy, but complex carbohydrates are slowly broken down in the body to produce glucose to give us that energy – eating sweets and foods with added sugar overloads our system and can cause health problems in the long run.

Two members of Team ELLE Beauty Director Sophie Beresiner and Senior Beauty Writer Amy Lawrenson - are pledging to give up sugar. It's only when you start to give up do you realise how addictive it really is. Follow our progress as we follow Laura Thomas’ Mentor Me Off Sugar Plan over at Beauty Notes Daily for the next six weeks.

Want to find out more on the subject – head to You Tube and watch the BBC documentary, The Men Who Made Us Fat. It's more than a little enlightening.

Visit ELLE’s Diet & Fitness channel here for health and fitness tips and features

Buy the February issue of ELLE for our guide to surviving January (including the food swaps you should make now)…

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