OSEA Safety Blog

How to Drastically Reduce your Added Sugar Intake

Thursday, December 10, 2020 Ella Castle

When evidence started emerging in scientific literature during the 1950s, linking sugar to high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which are associated with coronary heart disease (CHD), the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) documented how the sugar industry was quick to point the blame. In fact, the sugar industry was quick to blame cholesterol and saturated fats, according to a scientific paper published in the Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA). For decades it helped erroneously shape dietary risk factors and has caused an increase in added sugars in our diets. So how do we curb this trend?

It’s not an easy task and requires constant vigilance and carefully reading labels to decipher the industry’s tricky and misleading description of ingredients, particularly sugar. Often it hides under names that do not include ‘sugar’ so that it won’t show up in the top three ingredients. To help with this dilemma, you can consult science-backed resources to have a more in-depth understanding of sugar sources, processing, and effects. They typically contain valuable information that the average consumer may not be aware, and can help you understand and apply the information in your life. Now, how do we best reduce our intake of added sugars for a healthier lifestyle?

First and foremost, to reduce sugar intake, we must understand that there is a difference between natural and added sugar and to learn to recognize the different names used by the industry. ‘Free sugars’, those found in processed foods, can be anything from white sugar to high-fructose corn syrup and honey. When ingested in large quantities, free sugars cause inflammation, are associated with a range of metabolic disorders and are quickly absorbed by your liver and turned to fat. Naturally occurring sugar in fruit and vegetables, or fructose, on the other hand, is noted by The Washington Post to be encased in fiber, which slows its absorption into the liver. In turn it prevents a blood-sugar spike and prevents insulin levels from peaking suddenly. Everything in moderation, however, and consuming excessive amounts of fresh fruit can also be detrimental due to the sugar levels.

Since added sugars can be found in many foods which you wouldn’t expect to contain them, like instant oatmeal, frozen foods and granola bars, to name a few, the best way of reducing added sugars is by the limiting processed foods which contain them. You should also consider eating fresh food cooked at home from scratch. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics claims how reducing your sugar intake starts at the grocery store : Instead of processed foods opt for fresh vegetables and fruit, sweeten your raw oatmeal with fruit like bananas and berries, and instead of sweet juice or soda add fruit and herbs to water for that extra flavor.

These are only a few ways, but they go a long way in reducing added sugars for long-term health benefits. While it’s difficult to cut out all sugars right away, you can gradually reduce your intake of processed foods and sugars. A gradual decrease will also help recondition your palate so that you will no longer crave sweets and sugary foods, rather than just forcing yourself not to eat them. However, results vary depending on the individual and some find that quitting cold turkey works for them. Moreover, with holidays being propitious grounds for sugar consumption, reducing your cravings will also help you eat less during the holiday seasons, thus, consuming less added sugars. Some of the health benefits of eliminating added sugar include improved cardiovascular function, mental sharpness, healthier skin and drastically reduced chances of developing diabetes and other diseases.

Right now, we have a considerable body of scientific evidence linking added sugars to hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So much so that the World Health Organization calls it one of the top causes of premature death in the world. In the US, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that about 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths. Patients struggling with this disease are even more at risk now, as data shows that COVID-19 patients with underlying conditions like cardiovascular disease are six times more likely to be hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die than patients without any chronic health issues. What's more, about 1 in 3 people diagnosed with COVID-19 has cardiovascular disease, making it the most common underlying health condition.

To meet the growing demand for competent healthcare professionals who can help fight against the disease, governments, healthcare institutions, and schools are optimizing and changing their programs to much-needed degrees. Just recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that medical students in New York will be permitted to practice a few months before completing their education. In Texas, the College of Health Care Professions (CHCP), which trains over 4,500 students in allied health programs each year, went digital. They shifted their entire institution online in a matter of days.

It may be unconventional to teach healthcare online but necessary adjustments are being applied across universities to make it work. This is especially true for online degrees that deal with the more administrative side of healthcare. Maryville University’s online general studies degree teaches future health workers foundational skills to thrive in non-clinical and educational roles. And it will be these new graduates who will be at the forefront of organizing practices to adjust to the new normal as well as educating the public on different health issues such as how the virus can be more deadly due to sugar intake.

With more medical professionals available to assist those suffering from diseases linked to too much sugar there is a likelihood that more people will be treated. Then again, the best way to remedy this in the short-term and keep people out of local clinics is through educating people on what they need to do, as well as making them aware of the dangers of added sugars. Something that has become increasingly important this year.

For more information on how to protect yourself check out our ‘Eating Healthy is Dire to Your Health’ post.
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