Monday, 1 May 2017

Sugar: A Sweet Conspiracy

It is delicious, makes everything taste better and is used liberally throughout our processed food chain to ensure that every bite has a smile.

Sugar is a natural part of life, we actually need it to live a healthy life, but like anything else in the world, it must be consumed in moderation, which unfortunately does not seem to be the case in modern society.

Refined or added sugar is a silent killer, but also sweet and addictive!



I had the chance to watch a documentary by Jamie Oliver recently on the sugar epidemic currently being faced in the United Kingdom. For those who do not know, Jamie is a famous chef and has campaigned on his Food Revolution, which is taking cooking back to the home kitchen and using natural and simple ingredients. His documentary focuses on a few different countries, however its data is something I wanted to compare to the best country in the world, Canada. I will post a direct link to the documentary below for you to view, once you've had a chance to finish reading this entry.

So, how much has diabetes affected Canadians and more specifically, how many amputations are occurring as a result of the disease?

Upon searching various government and non-profit websites (Canada.ca & Diabetes Canada), I quickly realized we have a problem in this country and its mostly invisible.

Most of the information I was sourcing dated back to 2011/2012, with little to no accurate information present for any year outside of 2015. We are currently in 2017 and as far as I am concerned, sugar is still present in almost everything.

Here are facts I found: 


Currently, it is estimated that between 3-3.4 million Canadians have diabetes, with 1/3 of these people not currently aware of their disease. This is an estimate from 2015 and covers those who have been diagnosed along with those currently living with the conditions necessary for the disease, so there could be more cases that have yet to be identified quite easily.

In 2011/2012, Canada experienced an average of 2000 lower limb amputations per year, with the majority occurring in Ontario. The information was so vague that the estimate does not really cover any other province except Ontario, so this number could also very well be much higher.

To compare, the Sugar Rush documentary listed below indicates that in the UK, amputations related to diabetes is currently at 135 a week or roughly 6,480 annually. Mexico, which is currently the largest consumer of soda/pop, experienced 75,000 diabetic amputations in 2011.

Scary realty, when these are becoming hot ticket items!


So, we know that this disease is deadly and causes a lot of complications, so what does it cost us in economic terms? Well, we know that processed food usually appears to be the cheaper alternative, when in reality is does cost us a lot. However, the cost to our health care system is currently estimated to be at $9 billion annually. This is mainly because a diabetic patient requires a lot of care and monitoring and also testing to ensure their sugar levels remain stable. Throw in amputations, ulcers or complications related to nerves and vision and this cost jumps due to the extra care it requires.

Solution Time

 

The obvious recommendation is usually the most simple, but not really. That recommendation is to live a healthier life via a lower consumption of sugar and the avoidance of stomach fat to be specific.

This becomes difficult as a lot of food currently has a lot of sugar in it and unfortunately, you never see a daily recommended percentage associated with the amount of sugar in the product. This was mainly done so, because  the sugar industry fought hard to remove labeling that would counter the concept of consumer due diligence, since no one could apparently agree on a daily recommended level ( Simple Version).

We need to start reading labels more closely and either scaling back our portions and or avoiding the item all together, try making it at home, it might be a lot easier! 

The other important step that would assist directly in the battle against consumption would be a sugar tax. Yes, I know the mention of tax is as much of a pain in the ass as doing your taxes, however it has been proven that a sugar tax on highly processed foods and drinks has led to a reduction in overall consumption with a much needed cash boost to our health system.

Unfortunately, the industry has hidden behind the idea that consumers need to be educated in their own way to avoid over consumption and live a life of moderation. This is not only utter bullshit, because the information is either not present or vague, but also criminal in the way it allows for an open range of sugar use.

Adding sugar to food not only makes it more appealing and easier to sell, but it also activates a reaction in our body similar to the consumption of drugs, we crave it and go through withdrawal.

Know Your Grams

Food items in restaurants now have calories added to assist in making healthier choices, but this is still too vague, as calories come from everything, both healthy and processed. You could consume a healthy* diet of 2000 calories per day, while still consuming 10x the amount of recommended sugar at the same time! Please note though, that the main issue we currently face is the added sugar in food, while you should try to moderate overall sugar intake, a lot of natural and healthy food will contain sugar, just not as much as the processed foods available to buy.

Oh, and the daily amount of recommended added sugar intake for an adult: 35 grams or 9 teaspoons per male and 25 grams or 6 teaspoons for women. 

 

To put that into perspective, look at the example below. A large Double Double from our most favorite cultural icon, Tim Horton's, contains 30 grams of sugar or your entire daily recommended dose! Dammit!

30 grams of sugar for a large coffee, XL contains roughly 35grams!

It's shocking how easy it is for the average person to fall into a sugar rush, since the majority of our products fail to provide us with an accurate picture of the sugar contained compared to the recommended dose per day. When we have an industry, who also continues to maintain and hide behind the fact that adults should have the common sense to know all of this information, the problem becomes even more serious as misinformation or an uninformed populace eats toward its doom. The companies pumping sugar into their food do not have to face the financial consequences of diabetes and other sugar related disease in Canada and frankly, they do not care if you end up having an amputation.

I have seen first hand what diabetes can do to a person, as members of my family have had it. While the disease can also be genetic, it becomes much more common when an individuals diet supports the necessary conditions for it to flourish.

Please, if you take anything from this entry, just take a moment to watch the following documentary and the next time you go to pick up an item at the grocery store, keep in mind the number 25 and 30 with relation to the amount of sugar in grams are present per portion. Our government can only do so much, but with the proper legislation coupled with consumer education, we can not only save a lot of money in our health care system, but help people avoid the awful consequences of disease related to sugar consumption. A healthier life is a happier life and we all deserve to live with the highest quality of life in the best country in the world!

-The Political Road Map



References:

Jamie's Sugar Rush


Canada.ca





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