Sickly sweet

Health advocate David Contarini shares his tips for living a better life.

When I was a kid, my diet consisted of Coco Pops for breakfast, jam and butter sandwiches for lunch and a bowl of Mini Wheats for dinner. Between meals I mainlined sweets and chocolates, washed down with bucket-loads of Coke and cordial. Hardly a diet rich in nutrients for optimal bone and brain development. My mum attributed my voracious appetite for all things sweet to “having worms”.

Fast forward 40 years and I’m happy to say I no longer have worms and I’ve managed to kick my sugar habit to the curb.

But many of us haven’t...or ever will.

Growing evidence implicates sugar or, more accurately, our love affair with it in everyday life, as being disastrous to our long-term health. It’s hard not to correlate the meteoric rise of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and tooth cavities with the ubiquitous introduction of sugar to our food supply over the past 40 years.

Recently, the World Health Organisation ordered a decree to limit our supply of sugar to five teaspoons per day - a far cry from the 15-25 we are currently shovelling down our throats (for teenagers, it’s north of 25 to 40).

If you’re puzzled about how anyone could reach these lofty sweet targets each day, consider the fact that added sugar is in your tinned tomatoes, chai tea, Dijon mustard and morning croissant. Deceptively, food manufacturers ‘cover up’ their ingredients lists with up to 52 alternative names for the S-word including dextrose, maltodextrin, agave and corn syrup, not that they would tell you this.

We were never designed to deal with such massive intakes of sugar and indeed no population, from an evolutionary perspective, has ever benefited from it. Soon after consumption, our pancreas dumps insulin hormone into the bloodstream to channel sugar out of circulation into our muscles and brain. Excess sugar is then shunted to the liver and ultimately converted to body fat. Yes, that’s right, too much sugar ends up on our waist lines, padded between our internal organs.

If there’s one behaviour which will dramatically increase the chances of living disease-free - and one with which all health practitioners agree – it’s the ditching of sugar.

Try this: for the next 21 days scan the ingredient list of any bottle, tin, packet or carton containing food you are about to consume. If you see sugar listed, think twice. Over time, your taste buds will adjust and you’ll eventually break your emotional mooring with sugar. And that, my friends, is a really good thing.