Author of The Sugar Detox Plan Dr Mosetter talks to us about sugar and children, and dangers of consuming too much.
Why is sugar so bad for us?
Too much sugar causes damages in the brain, kidneys, liver, eyes, and gut. High levels of blood sugar have negative effects on cognitive facilities. Sugar also stimulates the discharge of insulin, which causes inflammation and initiates the so-called “insulin trap” – you add more and more sugar and blood glucose levels are jumping up and down in a detrimental roller coaster ride.
In all people, but especially in children, whose liver metabolism and microbiotica is still “under development,” an abundance of sugar is toxic and inducing long-term damages.
Is sugar addictive?
Yes, it is. Initially sugar stimulates a “high” in energy and emotion as an effect of certain specific neurotransmitters which are triggered. Unfortunately these short-term effects will deteriorate increasingly and finally disappear altogether. Thus you will feel the need to ingest more and more sugar to feel happy again. Because of a simultaneous, subtle increase of insulin levels and resulting effects of insulin resistance, the organism is unable to transport the ingested sugar to the original target within the cells. This will cause significant damage to all organs in the body when the cells begin burning up proteins. The result is so-called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are toxic.
How quickly is it possible to become hooked on sugar, and how easy is it to kick sugar from a diet?
Children in particular are very sensitive and in danger to become addicted to certain types of “toxic” sugar – glucose and fructose. To get rid of the bad sugars it takes a period of about 4 – 8 weeks during which they are “weaned” by substituting good sugars, i.e. galactose.
It’s difficult to know what to eat between meals. What are you suggestions for healthy snacking for kids, and adults?
I’d suggest nuts, almonds, berries, apricots, papaya, goat or sheep cheese, low-carb cereal, and healthy drinks based on galactose.
Why is it only relatively recently sugar has been declared such a bad thing?
For many years, politicians, the medical community and the public as a whole didn’t focus on this issue. All the while different industries (e.g., soft drink and sweets manufactures, sugar producers) invested heavily in advertisement. So the catastrophic impact we’re experiencing at the moment was a disaster waiting to happen. Now the wind has changed through several recent studies as well as the fact that the evidence has piled up so high that the problem just can’t be ignored any longer.
What’s the difference between free sugars and naturally occurring sugars and are they both as harmful?
The distinction is between sugars added to a product in the course of the manufacturing process (free sugars) and “natural sugars” which are originally present in food stuff (i.e. in fruit or honey). Most of the artificial sugars and sweeteners are very bad for the organism. Too much sugar from natural sources can be toxic as well. An overload of fructose and glucose will attack the liver, cause hyperinsulinaemia, insulin resistance, inflammation, and a host of other sugar-related problems. A high impact from sugar from fruit juice, for example, can be worse than eating the fruit itself. Honey, agave syrup, apples, oranges, or grapes, among others, weigh heavy on the system. If you don’t want to pass on these or similar sweet fruit and natural food stuff, you can have a little – not too much! – in the morning, but should abstain in the evening.
Is eating too much fruit and drinking too much fruit juice bad for my children?
Unfortunately, yes. Too much fruits with high concentrations of glucose and fructose – including, but not limited to, apples, oranges, grapes, bananas – are bad for you and your kids. In juices – especially in industrially packaged ones – the sugar concentration is even higher so you should avoid them. Instead, focus on “good” fruits like papaya, berries, avocado, grapefruit, apricots, peaches, rhubarb, among others. If you do like your juices, one glass in the morning is acceptable. Try to mix it up with green vegetables, though.
Does sugar cause diabetes?
Yes, it does, through several different pathways:
- sugar hits the insulin receptor system and causes insulin resistance
- sugar has a toxic effect on nerve cells in the gut (Cajal cells) and on the microbiotica as well. This can initiate diabetic metabolic effects from the gut to the organs and the brain.
- sugar is toxic for the sensitive nerve cells in the brain, causing a central insulin resistance from the brain to the liver and pancreas.
- sugar causes high levels of insulin. The resulting hyperinsulinaemia causes inflammation and insulin resistance as well.
Can sugar make my child hyperactive? Why is this?
Yes, excessive and regular sugar intake over long periods of time can be a cause for hyperactive behaviour. In a first step the sugar load has an energising effect on children – but too much in a short period of time. The second step sees an increase of sugar and insulin. Although the blood sugar levels seem inconspicuous, the high levels of insulin cover up a state of relative hyperglycemia. This in turn causes hyperactivity, a generalised nervousness, and a loss of emotional balance.
What could be a good solution?
One approach, obviously, is to regulate through new laws: while the UK is proposing a specific tax on soft drinks, Israel just installed a law which banishes sugary drinks, sweets, and high-fat foods from school cafeterias and kindergarten. In Germany, as well, various communities have enforced regulation which prohibits selling food stuff with too much sugar and fat from schools and kindergarten.
But a more sustainable solution is to educate parents, teachers, and most of all, our children. We have to show them why too much sugar is bad and how they can prevent sugar-related problems.
Dr Kurt Mosetter runs healthy eating and exercise courses for children, and advises leading institutions concerned with the effects of nutrition. Dr Mosetter is passionate about healthy eating and good nutrition, and the benefits these can bring – from preventing diseases to improving success results for athletes and promoting a healthier lifestyle for children and adults alike.