Food and drinks become sweeter. How it can affect your health

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New research reveals that prepackaged foods and beverages have become sweeter over the past decade, which may increase the daily amount of sugar people consume. Kelly Knox/Stocksy
  • A study from the University of Cambridge has shown that foods and drinks around the world are becoming sweeter.
  • Excess sugar consumption is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
  • Non-nutritive sweeteners are often considered a healthier alternative, but also carry certain health risks.
  • Sugar and sweeteners can be hard to spot on food labels.

Whether you’re sweet or savory, chances are your sugar intake has increased over the past 10 years, as new research from the University of Cambridge has found that foods and drinks have become sweeter over the past 10 years. course of the last decade.

According to the researchers, their study shows that “the amount of added sugars and non-nutritive sweeteners in packaged foods and beverages increased significantly” during this period.

They add that these results are especially true in middle-income countries, such as China and India, as well as in the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia.

It’s not just added sugars that are of concern, but also non-nutritive or “artificial” sweeteners, which are commonly found in ultra-processed foods, such as cookies, ice cream and soft drinks.

Using global market sales data, researchers documented the amount of added sugar and non-nutritive sweeteners in packaged foods and beverages from 2007 to 2019.

They found that per capita volumes of non-nutritive sweeteners in beverages are 36% higher globally, while sugars in packaged foods are 9% higher.

Zoë Palmer-Wright, nutritionist at YorkTest, says that by increasing the amount of sugar and sweeteners in foods and beverages, the food industry makes people crave these products, so they buy more of them.

Whether you like the taste of sugar a little or a lot, sweet foods affect everyone’s brain the same way,” she explains.

Eating sugary foods produces a release of chemicals, including dopamine, which has an opiate-like effect.

“As the sugar content of foods has continued to skyrocket over the past decade, people have become increasingly addicted to altering their mood with these increasingly sugary foods,” she says.

While sugar and sweeteners can certainly make our food taste better and even give us a temporary dose of dopamine, their health risks are well documented.

“If you eat a lot of sugary foods and your main meals aren’t nutritionally balanced either, you run the very real risk of developing blood sugar issues,” says Palmer-Wright.

This, in turn, can lead to many chronic health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as increasing your risk of obesity.

“In the short term, unstable blood sugar puts you on a roller coaster where you oscillate between episodes of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia,” adds Palmer-Wright.

“It can throw off your mood and hormones, cause brain fog, headaches, and a voracious appetite.”

There are similar risks with non-nutritive sweeteners.

Cambridge University researchers note that, despite their lack of food energy, recent comments“suggest that consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners may be linked to type 2 diabetes and heart disease and may disrupt the gut microbiome.”

Cakes, donuts, and chocolate bars might come to mind when you think of sweet, sugary foods, but you might be consuming excess sugar without realizing it.

This is because salty foods and even foods labeled as “healthy” often contain “hidden” sugars. In fact, Palmer-Wright says that much of the sugar we consume these days comes from hidden sugar.

“Many cereals and cereal bars are loaded with sugar (some brands have up to 12g of sugar in a single bar!) and fruit yogurts can also be high in sugar,” she points out.

“Ironically, some low-fat or ‘diet’ products are also high in sugar, because when the fat is removed from the food, much of the flavor is also lost, so manufacturers have to replace the fat with sugar or artificial sweeteners,” Palmer-Wright adds.

Other high-sugar offenders include fruit juices, energy drinks, soups, salad dressings, and condiments like ketchup.

Also, you may not be more aware of the sugar content of your food by looking at the label. Palmer-Wright says that’s because food labels can be misleading.

“Sugar can be written as sucrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, maltose, dextrose, polydextrose, corn syrup, and maltodextrin, among other names,” explains- she.

With foods becoming increasingly sugary and misleading labels making it difficult to decipher what you’re actually eating, it may seem like cutting back on your sugar intake is a losing battle.

First, it can help to know how much sugar you should actually be consuming daily.

Sal Hanvey, also a nutritionist at YorkTest, says that according to the recommended daily intake guidelines, adults should consume no more than 30g of free sugars per day (about the equivalent of 7 sugar cubes).

She says that in some countries, labels that include color coding will allow you to see at a glance if the food has a high, medium or low amount of sugars.

When making more conscious food choices, you also need to know when sugar has been replaced with an artificial sweetener. Many people often consider them a healthier alternative.

However, Hanvey says the word “artificial” speaks for itself. These man-made substances do not occur or develop naturally. They are generally manufactured industrially and on a large scale,” she points out.

If you want to avoid them, check the ingredient list on the label.

Hanvey says names to look for and avoid whenever possible include: aspartame (NutraSweet), acesulfame-K (Sweet One), saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low) and sucralose (Splenda).

In an increasingly busy world filled with competing commitments, taking a few extra minutes to recheck the label might seem like a daunting task, but it could make the difference to your health.

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