Sugar, is always a ‘sticky’ subject!  Julie Peacock, a Registered Dietitian, highlights the effect sugar can have on our health and makes some suggestions for parents to consider.

Sugar (sucrose) makes healthy food more palatable and has many functional properties in baked goods.  Breastmilk contains the first “sugar” known to the human body, in the form of lactose, which is when perhaps the first love of sugar is developed.

Sucrose is said to be as addictive as heroin and is said to be the new “alcohol of childhood!”  Just like cocaine, sucrose prompts the release of dopamine, associated with improved moods.  Leading Endocrinologists say that sucrose can be very addictive used in excess, seen in the changing patterns of brain scans.  The use of too much sugar is a worldwide problem.

Sugars occur naturally in all plants, but the problem is the amount of added sucrose, which affects health negatively.  There are hidden sugars in most foodstuffs eg. peanut butter, yoghurt, mayonnaise, bread and tomato sauce.  Hidden sugars can be energy dense, but provide “empty calories” to a food, meaning the sugars contribute energy, but little else in the way of nutrients, fibre etc.  Over time, these additional kilojoules, if not burnt off with sufficient exercise, lead to an increase in weight, putting us at risk for Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

Excess sucrose can result in bones being negatively affected, which leads to incomplete glucose oxidation, resulting in the body becoming more acidic.  Calcium is then pulled from the bones, in order to help buffer the acidic blood.  Over time, this can lead to more compromised bones and a gradual leaching out of calcium.   Magnesium is also affected by this state as sugar can lower magnesium absorption, increasing the excretion of both calcium and magnesium through the urine.

Acidity is the start of all inflammation in the body, which ultimately can lead to all sorts of health problems and diseases.

SA children typically consume 40-60g (8 – 12 teaspoons) of sugar per day, possibly rising to 100g per day in adolescence.  ADSA (Association for Dietitians in SA) recommends that sugar consumption be limited to 4 – 6tsp per day.  The SA Food Based Dietary Guidelines also state that “ foods and drinks high in sugar should be consumed sparingly.”

Parents should be encouraged to read food labels carefully and check ingredients for added sugar (sucrose).  Ingredients are always listed in order of weight, so sugar ideally should be further down on the list of ingredients.

Breakfast Flapjacks – Your kids will love this delicious sugar/gluten-free recipe.

2 eggs           3 bananas, mashed            1/8 tsp Baking Powder
Mix all ingredients together and spoon into a non-stick pan. Cook on a medium heat, turning once only.
Julie Peacock – Registered Dietitian
T: 031-5637470
E: jpeacock@vodamail.co.za

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