Is sugar causing the obesity ‘epidemic’?
In the United States, increasing use of sugar in foods has led to an increase in obesity levels. Many manufactured foods have sugars that have been added. These include jams, jellies, yogurt, peanut butter, soups, candy, bars, soft drinks and many other snacks. The National Health and Nutrition examination survey indicated that the United States population has decreased its intake of fat but increased its intake of sugary and energy giving foods, while the incidence of obesity has increased (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2006).
The implication here is that there is a greater likelihood of developing obesity with the consumption of sugar than with the consumption of fat. The sugar, when consumed by humans is stored as glycogen. When this glycogen becomes excessive it is converted into fats which when in excess results in the high-fat deposits common in obesity. Artificial sweeteners have various advantages over sugar and these make them the preferred choice for individuals who want to avoid the health risks of natural sugar.
To begin with, sugar substitutes do not have the problem of lactic acid production, consequently, tooth decay is not a health hazard associated with sweeteners. The sweeteners do not undergo the fermentation process like natural sugars. The difficulty of regulating blood glucose levels is easier to manage using artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners allow the individual with diabetes to enjoy a great variety of foods while maintaining close control of their sugar intake. Further, some of the artificial sweeteners even though they have a small number of energy calories, are slowly metabolized.
There has been the debate on the value of extrinsic sugar to the health of an individual. Extrinsic sugar enhances the taste of food but as it does so it also increases the number of calories resulting in negative effects on the health of an individual. The nutritional advice by the United Nations following a report compiled by two of its agencies (Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, and World Health Organization (WHO) ) is that free sugars should account for only as much as 10% of the total intake in a diet that is considered too healthy.
This is because of the high-profit margin realized with the use of artificial sweeteners as they are more cost-effective than both corn syrup and sugar. The sweeteners, however, should be used by consumers with great caution to ensure that the sweeteners do not end up becoming more of a health hazard than a means of achieving good health.