We all love sweets and here in Malaysia, they come in a myriad of forms. These include desserts, cakes, kuih-muih, Ais Kacang, Cendol, and many more. All of these contain tons of sugar. Even our drinks are laden with sugar.
Let’s understand more about sugar.
Where does your sugar come from?
Sugar occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, grains, and dairy. When you consume these foods, you invariably consume sugar.
However, the consumption of these naturally occurring sugar is okay because sugar is a form of carbohydrate the body uses for energy.
In fact, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables.
These plant-based foods also have high amounts of fibre, essential minerals, and antioxidants, while dairy foods contain protein and calcium. These foods are digested slowly and the sugar in them offers a steady supply of energy to our cells.
The danger of added sugar
As the saying goes, too much of anything is never good, which also applies to sugar. However, the danger lies in excessive consumption of added sugar. It is the consumption of added or hidden sugars that leads to chronic health complications.
Unfortunately, many processed food products have sugar added to them, including bread, cereals, sauces, and soft drinks.
While sugar is mainly added to increase the taste and level of sweetness, it is also used to extend the product’s shelf life. You might be surprised that most of our favourite Malaysian dishes have added sugar.
Effects of too much sugar
Below are the adverse effects of high-sugar diets:
- Leads to high triglyceride levels, blood sugar (diabetes), and blood pressure (hypertension), therefore increasing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
- Leads to weight gain and obesity.
- Increases resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels.
- Increases chronic inflammation in your body. Coupled with obesity and insulin resistance, your risk of cancer increases.
- Speeds up the ageing process. When sugar reacts with the protein in your body, it forms a compound known as Advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These can damage collagen and elastin – the proteins that maintain your skin elasticity and youthfulness.
- Added sugar spikes blood sugar and insulin levels leading to a rush of energy. However, this rush of energy is followed by a drop in blood sugar, hence it is actually counter-productive. Constant variations in blood sugar can lead to major fluctuations in energy levels and leave you feeling drained and tired. These fluctuations in energy are also thought to be associated with a higher risk of depression.
- Let’s not forget about our dental health as well. Sugar has been known to increase the risk of cavities. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar and release acidic by-products that reduce the mineral content in your teeth.
Make an appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals
Sugar can be found everywhere and you may not be aware of the quantity of sugar you are consuming. Reading labels to check the sugar content may be one way to avoid sugar or reduce your sugar intake. It is best to eat a balanced diet and be aware of your diet.
Contact the team of dietitians at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital if you have further questions about how to control your sugar intake and to get professional nutrition and dietary advice in your journey towards better health.
If you would like to make an appointment for health screening, please contact the health screening centre at the Gleneagles Hospital nearest to you.