The Link Between Sugar and Obesity
A link between sugar and obesity is no doubt strongly attached. And with sugar found highly embedded in the food supply, it is not hard to believe overweight and obesity are on the rise. But how exactly are the two interconnected? BistroMD has the not-so-sweet sugar and obesity facts here!
What is Obesity?
Obesity can be described in a number of ways, though body mass index (BMI) is most commonly used to estimate overweight and obesity. Though its use to determine such overweight or obese status is argumentative, they each associate to having an excess amount of body weight based on height. However, being overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) refers to having an excess amount of body weight coming from muscles, bone, water, and fat while obese individuals (BMI > 30) are suggested to specifically contain an excess amount of body fat. Extreme obesity is further classified as a BMI greater than 40. Causes of weight gain are primarily related to energy balance, specifically when energy (calories) input exceeds energy (calorie) output, either through increased calories or decreased activity levels. Most experts look to larger portion sizes and unnecessary ingredients as chief culprits to overweight and obesity, including the notorious intake of added sugars.
Sugar and Obesity Facts
Along with the observations of overweight or obese individuals and sugar embedded in a wide-variety of products, statistics surface overt sugar and obesity facts. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey concluded the following data related to overweight and obesity:
• More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
• More than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese.
• More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity.
Further data related to sugar suggests:
• The average U.S. adult consumes about 19.5 teaspoons (82 grams) of sugar each day.
• American children consume more sugar than adults, with approximately 32 teaspoons (134 grams).
• A 12-ounce soda can contain up to 11 teaspoons of added sugar!
Obesity and Sugar Intake
The numbers are there and evident. But fundamentally, sugar is primarily broken down into glucose and releases insulin from the pancreas. Increased glucose intake and insulin stimulation causes the excess energy (or calories) to be converted and stored as fat. Insulin also has a renowned impact on leptin, the body's biological appetite suppressant. Compromised leptin efficacy ultimately inhibits the brain to recognize the "I'm full" feeling that is naturally induced during and subsiding food intake. The physiological effects of sugar on the body paired with sugar's addictive effects makes weight gain seemingly inevitable.
Even more explicitly, products filled with added sugars (largely from the well-known table sugar) tend to lack valuable nutrients. Also known as "empty calories," such foods essentially provide nothing more than calories. Stemming back from the basic principal of energy balance, if calories-in exceeds calories out, weight gain is likely to follow. And if too much is consumed in a consistent fashion, the likelihood of obesity is much greater. Obesity can be combatted or reduced through a well-balanced diet, even with the consumption of sugar. The catch? Sugar intake should be moderated and consumed mostly in the form of natural sugars. Unlike added sugars, foods with naturally occurring sugars offer fiber and nutrients, particularly in the form of plants such as fruit. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day women and nine teaspoons (38 grams) for men - comparing to the average daily consumption of approximately 20 teaspoons, that is more than double the recommended amount!