The developed world is currently struggling with an obesity epidemic, responsible for higher rates of death and various diseases and conditions (including diabetes and heart disease). The percent of U.S. adults over the age of 19 who are overweight is now 73.6 percent, with 42.5 percent of adults being formally classified as obese – and the statistics for children and adolescents aren’t much better.
Various nutrition and health experts have pointed the finger at different culprits over the years, with many people blaming sugar intake for the rise in obesity. But is sugar completely to blame for the obesity epidemic? And if so, what can we do about it?
The Problems With Sugar
Essentially, the problems with sugar
- A source of excess calories. First and foremost, sugar is a source of excess calories – and often, those calories are empty. Sugar is a type of simple carbohydrate that comes in a few different forms, including glucose and fructose, but it always carries 4 calories per gram. It’s found naturally in a variety of foods, including those we find nutritious and part of a “healthy diet,” like apples and other fruits. However, it’s also frequently added to processed foods, especially desserts, making them richer and more caloric. When human beings consume more calories than they expend in the course of a day, they store the extra energy in the form of fat. Put simply, sugar is a rich source of calories, so eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain.
- Good taste. Adding to the complexity of the situation is sugar’s delicious taste. Humans evolved to favor sweet foods, like fruits, because they’re both rare and nutritious in the wild. But these days, sugar is plentiful – and it still tastes just as delicious. People love eating sugar, feeling a release of dopamine and other “feel-good chemicals” whenever they do it, so much so that some experts believe it’s possible to be addicted to sugar. If you have a bad habit of eating high-calorie, sugary foods, this quality of sugar can make the problem worse.
- High prevalence. Sugar has the potential to make a person overweight, sure, but can it really be blamed for an entire culture of overweight people? The answer is partially yes, if for no other reason than its high prevalence. Food producers all over the world pack sugar into their foods whenever possible – especially a certain type of sugar called high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which functions as a preservative in addition to its sweetening effect. This makes sugar hard to avoid – and adds calories to otherwise perfectly good food choices.
- High glycemic index. It’s also worth noting that sugar metabolizes in the body differently than other carbohydrates and other nutrients. It carries a high glycemic index (GI), meaning it processes very quickly, releasing into the bloodstream at a fast rate. However, it should be noted that the evidence that sugar has a direct impact on obesity rates independent of its caloric content is difficult for experts to parse. In other words, we’re not sure whether sugar’s fast processing in the body makes its calories have a different impact on the body than comparable qualities from a lower-GI food.
How to Handle the Sugar Problem
So what can we do to handle the sugar problem?
Everything starts with us being more educated consumers. We need to pay careful attention to the labels of the food products we buy, and understand that added sugar can have a negative impact on our health.
We can also work on utilizing sweeteners and preservatives other than sugar. These days, thanks to the progress made by food scientists, we have access to a wide range of both natural and artificial sweeteners that give us the same great taste and culinary function of sugar – but without the high calories and high glycemic index.
Other Variables to Consider
Of course, it’s hard to blame sugar exclusively for the obesity epidemic. We also have to consider:
- Total calorie consumption. High-calorie diets, regardless of the specific foods eaten, will lead to obesity. Big portion sizes and mindless snacking are partially to blame for the epidemic.
- Trans fatty acids (TFAs). Some experts have pointed the finger at TFAs, fatty compounds that are prevalent in fast foods and fried foods.
- Sedentary lifestyle. We also need to consider the lack of physical exercise the average person gets on an average day. With desk jobs and minimal time in recreational activities, we burn fewer calories.
Sugar isn’t the only factor responsible for the high rates of obesity in the developed world, but it’s definitely a contributor. Collectively, we need to take the impact of sugar seriously and work to lessen its impact on our weight and health.
Weight Management Strategies to Help You Stay in Shape
When measuring your body mass index (BMI), your weight and height must go hand-in-hand. If your BMI is 35 and over, you are considered overweight or obese. If it falls below that range, you are going in the right direction. However, most people only get worried about their weight when it poses a health risk. Seeing a specialist for weight management in Lady Lake is a surefire way of evading health risks and improving your quality of life. Here are some of the strategies the Integrated Family Medical Center team applies to help you achieve your weight goals.
- Weight management specialists advocate for physical activity to reduce individuals’ weight
Engaging in physical exercises is one of the best weight management strategies that most specialists champion for. However, not everyone is cut for intense physical activities, but that is not an excuse to be dormant. Weight management can tailor a suitable physical program depending on your current medical condition, the intensity of the previous activity, and individual preferences. If you are unfit for intense exercises, your doctor may find something else for you to do.
- They instill good behavioral and lifestyle habits for weight management purposes
The primary goal of behavioral and lifestyle modification as far as weight management is concerned is to help individuals understand the relationship between their decisions and the consequences of their actions. If you take processed foods regularly, your body will likely be affected by high-calorie intake. Behavioral and lifestyle adjustments are treatments that aim at helping you adopt healthy eating. Once you stick to a healthy pattern of eating, you will not have trouble gaining weight. The treatment program also involves exercise programs, nutrition education, and social support.
- Weight management champions for a healthy diet
When joining a weight management program, you are given weight loss and weight maintenance options to improve your quality of life. Apart from physical activities, your doctor also incorporates dietary restrictions. For example, your doctor may ask you to reduce your protein, fat, and starch portions to see if your body responds to the dietary restriction. Remember, the primary goal of nutritional restrictions is not to starve your body of essential nutrients. Instead, it proves that your diet plays a significant role in determining your rate of weight loss.
- Weight management and support services go hand-in-hand
If you are struggling with losing or maintaining your weight, know that you are not alone. Many people do not know where to seek support systems. The success of a weight management program also depends on emotional support. If your doctor concludes that your weight gain is due to mental concerns, they can link you to a mental wellness specialist to help you cope with your problem.
See a weight management specialist to address your weight problem
Weight gain presents health risks that may put your life in great danger. The earlier you seek weight management services, the better your chances will be when reducing or maintaining your weight. To learn more about weight management strategies, call your specialist today.
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