Sugary drinks make us fat. Be careful, not so fast!

Desserts

The other day, in DAP, we echoed the news that in New York, the mayor has decided to put a cap on the size of sugary drinks that are sold as a method to control their consumption, and in this way contribute to the prevention of obesity.

At the same time, a video campaign (see above) has been launched on the excessive consumption of sugar caused by the consumption of sugary drinks among the population.

The campaign has its positive and negative parts in my opinion. On the one hand, it is pointed out that sugar, or rather, its excessive consumption of up to 16 sachets a day, may be causing health problems related to diabetes and obesity. But on the other hand, the campaign, as usual, penalizes citizens by appealing to their willpower or lack thereof, to stop consuming these products.

The point is that, as usual, things are not always so simple

Will the measure be effective?

The measure to prevent the sale of “large sizes” of soft drinks is likely to have limited effects. Why? Well, because in the same way that a person addicted to nicotine, ingests the same amount of nicotine even if they smoke light, a person addicted to sodas (as they are called there) will tend to maintain their consumption of these drinks. If he can't order a larger Coke, he will order two. In addition, what prevents restaurant chains from giving "open bar" or "free refill" on their menus as some already do?

In USES, and it is something that surely happens throughout the western world, for a long time the consumption of sugar has been gradually increasing over time. A trend that can be clearly seen in the following graph:

In other words, sugar consumption has been increasing over time and has not always been associated with sugary drinks.

Sugar consumption in other populations

From an evolutionary point of view, consuming sugar is a very very recent novelty in our history. In fact, sugar consumption did not become massive in the world until after the colonization of the American continent by Europe. It was then that the cultivation of sugar cane spread throughout the world and when it became part of our diet on a regular basis.

Are there ancient diets that consume so much sugar? Are they obese? The funny thing is that there are. Both the Hadza of Tanzania and the Kuna of Panama consume quite a lot of sugar in their diets. Mainly, in the form of fruit or honey, but what is more curious is that the Kuna also consume a lot of sugar from sugary drinks that they get in local markets. They get to take about 80gr / day of which 40gr come from these drinks. Are they obese? No.

In other words, the consumption of sugar per se, even if it is ingested in sugary drinks, cannot be isolated from many other factors in our lifestyle. In the Kuna, their lifestyle sure plays a fundamental role in the fact that this extra sugar consumption does not cause them major problems. However, the same consumption in a person from the western world, surely has very different effects.

One of the problems with sugar is that they are empty calories. I am referring to refined white sugar which is pure sucrose. Apart from this, it provides zero nutrients, and in healthy nutrition, the most important thing is a diet rich in nutrients.

The reality is that nowadays, in addition to sugary drinks, as Jaimie Oliver already denounced, sugar is present in almost everything we consume, chocolate, juices, milk, sauces ... And the worst thing is that we are not aware of the total amount we eat. What, added to these delicious drinks, makes us consume much more than would be desirable. To this must be added that many of us spend more than 8 hours a day sitting at our jobs. Something that surely other populations do not do.

Regulate the sugar content in food

Penalizing the consumer, without reaching out to the food industries does not seem fair to me. Obviously, the former is easier, because to make companies change the formulas to reduce the sugar content in their compounds would be attacking the business, and the companies know that this would also affect the "desirability" of their products. The more you consume the better, and something that affects this desire jeopardizes its benefits. Not to mention, the pressure they can exert on politicians and institutions through lobbies.

Actually, if we really want to get our hands on sugar, we should think about how to reduce its use within the food industry in general. Consumers, once made from one flavor to one quantity, are hardly going to change their habits through television commercials or artificial limitations on available sizes. As they say, "after the law, cheated" and both stores and consumers will find a way to continue consuming their daily amount of sugar to which they are accustomed.

But also, we cannot help but forget that there are many other factors that influence our diets. Sugar plays a role, but not only because they are empty calories or because they are consumed a lot, but because its presence in food can influence the neural mechanisms of gratification related to food. These mechanisms, once triggered, can make us eat more than we really should.

As you can see, it is not a simple matter, and therefore, the measures can never be simplistic.

Image via | Whole Heart Source

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