Carte Blanche – Sugar Addiction

Tonight at 7pm Carte Blanche is airing an insert on ‘Sugar Addiction’ which includes an interview with ADSA President, Claire Julsing-Strydom. They asked some interesting questions and we would like to share those with you:

Is sugar addiction real?

The answer is that yes sugar can lead to addictive like eating behaviour. Food addiction is real, especially in individuals who have a predisposition towards addiction and addictive like eating behaviour. Studies refer to the hedonic pathway of food record, what we know is that excessive sugar intake alters dopamine and opioid neurotransmission thereby increasing food intake.  But it is important to note that BOTH sugar and high fat foods mobilise the latter establishing hard wired cravings in these areas.  Current literature indicates that addictive like eating behaviour can be attributed to refined carbohydrates (sugar and white flour) as well as fats.  The Yale Food addiction scale suggests that highly processed foods that combine sugar and fat are more likely to lead to addictive like eating behaviours.

How much sugar is too much?

The intake of added sugar appears to be increasing steadily across the South African population. Children typically consume approximately 40-60 g/day, possibly rising to as much as 100g/day in adolescents. This represents roughly 5-10% of dietary energy, but could be as much as 20% in many individuals. The South African Food Based Dietary guidelines recommend that sugar and foods and drinks high in sugar be used sparingly.  The World Health Organisation have in their most recent guidelines recommended reducing total energy from sugar to below 5% from the previous 10%.  This equates to about 25g pf sugar per day which is approximately the same as 5 teaspoons of sugar. Keep in mind then that a single can of cold drink will exceed 25g of sugar.

In a balanced diet what kind of sugars should we be eating?

Naturally occurring sugars in whole foods such as lactose in yoghurt or fructose in fruits which occur in a fibre matrix have a very different metabolic process then refined carbohydrates and sugar.  It is important to avoid the excess intake of sugar – there is allowance for moderate intake in accordance with dietary guidelines. However research does intake that intakes of added sugars in on the rise and people need to start adjusting their intakes.

Why does ADSA have sponsors that have products that contain sugar?

Woolworths and Pick n Pay are sponsors of ADSA they stock chocolate and colds drinks, but just because they stock these particular food items and are sponsors of ADSA, does not mean that we as ADSA endorse or promote these particular products.  Our sponsorship policy states that we don’t endorse products and in accordance with the South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines and evidence based information we make recommendations to our patients based on their individual nutritional requirements.

A food product that contains sugar can be included in a balanced meal plan as discussed earlier in line with local and international guidelines. Excess sugar intake however should be avoided as it is associated with adverse health risks. What is important to note is that when we have sponsorship discussions with industry it is made very clear that our sponsorship policy does not allow for endorsements in any way. ADSA is an NGO and all the dietitians that work for ADSA do so on a voluntary basis and do not get paid for the work that they do to serve the dietetics profession and the public by informing them on nutrition related matters. Various companies sponsor ADSA and all the funds that we collect through sponsorship are pooled. These funds are used in order to support the dietetics profession and ultimately the improvement of nutritional status for all South Africans. To read more on our sponsorship policy please visit our website: www.adsa.org.za

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