The typical Indian diet consists of foods that are rich in carbohydrates - white rice, potato, white bread, sugary snacks and beverages. Even though sweet or starchy carbohydrates provide energy to the body, their excess consumption can lead to heart problems, obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, metabolic disorders, nutritional deficiencies and even cancer.
A carbohydrate that we have begun to consume more than we should is sugar. Over the last five decades, sugar consumption in India has risen from 5 per cent of the global production to 13 per cent now. India has become the world’s largest sugar consumer - consuming one-third more sugar than the entire EU and 60 per cent more than China.
Fitness expert, Wanitha Ashok J said, "As western food habits have become popular, the proportion of processed and non-essential food items containing added sugar has gone up in our diet. This is one of the main reasons for the rise in our daily sugar intake. Sugar also makes you age faster and inhibits the absorption of protein. Every cell in the body thrives on protein, especially skin and hair cells.”
A teaspoon full of white sugar offers 16 empty calories, without vitamins or minerals. As a result, sugar addicts begin to suffer from hidden hunger. Though they eat enough, their bodies become deficient in essential nutrients and lead to health disorders.
Considering this, some international scientists are demanding that sugar be regulated like tobacco and alcohol. Sugar is as toxic to the liver as alcohol, which is derived from fermented sugar.
Sugar could lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, insulin resistance, excessive body fat and high cholesterol levels.
A diet rich in white sugar and other refined carbohydrates forces the body to increase the production of insulin. Eventually, the body cells, receiving too much insulin, develop insulin resistance. With this, blood sugar levels shoot up in the body,often leading to Type 2 diabetes. Chronically high blood sugar levels put an enormous strain on the vascular system and damage the lining of arteries, making them thick and hard.
The extra calories provided by refined carbohydrates such as sugar and starchy food like rice and potatoes that the body doesn’t immediately need are converted into fat cells. This is a significant contributing factor to the obesity epidemic. Obesity has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, cancer, fatty liver disease, dementia and heart problems.
Experts say that while it is inadvisable to avoid sugar totally, its consumption should be kept below the threshold where it turns toxic for our bodies. The National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, recommends a sugar intake of not more than 20 to 25 grams per day for normal adults. To achieve this, one needs to avoid processed foods rich in sugar like soft drinks, other beverages with sugar and excessive over-the-table use of sugar. In fact, just one can of soft drink contains eight tea spoons of sugar or 130 calories.
"Sugar is cheap, addictive and tastes great. It is present in everything, including fruit juices, yogurt, breakfast cereals and soups. Most people tend to consume more sugar than they realise because it is so well disguised in processed foods,” Wanitha added.