Column: Is sugar bad for your health?

In The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell wrote, “The peculiar evil is this: When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored and miserable, you don’t want to eat wholesome food. You want to eat something a little bit ‘tasty.’ There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you.”

Eighty years later, the same truth exists, but not only for the unemployed. A tough parenting day. A task you do not want to complete. Tasty foods are always just beyond our fingertips. Sugary foods trigger a dopamine reaction that make us feel temporarily happy. But when does an innocent indulgence cause harm?

This is difficult to answer as sugar causes pleasure at a price that is difficult to measure right away. To develop chronic disease, it takes years or decades of abuse before we see any effects. And how much is sugar to blame, compared with genetics or other risk factors like smoking or inactivity?

The World Health Organization (WHO), has taken a stand, recommending less than five per cent of your calories from sugar. For a 2,000 calorie diet, this translates to 25 grams or six teaspoons of added sugars (table sugar, honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates) per day. Sugars in whole foods like fruits or vegetables do not count.

Health Canada still has not made any specific recommendations, making one wonder if health information in Canada is too heavily influenced by food industry. The Canadian Sugar Institute (a national, non-profit association funded by sugar producers that provides a science-based Nutrition Information Service) frames our sugar consumption very positively ( “Canadians consume about 11 per cent of their energy from added sugars, well below the Institute of Medicine’s (the American version of Health Canada) suggested maximum of 25 per cent.”

Are refined sugar bad for your health? Yes.

Should we eat less of it? Yes.

Do we need to eliminate it completely? No.

We are human. We are going to eat what brings us pleasure. So maybe we need advocacy and policies in place that support us to make healthier choices more often, perhaps American diet patterns should not be used as our standard of health.

-Serena Caner is a registered dietitian who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.

Just Posted

Wilkie adds silver to medal collection

Para-Nordic skier picks up her third medal of the PyeongChang games in relay

Medical team helps Guatemalan mothers, babies

Okanagan-Shuswap professionals improve health by training traditional birth attendants

Video: Natalie Wilkie wins gold in Women’s 7.5km ski race as hometown cheers her on

Salmon Arm skier takes home her second medal of the PyeongChang Paralympics

Making new furry friends at the Meet the Breeds event in Salmon Arm

Centenoka Park Mall hosts Vernon & District Kennel Club’s showcase of well-trained pups

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

VIDEO: B.C. Mounties reunite veteran with lost military medals

RCMP say Zora Singh Tatla, who served in the army in India for 28 years, is the righful owner

Cancer fundraiser takes to Okanagan Lake

Penticton and Naramata joining growing fundraising event

B.C. cyclist races to first win of the season in New Zealand

Casey Brown captures Enduro title by more than two minutes at Crankworx Rotorua

Notorious Russian troll farm also took swipes at Canadian targets

Targets included oil infrastructure and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Dust returns to North Okanagan

The Ministry of Environent and Climate Change Strategy has again issued a dust advisory for Vernon

Cirque du Soleil aerialist dies after fall during Florida show

Longtime performer fell while performing in VOLTA

Canada earns second Paralympic Games silver in 20 years

Held 1-0 lead in para hockey game from 12:06 of first to dying seconds of third and lost in overtime

LETTERS: Two views of oil pipeline protests

U.S. and other petroleum-rich countries aren’t cutting production

Canadian Paralympic team picked up record 28 medals

The 55 athletes strong had set a cautious goal of 17 medals for PyeongChang

Most Read