Bitter Sweet: are you a sugar addict?

We all need energy, but eating too much of the sweet stuff could cause a catalogue of health problems in the future.

A team led by Robert Lustig – a childhood obesity expert at the University of California, San Francisco – published an opinion piece titled The Toxic Truth About Sugar in the journal Nature recently, warning that eating too much sugar is not only a major cause of obesity, but can also contribute to high blood pressure, liver damage and hormonal imbalance.

The problem is not that sugar is truly toxic – it is that we are all eating far too much of the stuff. Consumption has tripled in the past 50 years, which, the researchers say, has led to there being more obese people in the world now than malnourished ones.

So many processed, seemingly savoury and “healthy” foods contain hidden sugar too that it’s hard to work out exactly how much you are eating if you want to cut back.

No more than 10 per cent of the calories we consume each day should come from sugar – roughly 50g for women and 70g for men.

Patrick Holford, the author of How to Quit Without Feeling S**t (Piatkus Original, £13.99) strongly believes that sugar causes many health problems for women, including: signs of ageing health, mood problems, weight around the middle, and skin problems.  

“Everyone likes sugar, and the more you have the more you want,” Patrick says. “You get used to higher and higher levels of sweetness so that, after a while, the desire for sweet foods can take over."

Patrick's tips for giving up sugar:

Eat a low glycaemic load (GL) diet, choosing slow-release carbs such as oats instead of cereals with added sugar such as cornflakes. Bananas, dates and raisins are all sugarloaded,while cherries, berries, plums, pears and apples have slower releasing sugars.

● Try to halve your refined sugar intake each week until it reaches zero. For example, if you normally have two sugars in your tea, have one in the first week and half a teaspoon in the second week, until you take none at all.

Switch to the sugar substitute xylitol so that you don’t have a blood-sugar rush.

Eat breakfast and eat regularly through the day. Aim for three healthy, balanced meals and two snacks a day. By eating a little and often you help support your blood-sugar balance.

Minimise caffeine and alcohol as both these affect your blood-sugar levels and make you more likely to crave sugar.