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Recently while spooning sugar into my husband’s morning tea, I realised that he consumes at least 30 teaspoons of sugar a week; the kids’ drink at least 10 glasses of juice, soft drinks and flavoured milk per week and while I take my tea without sugar, I certainly enjoy my mithais, chocolates and colas.

Recent research tells me that white sugar is bad news so what makes it so irresistible? I decided to dig deeper, and found some not-so-sweet facts.

According to research conducted in France (Bordeaux, 2007) sugar-rich diets are addictive and generate a ‘supra-normal’ reward signal in the brain that can override self control signals and lead to over indulgence. So when a person ‘craves’ a sweet treat, his/her behaviour is similar to an addict’s – a sugar addict.

Loading up on sugar in the form of liquids is even worse because it takes a larger quantity to satisfy the craving, inducing over eating, eventually leading to obesity – the mother of all ailments. Children’s ‘treats’ (jellies, snack bars, etc.) – mainly made up of sugar with a dash of colour and flavour – are equally bad.

John Yudkin’s book, Pure, White and Deadly, published almost four decades ago linked consumption of sugar and refined sweeteners to long term diseases of the liver, pancreas, kidneys and ultimately the heart. Now, recent research links even moderate consumption of sugary treats to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity in children.

Since sugar is such a bad news, how can you omit it from your diet? The first step is to limit the intake of obviously sugary foods and drinks. You should also be aware of that fact that refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup lurk in most ready-made foods (yoghurts, sauces, cereals, etc.) so becoming a ‘label detective’ is a good idea; scrutinise nutrition labels carefully, avoid processed foods and of course, exercise moderation in everything you consume.

– Dr Summaiya Syed Tariq
The writer is a senior forensic practitioner at the Police Surgeon Office, Karachi.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 8, 2013.