Sugar: how much is too much?

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By Brad Brinkley

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 5 of VARSITY News.


South Africa has the largest prevalence of obesity within sub-Saharan Africa. This is linked to our high sugar consumption as on average, we consume between 12 and 24 teaspoons of sugar per day, while the World Health Organisation recommends only 6.


Most people are aware of sugar’s correlation to obesity, tooth decay and heart disease, but here are some facts you might not know:


Sugar destabilises glucose levels within your body, which can cause mood swings, tiredness and headaches. It also increases your risk of acquiring disease, because it cultures excess bacteria and yeast colonies within your body, which feeds on sugar. For those concerned about wrinkles, excessive sugar intake can result in premature ageing. In the bloodstream, it attaches to proteins and forms new molecules that decrease skin elasticity.


Considering students’ predilections for study snacks during  exam season, it is important to note that sugar plays a role in increasing stress and anxiety. Blood sugar levels are elevated after eating sugar which prompts the release of a stress hormone called cortisol, which is responsible for these negative feelings. Sugar withdrawal symptoms are likened to those of drugs and the best way to minimise them is through healthy dieting, exercise and hydration.Some alternative, healthy study snack options are: fruit, nuts, popcorn or dark chocolate.


It may be no surprise that South African government implemented a sugar tax in 2018 that now sits at 2.29 cents per gram. Due to the strain that obesity puts on the public health system, they are hoping that the tax will reduce its occurrence by 10% by 2020. The 2.3 billion rand that had accumulated by December last year will be allocated to the advancement of public health campaigns.


It is important to realise that sugar is necessary in our daily diet. However, South Africans are consuming to the point where government intervention is required. The next time you decide to treat yourself to sugary nibbles, remember that moderation is key.


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