Category Archives: dementia

‘The Elephant in the room’ – Sugar

The Elephant in the room’  – Sugar

I would like to welcome the people who attended the Get Healthy Stay Healthy Wimbledon meeting on Tuesday to our community, I thought our new venue in the library was excellent and we will be certainly be making it our home for future meetings. Well done Chris for organising it, we will have the next meeting date for you in the next 48 hours.

The topic for my talk in Wimbledon was “The Western Diet and why it is toxic to your health” It’s a fascinating story, a ‘who dunnit’ of epic proportions as I mentioned before and far too involved to discuss in detail in my blog.

I spoke about what I call the ‘elephant in the room’ that connects most of the health problems we are now seeing in the 21st Century and that is processed sugar. And this is the message I want to home in on in my blog.

The bottom line is that we are all eating too much processed sugar and is fundamentally the root cause of the current obesity pandemic, leading to the pandemic of metabolic syndrome, of coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia which has also taken hold worldwide.

The NHS guidelines for sugar is that adults should have no more than 30g of added sugars a day, (roughly equivalent to seven teaspoons).

So, the question is, did you know this and if you did do you know what your daily intake of sugar is? I would suspect that most people would have no idea on both of these, because it is hidden away in the processed foods you are consuming.

Between 70 – 80% of processed foods contain ‘hidden’ refined sugar. I say hidden because you don’t know its there but the companies that manufacture the foodstuffs certainly do. They know, and this is key, that sugar is addictive (more addictive than cocaine). You hear some people say, “I have to have my sugar fix” and that is exactly what it is. The more sugar the processing companies add to a foodstuff the more you are going to buy it, it’s called profit, ‘healthy’ doesn’t enter the equation.

This is the main reason why sugar consumption per person has doubled in 50 years and that the increase in consumption mirrors the increase of metabolic syndrome worldwide. Sugar is toxic to your health. (I am specifically talking about refined sugar and not fruit sugar).

Why is sugar so bad for you is because, we evolved over millions of years as hunter gatherers and therefore to eat like a hunter gatherer (paleo diet). Refined sugar was not on the menu, so there was no need for the body to evolve to metabolise it in large quantities. It is your liver that takes the hit for the sugar rush you expose it to on a regular basis. The liver takes one look at it and says “oh no not more sugar” and to cut a long story short will metabolise it as fat, sugar in, fat stored (and then try and get it off).

It’s not about calories in verses calories out and therefore it is your fault if you are overweight (gluttony and sloth), because a calorie is not a calorie, it is where it comes from determines where it goes and in the case of sugar it goes to your fat cells.

So, what do we do about it?

Somehow we need to get off the sugar, and because sugar is so addictive I realise that is easier said than done. By staying connected with the Get Healthy Stay Healthy Community we will certainly be giving you the latest thoughts and tips on this. Take back control of your sugar intake and you will notice a significant health benefit relatively quickly.

Use sugar sparingly as we did right up to the 20th Century.  I love ice creams too and I won’t be giving them up any time soon, but I keep the rest of my intake to an absolute minimum and the best way to do that is to eat real food, which we will discuss separately.

I have been asked to send out information on what is processed food.

Here is info taken from NHS website.

Processed foods

A processed food is any food that has been altered in some way during preparation.

Food processing can be as basic as:

  • freezing
  • canning
  • baking
  • drying

Not all processed foods are unhealthy but some processed foods may contain high levels of salt, sugar and fat.

What counts as processed food?

Examples of common processed foods include:

  • breakfast cereals
  • cheese
  • tinned vegetables
  • bread
  • savoury snacks, such as crisps, sausage rolls, pies and pasties
  • meat products, such as bacon, sausage, ham, salami and paté
  • “convenience foods”, such as microwave meals or ready meals
  • cakes and biscuits
  • drinks, such as milk or soft drinks

Not all processed food is a bad choice. Some foods need processing to make them safe, such as milk, which needs to be pasteurised to remove harmful bacteria.

Other foods need processing to make them suitable for use, such as pressing seeds to make oil.

What makes some processed foods less healthy?

Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are sometimes added to processed foods to make their flavour more appealing and to extend their shelf life, or in some cases to contribute to the food’s structure, such as salt in bread or sugar in cakes.

Buying processed foods can lead to people eating more than the recommended amounts of sugar, salt and fat as they may not be aware of how much has been added to the food they are buying and eating. These foods can also be higher in calories due to the high amounts of added sugar or fat in them.

How can I eat processed foods as part of a healthy diet?

You have no control over the amount salt, sugar and fat in processed food but you do have control over what you to choose buy.

Reading nutrition labels can help you choose between processed products and keep a check on fat, salt and sugar content. Most pre-packed foods have the nutrition information on the front, back or side of the packaging. If the processed food you want to buy has a nutrition label that uses colour-coding, you will often find a mixture of red, amber and green.

When you’re choosing between similar products, try to go for more greens and ambers, and fewer reds, if you want to make a healthier choice.

There are guidelines to tell you if a food is high or low in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar.

The guidelines, which are for adults, are:

Total fat

High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g

Saturated fat

High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g


High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g


High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)