Problem

Excessive consumption of sugar

Other Names:
Sugar craving
Sugar addiction
Empty calories
Nature:

Sugar consumption may be a public health danger, particularly for infants and children who consume large quantities and can form an addiction to it. Sugar can be condemned for its proven ill effects on teeth, but there is also evidence to show that it is a causative factor in heart disease, either on its own or as a result of interaction with the effects of coffee consumption and smoking. In some people, sugar consumption leads to a complex hormonal response which may eventually result in chronically high insulin levels. The latter correlates with coronary disease. Sugar has also been accused of contributing to obesity, diabetes, indigestion, poor eyesight, dermatitis, early puberty, ulcers, gall stones, gout and premature ageing. Sugar contains no vitamins, protein, fibre or trace elements.

Background:

A strong anti-sugar movement began in the early 1970's. By 1985, professionals were convinced white sugar was a catalyst for diabetes, high blood pressure, hyperactivity, obesity, allergies, breast cancer and gallstones. In 1986, however, the USDA declared these charges unreliable due to insufficient scientific proof.  Concerning cancer, by 2017 the tide was turning.  Contrary to the conventional view - that increased glycolysis [sugar-based metabolism] seen in cancer patients was a consequence of oncogenic events that drive malignant cell growth and survival - studies provided evidence that increased glycolytic activation itself can be an oncogenic event.  That is to say, the activation of sugar-based metabolism in a cell – driven by both the presence of increased quantities of glucose and the increase glucose receptors on the cell membrane surface (i.e. "overexpression of a glucose transporter") – drives cancer initiation.  Conversely, forced reduction of glucose uptake by cancer cells can lead to them changing form to normal cells or dying.

Incidence:

A 1991 British study estimates that the average man eats 115 grams of sugar per day, of which 87 grams are refined and the rest naturally present in food, and women consume 86 grams in total, of which 60 grams are refined. Even natural foods that taste sweet contain some form of sugar, such as dates (65%), raisins (60%), grapes (15%) and apples (10%).

Annual sugar consumption has increased (in developed countries) from 1.8 to 54.5 kg per head over the past 200 years, now providing up to one sixth of daily caloric intake. Two thirds of this consumption is via a wide range of factory prepared foods. Children in the UK gain 29 percent of their energy from sugary foods. As an indication of the prevalence of "sweet-tooths", the market for artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes in the UK in 1986 was £24.5 million.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
12.07.2019 – 13:35 CEST