Sugar can be toxic, says the author.

The typical Indian diet consists of foods that are rich in carbohydrates, such as white rice, potato, white bread, and sugary snacks and beverages. Even though sweet or starchy carbohydrates provide energy to the body, excessive consumption can lead to various diet-related problems such as cardiac trouble, obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, metabolic disorders, nutritional deficiencies and even cancer.

One of the most worrisome carbohydrates that we have begun to consume more than we should is sugar. Over the last five decades, sugar consumption in India has risen from five per cent of the global production to 13 per cent. India has become the world’s biggest sugar consumer today, consuming one-third more sugar than the entire E.U. and 60 per cent more than China!

At around 20 kg, our per capita sugar consumption is still below the global average of 25 kg but is growing at a fast clip.

Worldwide, it is recommended that women have no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day and men, nine teaspoons. Since Indians are prone to diabetes, we should restrict intake to five teaspoons of added sugar a day. Some international scientists are now demanding that sugar be regulated in the same way as tobacco and alcohol. Sugar is actually as toxic to the liver as alcohol, which is derived from the fermentation of sugar. Consuming a diet rich in white sugar and other refined carbohydrates forces the body to increase the production of insulin. Eventually, the body cells develop insulin resistance and blood sugar levels shoot up. Many people go on to develop Type 2 diabetes. Chronically high blood sugar levels put an enormous strain on the vascular system and damage the lining of arteries, making them thick and hard.

The extra calories provided by refined carbohydrates are converted into fat cells and contribute significantly to the obesity epidemic. Obesity has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, cancer, fatty liver disease, and dementia and heart problems. Experts say that, while it is inadvisable to avoid sugar totally, its consumption should be kept below the threshold where it turns toxic. The National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, recommends a sugar intake of not more than 20 to 25 gm a day for normal adults. To achieve this, one needs to avoid processed foods rich in sugar like soft drinks, sugary beverages like coffee and excessive over-the-table use of sugar. Just one can of soft drink contains eight teaspoons of sugar, or 130 calories!

While obesity and related disorders are increasing in India, data shows a decline in the total per capita calorie intake of Indians over the past few years. This is a clear indication that the cause of obesity is not merely an imbalance of nutrients but also a sedentary lifestyle. Our goal should be complete lifestyle management with healthy dietary concepts along with regular physical activity.