January 30, 2013, Information

High Sugar diets are contributing to Obesity in Australia.

Obesity is the accumulation of excess body fat; extreme build up of adipose tissue that raises a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) to over 30. (Cohen, p.444, 2005).

Australia is today ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world. The prevalence of Obesity in Australian adults has more than doubled in the past 20 years with fourteen million Australians overweight or obese and if the extreme weight gain continues at current levels, by 2025, close to 80% of Australian adults and a 3rd of children will be overweight or obese. Obesity is fast approaching cigarette smoking as the single largest cause of “preventable death’ (Perricone, p.110).

Obese persons are likely to have hypertriglyceridemia, low HDL cholesterol value, hypertension and associated type two diabetes which increase the risk of coronary artery disease. Other secondary complications to obesity include stroke, chronic kidney disease and health disorders such as gallstones, immune deficiency, loss of memory, depression, irritability, osteoarthritis, asthma, tooth decay, bone loss and sleep apnoea  (Pitchford, p.189).

Obesity is the single biggest threat to public health in Australia and sugar – fructose which contains no nutritional value only excess calories and has become a major contributor in the epidemic of metabolic syndrome and obesity due to its ability to raise uric acid, cause an impaired brain function, hyperactive behaviour, difficulty focusing, and lack of impulse control (Perricone, p.90).

Sorbitol (E420) and Xylitol (967) are added to ‘sugar free” products such as low fat cookies, crackers, and yoghurts. Food manufacturers have taken fat out, added these refined sugars to provide flavour, bulk, texture to reduced fat foods. Soda and fruit juices are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is a concentrated form of sugar, fructose derived from corn which increases body fat, cholesterol and triglycerides. Fat free and diet products are not lower in calories, as fat has been removed, sugar and additives are not filling, which results in person eating more low fat processed foods, increasing weight gain and obesity epidemic.

Food manufacturers are a main contributing factor to causing the increase in obesity and illness as they have made the switch from cane and beet, based sugar to corn based HFCS, because it’s much cheaper to produce than sucrose, and it’s sweeter and has a longer shelf life which keeps baked goods soft while giving a warm, toasty colour.

Nutrition Australia features an article on fructose published in ‘Sweet Poison’, claiming the obesity epidemic as well as many chronic diseases is entirely attributable to the consumption of refined fructose in the diet which is derived from sucrose and from foods containing added sucrose which consists of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Found in processed foods such as biscuits and sweetened cereals, sugar is not bound into the structure of food and so these are called “extrinsic” sugars which release energy fast into the bloodstream resulting in excess intake and cravings (Cohen, 2005, p.32).

Author Gillespie recognised that fructose derived naturally from whole fruit has a different metabolic effect on whole body when compared with fructose added to the diet. Sugars in fruit and vegetables are intrinsic as they are incorporated into the structure of foods and contain the presence of dietary fibre; high fructose fruits such as apples and pears should be limited; recommended two daily servings of fruit per day, which is also outlined by the Australian dietary guidelines for Australians published by the (NHMRC), which also emphasise the importance of physical activity in weight control.

Recent shorter-term studies show consistent adverse effects of sugar consumption on HDL and triglyceride levels, which could accelerate atherosclerosis and worsen diabetes control as high sugar foods, which are sweet and calorie dense, increase calorie consumption and lead to weight gain. (Howard et al, 2002)

Traditional and contemporary evidence regarding the nutrition medicine management of condition
Cultural changes began 30 years ago when Australians were advised to follow the ‘healthy eating pyramid’, consisting of high carbohydrates (starches) such as breads, rice and low essential fatty acids, increase in ‘low fat’ and ‘diet’ products eg; yoghurts which were stripped of natural fats, healthy probiotics, and filled with sugar, thickeners, emulsifiers etc, also breakfast cereals such as Kellogg’s Nutri Grain which contains 32 grams of sugar per 100 gram, and Uncle Toby’s Yoghurt topped muesli bars contain 30 grams of sugar per 100 grams, which ironically is promoted by athletes as healthy energy food.
Fast food restaurants also increased and people preparing less food at home, instead consuming high sugary and fat laden convenience snacks and quick meals, with increased portion sizes, an example is a Mars Bar which 20 years ago, weighed 30 grams and contains 135 calories. Today its 80 grams and has 370 calories – about a complete meals worth of calories in a snack. (Nutrition Australia, 2012).

This ‘traditional’ Australian way of thinking  was “if it is not high in fat, it wouldn’t make them fat”, however evidence from clinical studies show lower in calories and natural fat removed, is not filling or nourishing for the body, which results in excess intake which ultimately results in excess weight and obesity.

Contemporary evidence in relation to Australians nutrition relating to managing obesity by improving health has shown recent evidence of eating a higher protein based diet, based on fresh foods and  low in refined carbohydrate proven approach as health awareness increased and more evidence of the essential requirements of fat needed for every cell membrane and brain function. Australians have been more aware of the benefits of following a Mediterranean wholefoods based diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, raw nuts/seeds and good quality oils such as olive, flaxseed and coconut (Pitchford, p330).
However many Australians are still uneducated in food choices and influenced by food manufacturers advertising processed products and the media using sporting stars to promote high sugar, processed foods and continue to use food marketing translations on food packaging which is misleading such as “No sugar added”, instead include a variety of sweet tasting carcinogenic chemicals, and “low fat” and “diet” which have fat stripped and added a chemical cocktail that is worse than fat, yet currently these products are consuming approximately 50% of a supermarket which is detrimental to the optimum health of Australians.


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