- Written by Queen Munguti for KenyaKidz
A Euromonitor report on the global economies and consumers 2017 has revealed that diabetes is one of the lifestyle diseases that will be on the rise globally with nearly one in 10 adults suffering from the disease due to sedentary lifestyles however by reducing intake of added sugars to six teaspoons per day it could reduce the risk.
“In 2017, nine per cent of the global population aged 20 to79 is expected to suffer from diabetes. People with diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer,” read the Euromonitor report.
In Kenya, data shows that it is one of the most afflicted countries in the world in diseases caused by excessive sugar consumption, with lifestyle diseases now accounting for 27 per cent of deaths of Kenyans aged between 30 and 70 years, according to The Ministry of Health Annual Status Report.
The main sources for added sugars include; sodas, fruit juices, sweets, ice cream, processed foods, such as breads, meats, and condiments: tomato sauce and ketchup. While naturally occurring sugars in the form of whole foods such as fruits cause no harm to the body.
It is due to this that the World Health Organization in 2015 reduced the recommended total energy intake that the average person should get from sugar to provide additional health benefits from 10 per cent to at least five per cent (six teaspoons) in March 2015, as most people consume ‘hidden’ sugars.
“Much of the sugars consumed today are ‘hidden’ in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, one tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4g (about one teaspoon) of free sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soft drink contains up to 40g (about 10 teaspoons) of free sugars,” read the WHO guideline.
“We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10 per cent of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay.”
Besides causing lifestyle diseases, scientific evidence has also shown that taking too much added sugar can lead to the substantial slow down of the cognitive function of the brain.
"Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters the brain's ability to learn and remember information. This is because insulin can penetrate the blood–brain barrier, signaling neurons to trigger reactions that disrupt learning and cause memory loss,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
In a research, Gomez-Pinilla studied two groups of rats that each consumed a fructose solution as drinking water for six weeks while the second group also received omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which protects against damage to the synapses — the chemical connections between brain cells that enable memory and learning.
After six weeks, they observed that the first group of were slower and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity thus disrupting their ability to think clearly while the second group’s brain activity was not damaged.