Eating too much sugar can ‘lead to sudden fat gain’ – how to watch your intake

Doctor claims diet drinks can lead to weight gain

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Eating too much sugar means that the extra insulin in your bloodstream can affect your arteries all over your body. As well as a contribution to weight gain, eating too much of the food can also cause tiredness and result in extra overeating. 

While it is not advised to cut sugar from your diet completely, cutting down on intake can help shed the pounds along with exercise.

The NHS recommends that adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day, equivalent to seven sugar cubes.

Free sugars are those added to food or drinks such as sweets, cakes, biscuits and chocolate.

Speaking to, Doctoral Researcher in nutrition science education at University College London and Chief Science Educator at The Health Sciences Academy, Alex Ruani, explained just why sugar intake may be making us hungrier.

The expert said: “Eating too much sugar may mean taking in an excessive amount of calories, far more than what we need, and this can lead to putting on weight.

 “But besides calories, there are other reasons why excess sugar may be fattening.

“Sugary foods and drinks tend to be less filling. Not just because they may be lower in fibre and protein, both of which promote feelings of fullness, but research also shows that high sugar intake may make us hungrier:

“Too much sugar, in particular the fructose in juices, smoothies, and soft drinks, increases appetite and subsequent cravings. How? By inhibiting the release of appetite-suppressant hormones (such as PYY) and by keeping the levels of appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin high, besides altering the signals of these (and other) hunger hormones in the brain. And since appetite isn’t effectively suppressed, we’re more likely to want to keep eating.

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“What’s more, sweet tasting foods and drinks light up reward and addiction centres in the brain, enhancing cravings for all things sugary, while reducing the enjoyment of less palatable foods.

“Put simply, healthier foods are more likely to be displaced in favour of sugary items.

“All in all, the detrimental alteration of hunger hormones, and the heightened brain reward from sweet tasting foods and drinks, may encourage eating more calories – and this can make us put on weight.”

Foods and drinks packed with sugar tend to be referred to as empty calories because they provide very little nutrition for the body as well as completely lacking in protein, a nutrient essential for weight loss because it promotes feelings of fullness. 

This means you will often feel hungry after consuming junk food which will lead to overeating and weight gain.

The expert added that eating too much sugar daily can cause excessive fat storage.

She said “Eating too much sugar on the daily can keep our blood glucose levels elevated. This is called hyperglycaemia, which can lead to sudden fat gain, but also harm cells and organs, promote inflammation around the whole body, and accelerate ageing.

“To deal with this elevated blood sugar before it does more damage, the body releases more insulin than usual in order to ship the excess sugar into body cells. But when insulin levels remain chronically high, our cells will stop responding to it properly, causing something called insulin resistance. The only cells that remain responsive to insulin are fat cells, meaning that fat storage is exacerbated.”

For those who are looking to lose weight and eating too much sugar, Alex shared some simple healthier food swaps.

Toast with jam and butter is a popular breakfast option but to reduce the sugar content, wholegrain toast with no-added sugar peanut butter, or with poached eggs, baked beans, houmous or cream cheese is a healthier alternative. 

Sugary breakfast cereals, which are often marketed as being healthy, are another popular choice for Britons in the morning but the expert recommends swapping them for porridge or oat flakes with fresh fruit pieces or with dried fruit.

For those who find it hard to cut out chocolate from their diet, swapping it for a small packet of nuts, seeds of dried fruit is recommended by Alex who explained that they are occasionally mixed with small pieces of dark chocolate pieces. 

Naturally occurring sugars such as those found in fruits do not need to be monitored, although all foods should be eaten in moderation.

The expert continued: “The World Health Organisation and the UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommend that ‘free sugars’ should be no more than five percent of your daily calories.

“For the average adult, that’s no more than about 25 grams of free sugars a day. 

“This guideline is not a target to meet, but rather an upper limit that should not be exceeded!

“Just one small commercial smoothie of 180ml has 18 grams of free sugars, which nearly maxes out our daily limit. The recommended limit may be easily exceeded if we don’t pay attention.”

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