Dump the Lump

Sugar limits for everyday foods such as biscuits, chocolate bars and cereals have been published in a bid to make UK children healthier. So, just how bad is sugar for you?

Public Health England is challenging businesses to cut sugar by 20 per cent by 2020, and by five per cent this year. It says the food industry should lower sugar levels, reduce product size or push healthier products. Many doctors now believe that sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet, contributing to all sorts of diseases. Here are just some reasons why you should try to avoid it…

Added sugar contains no essential nutrients and is bad for your teeth: There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar… just pure energy. And because it provides easily digestible energy for the bad bacteria in the mouth it’s harmful for teeth.

Fructose can overload your liver: Before sugar enters the bloodstream from the digestive tract, it is broken down into glucose and fructose. A little bit of fructose from say some fruit is fine but too much can overload the liver. Obviously this doesn’t mean you should avoid fruit and if you are healthy and active your body should be able to tolerate more sugar than people who are inactive and eat a Western, high-carb, high-calorie diet.

Resistance to insulin: Insulin allows glucose to enter cells from the bloodstream and tells the cells to start burning glucose instead of fat. Having too much glucose in the blood is highly toxic and one of the reasons for complications of diabetes, like blindness. One feature of the metabolic dysfunction that is caused by the Western diet, is that insulin stops working as it should. The cells become “resistant” to it. Insulin resistance is believed to be a leading driver of many diseases especially type II diabetes.

Type II diabetes: When our cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, the beta cells in our pancreas make more of it. Eventually, as insulin resistance becomes progressively worse, the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand of producing enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels down. At this point, blood sugar levels skyrocket and a diagnosis of type II diabetes is made. People who drink sugar-sweetened beverages have up to an 83% higher risk of Type II diabetes.

Increased risk of cancer: There is considerable evidence that sugar, due to its harmful effects on metabolism, can contribute to cancer. Insulin is one of the key hormones in regulating this sort of growth. For this reason, many scientists believe that having constantly elevated insulin levels (a consequence of sugar consumption) can contribute to cancer.

Raises cholesterol that contributes to heart disease: For many decades, people have blamed saturated fat for the number one killer, heart disease. However, there is growing evidence that sugar rather than fat, may be one of the leading drivers of heart disease.

Unique fat-promoting effects: High fructose intake may leave you feeling hungrier leading to increased calorie intake. The link with obesity in children is especially strong, where daily intake of sugar-sweetened drinks is associated with a 60 per cent increased risk of obesity.

Sugar is highly addictive:Like abusive drugs, sugar and many junk foods cause a release of dopamine in the reward centre of the brain. This in turn increases the need for more sugar…


Nutritionist Cassandra Barns reveals three reasons why you should swap white sugar for coconut sugar.

Minerals and vitamins

All natural sources of sugar come with other nutrients found in the plant, particularly minerals. But because white sugar is refined, it is stripped of most, if not all, of these other nutrients. Unrefined coconut sugar isn’t processed or refined in any other way. It naturally contains minerals such as potassium, zinc, iron and calcium, and it can be a source of vitamin B1 too.

Better for your blood sugar balance

Being unrefined, coconut sugar may also have a lower glycaemic index (GI). Glycaemic index is a measure of the effect of the food on our own blood sugar: high-GI foods tend to contain quickly absorbed carbohydrates and cause a greater peak in our blood sugar; lower-GI foods have a smaller effect on our blood sugar, helping to keep it more stable. For a tasty treat made with unrefined natural coconut sugar, try OMBAR chocolate (RRP £1,99, www.ombar.co.uk)

Avoid unwanted chemicals

Several different chemicals may be used to bleach refined white sugar, similar to white flour. As those chemicals aren’t actually ingredients in the product, they don’t have to be listed on the label.


Switch for tasty healthier alternatives:

Breakfast – Try lower-sugar cereals or those with no added sugar, such as plain porridge. With semi-skimmed milk, just swapping a bowl of sugary breakfast cereal for plain cereal could cut 70g of sugar from your diet over a week. If toast is your thing, switch to wholemeal or granary bread, and cut down on your usual spreads.

Ready meals – Ready-made soups, stir-in sauces and meals can be higher in sugar than you think. Condiments and sauces such as ketchup can have as much as 23g of sugar in 100g – roughly half a teaspoon per serving.

Snacks – Swap crisps and chocolate for fruit (fresh, tinned or frozen), unsalted nuts, unsalted rice cakes, oatcakes, or homemade plain popcorn. And buy smaller packs. Beware cereal bars which can be very high in added sugar. Dried fruit, such as raisins, dates and apricots, is high in sugar and can be bad for your dental health. So enjoy them at mealtimes as part of a dessert, rather than as a snack.

Drinks – Nearly a quarter of the added sugar in our diets comes from fizzy drinks, sweetened juices, squashes, and cordials. Try swapping for water which you could flavour with a slice of lemon or lime. If you take sugar in tea or coffee, gradually reduce the amount until you can cut it out altogether.


1. Watch what you consume: Make sure you keep a close watch on your food and drink and, crucially, know how much added sugar they contain.

2. Always be realistic: Kicking an addictive substance like added sugar is not going to happen overnight. There will be times when your body needs fuel and you have a limited choice of food and drink to choose from.

3. Check the label: There are lots of different ways added sugar can be listed on ingredients labels. These include sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, fruit juice, molasses, hydrolysed starch, invert sugar, corn syrup, honey.

4. Nutrition labels tell you how much sugar a food contains:

High in sugar – 22.5g or more of total sugar per 100g

Low in sugar – 5g or less of total sugar per 100g

5. Some packaging uses a colour-coded system: That makes it easy to choose foods that are lower in sugar, salt and fat. Look for more greens and ambers and fewer reds in your shopping basket.