17 October 2018
Obesity in developed countries is on an alarming upward trend. Photo: Reuters
Obesity in developed countries is on an alarming upward trend. Photo: Reuters

Sugar and the deadly addiction

The negative consequences of today’s eating habits on humans as well nations were outlined well in the 2014 documentary “Fed Up”.

For those who have missed the film, a ubiquitous substance in our diets has been found to be as addictive as nicotine and cocaine.

The younger generation is exposed to this substance much earlier than their parents; so they are more likely to be addicted and get fat. What is the evil? It is sugar.

In the United States, a developed country where sugar consumption is humongous, two in three adults are classified as obese. There are even teenagers who get diabetes or cardiovascular diseases because of obesity.

The World Health Organization recommends a daily intake of no more than six teaspoons of sugar. The tricky part is, food that does not taste sweet may also contain a lot of sugar.

Apart from processed food which is obviously loaded with sugar, staples like bread and rice are also eventually converted into sugar in our intestines. Excess sugar will be stored as fat in our internal organs, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes and damaging eyes, kidneys and blood vessels. These cost tremendous medical expenses in our society.

As the number of diabetes and obese patients is on the rise, surgical operations called weight loss surgeries have been developed over the past 20 years. Weight loss is achieved by reducing the size of the stomach, inserting an intragastric balloon or by rerouting the small intestine to a small stomach pouch.

Instead of relying on risky and costly medical operations as such, the public should understand that prevention is always better than cure. The government and educational organizations should take the lead in unraveling the mystery of sugar in our diets.

It is commonly assumed that obesity is caused by lack of exercise. The fact is that exercise alone cannot burn all the excess calories from overeating, and is far less direct than minimizing daily sugar intake.

Hong Kong government should learn from the European and American governments and establish sugar restriction policies such as taxing highly sugary soda drinks and candies.

Research has shown that cutting down sales of high-sugar food products can help reduce medical expenses on obesity-related diseases in the long run.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 25

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Ingredients listed on a can of popular cola sold in Britain. Photo: Reuters

FHKAM (Surgery)

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