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  • Writer's pictureHealth Coaches Academy

What is the impact of hidden sugars on our health?

According to a 2021 report from Diabetes UK, over 4.9 million people are currently living with diabetes in the UK and 90 per cent are Type 2. Globally, it is estimated that 415 million people are living with diabetes, which is approximately 1 in 11 of the world’s adult population.


Unbelievably, 46% of people with diabetes are undiagnosed!


The global figures for diabetes are expected to rise to 642 million people worldwide by 2040.


As humans we have evolved to have a preference for sweet things - do you have a sweet tooth?


Even those of us who may prefer savoury tasting foods, many will still be consuming hidden sugars. There are up to 60 different names for ‘sugar’ in disguise so it is very difficult for us to determine the sugar content simply by looking for the word 'sugar' on the back of a packet.


Sugar is sneaky and it can appear where you least expect it!


There are the obvious items such as cakes, sweets, biscuits, chocolate and table sugar that you might add to your cuppa or hot chocolate. But it can also hang out in ready made sauces, salad dressings, cereal bars, crackers and pizza (to name a few!). Many low fat and gluten free products also contain higher levels of sugar.



Takeaway meals and popular high street fast food restaurants can contain more than twice your daily allowance of sugar in just one meal! Add a sugary soft drink to that or alcoholic beverage and your blood sugar will likely peak quickly and crash shortly afterwards.


Unfortunately, this means many of us are consuming added sugar in foods and drinks daily at levels which can impact our health. Excessive sugar can cause imbalances in blood sugar levels leading to disturbed sleep, low mood, headaches, acne and worse still obesity, diabetes and heart disease.


And what about sweeteners?


Due to the negative impact on our health, manufacturers responded by using artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin to sweeten our food and maintain our inherent cravings. Sweeteners are somewhat of a controversial hot topic right now, with some arguing they might reduce the risk of obesity and others suggesting they might increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and negatively affect glucose control.


According to a recent article from Zoe (a health research project)


“Among a sample of studies of aspartame, 100% of the industry-sponsored studies concluded that aspartame was safe, and 92% of the independently funded studies identified adverse effects of aspartame consumption.”


Recent research looking at the impact of sweeteners on our gut health discovered some people’s gut microbiome is altered by consuming sweeteners (Suez et al. 2022). Therefore the impact of sweeteners on the microbiome adds to the body of evidence that some artificial sweeteners have an unfavourable effect on blood glucose control.


A 2022 guideline from the WHO also suggests that sweetener consumption is linked to metabolic syndrome, which is a precursor to diabetes.


Here are our top tips to reduce and manage your daily sugar intake.

  • Try cooking more home cooked meals and reduce packaged/processed meals and takeaways. Set yourself some goals for the week! Meal planning helps with making sure you stay on track and having some ‘go to’ quick meals for when you’re busy such as a vegetable omelette and salad can really help.

  • Fill up on protein to reduce cravings. Make sure you are having adequate protein with each meal. This will fill you for longer and help level out blood sugar imbalances.

  • Choose slow releasing carbohydrates such as quinoa and brown rice to reduce sugar spikes.

  • Avoid sugary drinks and reduce consumption of low calorie/artificially sweetened drinks choosing filtered water and herbal teas over soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks or flavoured milks.

  • Swap sugary foods for foods with less added sugar (limit sugar intake to max equivalent of 6tsp per day).

  • Check nutrition labels to help you pick the foods with less added sugar. Look at the ‘of which sugars’ under carbohydrates per 100g. Aim for 5g or less.

  • Start to retrain your palette. If you like chocolate, try 70% and gradually move to 85%. Darker chocolate has less sugar and lots of health benefits as the higher cocoa content = beneficial nutrients such as polyphenols (great antioxidant) and magnesium (calming nutrient).

  • Do it gradually. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

We hope you have found this article helpful. If you are concerned about your risk of diabetes and have any blood sugar imbalance symptoms, please visit your GP. You can also enlist the help of a trained Health Coach to support you to create and implement a personalised plan.


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