A new study just came out on Time.com about the effect of sugar in our diets and I thought it would be interesting to see a registered dietitians thoughts on this topic. I had Senior Dietitian, Amanda Foti, from Selvera Wellness provide tips and comments on this study.
What’s your stance on the effect of sugar in our diets?
Decreasing sugar intake is not new news. In fact, most American’s at this point understand that this is important for weight management and overall health. However, in the past there have been mostly correlation studies. This study in particular offers insightful information about the direct effect sugar and not an overall lifestyle change may have on our health. It is well understood that consuming high amounts of sugar
whether it’s in one sitting or over the course of a day has negative impacts. Immediate effects include blood glucose spikes, increased insulin production putting more workload on the pancreas, increase fat storage, and energy dips. Long term effects of a high sugar diet have been associated with weight gain, uncontrolled food cravings or addictions, decrease insulin sensitivity, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver and even some cancers. Overall, I agree with the recommendations of reducing added sugar intake to 10% or less of daily calories. However, I think it’s important to focus on all aspects of a healthy lifestyle including improving nutrition, increasing activity, managing stress and sleep habits. All factors have been shown to have an effect on our health.
What do you recommend to your clients as far as sugar consumption goes?
I recommend that all my clients decrease sugar to be in line with the recommendation of 10% calories coming from added sugar. However, to be successful this must be done slowly over time. It’s important for me to assess what the clients’ current diet habits are and then personalize a plan that will be effective. Dramatically changing eating habits, especially sugar intake, doesn’t happen overnight it takes time.
What are your best tips and tricks for curing ourselves of our sugar addictions?
There has been a lot of research exploring sugar addictions, how they work and how to treat them. Brain scans have relieved that consuming sugar activates a reward sensation, a similar effect that some drugs have. Consuming high volumes of sugar intensifies this sensation overtime until simply seeing or thinking about a sugary snack can cause activation of this reward sensation. This feeling is portrayed to us as food cravings, food cravings that are not linked to any physical hunger cues. The thing with sugar is the more we have the more our brain will crave it. The less sugar we consume the less we will crave it. In my experience, I have found clients successfully overcome food additions or uncontrolled food cravings by slowly weaning off the specified food or food group over time. Having the support of an expert providing accountability and positive reinforcement can help assist this process. First start by having a list of go-to sweet snacks that contain less sugar than what you’re craving. For example, if you’re craving ice cream grab a flavored yogurt instead. Once you’ve mastered that then start to slowly decrease the frequency of giving into these cravings. For example if you have a dessert every night, try to go every other night.
Amanda Foti, MS, RD, CDN. Amanda is a Registered Dietitian and a New York State Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist with a Masters in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She has broad experience managing disease with nutrition and lifestyle in the clinical setting, and extensive training in cognitive behavioral therapy in relation to emotional eating and weigh management counseling. Amanda currently works one-on-one with clients developing personalized weight management plans that address nutrition, activity and lifestyle.