Sugar & ageing

Dr. Linda Friedland Nutrition

You’ve ditched your chocolate bar and coke snack. You choose the organic energy bar and a five- fruit smoothie and feel assured that your sugar intake is low. But you are wrong. The average adult in Australia is eating thirty one teaspoons of sugar each day, almost three times that recommended by the National Australian Dietary Guidelines. Australian teenagers in particular are devouring a daily dose of almost fifty teaspoons of the white stuff.  Those of us confident in our healthy food choices are not off the hook. Although naturally occurring sugar in our healthier foods is much better than the empty calories of the added sucrose and glucose, we are still consuming far too much total sugar. Our body gets enough sugar from ordinary foods by converting carbohydrates found in bread, vegetables and fruit to sugars as needed. Processed added sugar is not necessary at all in anyone's daily diet.

Unbeknown to us, added sugar is hidden in almost all processed food. Not only in obvious soft drinks and sweetened breakfast cereals but also in tomato sauce, canned soups, baked beans, yoghurt and  energy bars. The very foods we rely on as ‘healthy’ or ‘diet friendly’; the fat free and low fat varieties are awfully high in added sugar to improve taste, bulk, viscosity and texture. We also possess something called a bliss point when eating sugar, salt and fat. Sugar has a lower calorie count than fat.  With the substitution of sugar for fat, the manufacturers hope to keep us enjoying their lower calorie food products by maintaining our bliss point. Sugar is an extremely seductive and palatable food that arouses our appetite and acts as an incentive to eat more.

Beware too of the trap of satisfying your sweet tooth with unlimited intake of fruit. Although filled with fibre and healing antioxidants, fruit is loaded with fructose sugars that can push your levels into overdrive. Fruit juice in particular, its fibre and bulk removed, transports a massive sugar rush into the blood.


Sugar is an essential supply of sustained energy to your body and especially to your brain. The trouble is in its excessive consumption, but more so in its rate of transport into your bloodstream.  A gush of sugar into your blood causes a rush of energy and satisfies you momentarily. It also causes a spike in your insulin levels, which pushes the glucose into your cells, thereby plummeting your blood glucose levels once again. This plunge leaves you fatigued, moody and craving more sugar.  You are never satisfied and continually seek more highs. Sugar is a highly reinforcing foodstuff and therefore addictive. This vicious cycle of peaks and troughs can eventually render your cells resistant to the effects of insulin and may be the precursor to prediabetes and diabetes.

In spite of, and possibly because of the global shift to low fat diets (and thereby higher sugar intake), the obesity epidemic has exploded.  Almost 60% of the adult population in Australia is obese or overweight. Too much sugar in the blood simply gets stored as excess fat. This is also laid down in the lining of vessels putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Research has also demonstrated a possible link between high sugar consumption and increased risk of certain cancers, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease.

If these disease possibilities are not enough to get you to ditch the sugar fix, consider this. Dermatology experts believe that dumping the habit may have the potential to retard skin ageing.  Dermatologist to the LA celebrities, Dr Fredric Brandt believes that sugar is enemy number one. He believes that by simply reducing your sugar intake, you can turn back the clock by ten years.

The sugar attacks your skin cells and collagen fibres causing a loss of elasticity and making your skin inflexible. This process is due to a process called glycation whereby glucose molecules bind to proteins. The production of AGE’s (advanced glycation end products) occurs with the ageing of all organs but it is most apparent in your skin.  There is no doubt that sugar is one of the major triggers of accelerated ageing. 


Four  steps to lower you sugar intake

  1. Drink water instead of soft drinks and fruit juice which are the major contribution to excess added sugar
  2. Eat more whole foods snack on high fibre, low GI carbohydrates, nuts, low sugar yoghurt, wholemeal crackers and fresh fruit in moderate amounts.
  3. Special occasions.  Keep  chocolate, lollies and cake treats for those special occasions
  4. Don’t add sugar. Slowly reduce the amount of sugar added to your coffee, tea and cereal. Or choose to substitute  with a small amount of honey or a healthier sweet alternative such as Stevia, Agave or Sucralose.




  Teaspoons of sugar

Can of Coke (340ml)

  10 teaspoons

Orange juice 340ml

  8 teaspoons

 Coffee milk drink

  5 teaspoons

Weetbix (2 )

  1 teaspoon

Tim Tams( 2)

  7-8 teaspoons

Anzac biscuit (1)

  5 teaspoons

Vegemite sandwich

  1 teaspoon


  8 teaspoons

Packet of chewy lollies (30g)

  6 teaspoons


How much sugar should I be eating?

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that  less than 10% of your daily intake should be from added sugar which is about 50g for women. Ideally you dont need any added sugar as you obtain sufficient amounts from healthy fruit, vegetables and grains. Check labels for added sugar. A good guide is to consider anything g below 5g per 100as low and more than 15g per 100g is high.  

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