Wednesday, November 9, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Sugar is the Elephant in the Room

"Sugar in excess is a toxin, unrelated to its calories.  The dose determines the poison.  Like alcohol, a little is fine but a lot is not.  And the food industry has put us way over our limit."    
--Robert Lustig, MD, professor of pediatrics at UCSF and President of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition

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November is National Diabetes Month. 

The fact is the 29 million Americans have diabetes but 1 out of 4 don’t know it.  Millions more have prediabetes.  The real and hidden costs of diabetes, however, are in the billions.  Costs include:  doctor visits, hospitalizations for complications, surgeries related to diabetes complications, medications, lost work, lost wages, disabilities, lack of healthy applicants for positions in our military and national security, plus decreased lifespans.  When kids are overweight and develop type 2 diabetes, a new diabetes epidemic emerges.  Type 2 diabetes has always been a disease of older adults and now it is becoming a disease of young adults and teenagers.  It is time to change the way we eat. 

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One of the primary risk factors for diabetes is being overweight.  As a result of the childhood obesity epidemic, my strong desire to prevent type 2 diabetes in kids is why I started the Growing Healthy Kids project more than 7 years ago.  Kids who eat too many foods and drinks containing added sugars become insulin resistant and develop type 2 diabetes.  Hidden sugars are in all kinds of food and drink products, disguised by colorful marketing and packaging and more than 50 different names to keep you guessing whether it is or isn't a sugar, for those of you who read food labels.  In all aspects of our work, we are passionate about raising awareness with kids and parents about the importance of consuming less added sugar.  Teaching kids how to recognize added sugars in foods and beverages is one of our core messages and it is Growing Healthy Kids' contribution to National Diabetes Month.  Instead of foods high in added sugars, our children should be filling up on foods high in dietary fiber (which does not raise your blood sugars) such as winter squash, broccoli, and cauliflower. 

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Too much sugar is stored as fat in the body.   Just ask Dr. Robert Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist, about what happens to kids’ health when they consume too much added sugar from sodas and processed foods.  Dr. Lustig is my hero for sounding the alarm among medical professionals about preventing kids from becoming overweight.  

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Here are my 2 recommendations for things you can do to increase your awareness of diabetes, for the sake of your family and the present and future health of your children:

  1. If you have diabetes, read the latest tips at or click here.
  2. If you have kids, watch Dr. Lustig talk about sugar; just click here.
Next week I will share a couple of my favorite fall recipes with you.  Have a beautiful, mindful week!

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids