Cold and Flu Season
In 1942, The American Medical Association stated, “The consumption of sugar and other relatively refined carbohydrates has become so great during recent years that is presents a serious obstacle to the improved nutrition of the general public.” The average consumption of added sugars was estimated to be less than five teaspoons, this was less than 20 grams per day in the 40’s.
Currently, Americans consume an average of about 22 teaspoons of added sugars per day (for reference, 24 teaspoons is one half cup). At 4 grams per teaspoon, this comes to about 88 grams of added sugars per day. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that sugar intake significantly contributes to poor health.
I have yet to have a conversation with a patient who doesn’t understand and agree that excess sugar is a problem. However, when we discuss the statistics on the amount of sugar consumed per year, they tend to believe the statistics reflect all the other Americans; not themselves.
Who would sit down at breakfast, lunch, and dinner and shovel in more than seven teaspoons of sugar at each meal? You probably wouldn’t do that because you’d view it as horribly unhealthy, yet the average person does exactly that every day without realizing it!
Following is a list of a few common processed food items from the US Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Database listing the grams of sugar: Plain bagel (1/2): 5.05 Whole-wheat bread (one slice): 5.57 Soda (12 oz. can): 38.97 Pasta (2 oz.): 42 Bowl of corn flakes: 6.11 Fruit-flavored yogurt (6 oz.): 19 Italian salad dressing (1 tsp.): 8.85 Granola bar: 21.8 Grams of Sugar in added sweeteners: Table sugar (per tsp.): 4.7 Maple syrup (per tsp.): 2.8 Honey (per tsp.): 3.8 This list may help you see how quickly this can add up— two sodas and a granola bar and you are over the average.
Currently, the American Heart Association is recommending that women get no more than 6.5 teaspoons (26 grams) of added sugar per day, men get no more than 9.5 teaspoons (38 grams) of added sugar per day, and children should get no more than 2-3 teaspoons (8-12 grams) of added sugar per day. While I still view these recommendations as high, when you consider people often have other sources of naturally occurring sugar in their diet, it is a good start.
So here we are at the beginning of Fall with the “holiday season” just around the corner: trips to the State Fair, candy from trick or treating, Thanksgiving, holiday parties, Christmas, New Year, and then we’ll wrap it all up with Easter and chocolate bunnies. This amounts to a much higher concentration of added sugars this time of year. What does this all have to do with the Cold and Flu Season?
Studies have shown increases in blood sugar suppress immune function for upwards of five hours by 75% or more. Sugar will actually displace the uptake of vitamin C at a cellular level, deplete essential nutrients like zinc and calcium which leave your immune system compromised and unable to fight efficiently. Elevated blood sugar along with lower vitamin D3 stores due to less exposure to sunlight this time of year, and viruses being around a bit longer in cooler weather and we have a pretty good recipe for sick days.
So take a little time to evaluate your health concerns and commitments and may we all have a healthy happy rest of the year! Dr. Monica Rempen