Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

A Stellenbosch academic has entered the raging sugar debate. Prof Faadiel Essop‚ head of the Cardio-Metabolic Research Group at Stellenbosch University‚ has said the public should know just how harmful sugar can be.

A 330ml can of sweetened, fizzy drink has between seven and nine teaspoons of sugar. Essop‚ along with a team of researchers‚ has reviewed 36 studies done over the past 10 years on the cardio-metabolic effects of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages. The findings were published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society this week.

Studies found that having just two servings of sugar-sweetened drinks a week can be linked to an increase risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and‚ according to a statement issued by the university about Essop’s work‚ having "only one sugar-sweetened beverage a day was associated with elevated blood pressure".

"The findings clearly demonstrate there is a need for public education about the harmful effects of excess consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages‚" Essop said. "But our understanding of this topic would benefit from additional research to further clarify how sugar-sweetened beverages affect our health. Our analysis revealed some limitations in the current research on this topic. There is definitely a need for longer-term studies‚ as well as the standardisation of research methods."

Essop supports the introduction of a sugar tax‚ but said it should it should form part of a multi-pronged strategy to reduce sugar intake.

According to a Forbes magazine article‚ by dietician Jess Cording, published on Tuesday‚ sugar could sap one of "energy‚ focus and drive’’. "Think of sugar like that acquaintance who’s always dressed in the latest fashions and knows all the hip hangout spots and vacation destinations. Everything is ‘totally awesome’ and ‘FUN!’ They’re sweet to your face but you notice that whenever you spend time with them‚ you always end up feeling bad about yourself and‚ oddly … empty."

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