Danes are ”candy masters” and their habit contributes to overweight, diabetes, and other lifestyle diseases

Danes are ”candy masters” and their habit contributes to overweight, diabetes, and other lifestyle diseasesEach Dane consumes 12.3 kilos of candy on average every single year, which makes Denmark the single largest candy eaters worldwide, according to Euromonitor that has studied candy consumption in 100 different countries. This rather unhealthy champion status has a number of grave health consequences, as it affects our blood sugar levels, energy levels, and ability to concentrate. In the long run, it may lead to dependence on these quick “energy fixes” and contribute to problems with the immune system, insulin resistance, overweight, diabetes, digestive disorders and other lifestyle diseases. To make things worse, there is all the concealed sugar that we get from our diet. A new science project aims at developing methods for helping families improve their daily health. In the following, you can read more about the dangers of consuming too much sugar and what you can do to stabilize your blood sugar by distributing your energy intake and taking a supplement of the trace element chromium.

Our taste for sweetness is kicked off by the lactose we get when are breastfed as infants or get instant formula. We suddenly begin to associate sweetness with security, close contact and the release of happy hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins. Food and emotions are closely related, and families often associate eating candy on weekends with togetherness and coziness. We are experts at using candy, chocolate, cakes, soft drinks, and other types of empty calories to create a cozy atmosphere, on our own or with others. Also, we like to feel cozy with alcohol, which is also a source of sugar, but that is an entirely different story.

World champions: This is how much candy, chocolate, and soda we consume

On average, each Dane consumes 6.6 kilos of pure candy every single year, and when you include chocolate it adds up to 12.3 kilos in total. Americans eat half that amount, while Italians consume 1.8 kilos. Candy consumption among Danish children and youngsters has increased by 25 percent in the period 2005-2013.
Moreover, Danes drink more soda pop. Since 2012, the consumption has increased by 24 percent, which means that each Dane drinks 87 liters of soda pop annually. Add to that the consumption of lemonade that often contains every bit as much sugar.
We must not forget that we are looking at average consumption, which means that some people consume even larger quantities.
This development is disastrous, as we are also witnessing an increase in the number of overweight people and diabetics. Because the overconsumption of sugar causes our blood sugar levels to oscillate, it may even lead to hyperactivity and subsequent fatigue and poor concentration, which affects learning ability in the schools. There is also a risk of impaired resistance, digestive disorders, tooth decay, and osteoporosis earlier in life.

  • Six out of 10 children and one out of four adults consume too much sugar
  • Children and teenagers consume up to five times as many calories as you would get from a normal healthy diet
  • The consumption is distributed very unevenly
  • Sugar is empty calories and it depletes the body’s supply of vitamin C and zinc, both of which are nutrients that are important for our energy turnover and have a number of other functions in the body

A new awareness about coziness, candy, and soda pop

The Euromonitor study has set the stage for a whole new science project that aims at developing new methods for helping families improve their daily life. The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and Hvidovre Municipality’s dental service are in charge of the project that is officially named “Are You Too Sweet?” and is targeted at families with children aged 6-9 years.
The initial goal is to help 100 families in Hvidovre Municipality lower their sugar consumption by 25 percent. The project also is about finding ways to have a cozy time without necessarily including candy, cake or soda pop.

  • Sugar from candy and soda pop is just the tip of the iceberg
  • Each Dane consumes on average 12.3 kilos of candy and chocolate every year
  • The total sugar consumption reaches 30 kilos annually on average
  • Other sugar sources include breakfast cereals, fruit yoghurts, jam, lemonade, energy beverages, ketchup, mayonnaise etc. (concealed sugar)
  • 80% of Danes’ sugar intake comes from snacking

What happens when sugar rushes into the bloodstream like a tsunami?

Once we have consumed various types of carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, pasta, juice, chips or plain sugar, they are broken down into glucose that is absorbed in the bloodstream.
The pancreas then responds by producing insulin, the hormone that helps glucose into the cells where the glucose is converted into energy. There is a limit to how much glucose can circulate in the blood and how much we can store in the body, so it is essential to metabolize this fuel source in a way that enables our blood sugar to remain as stable as possible for as long as possible.
What happens when we consume a bag of candy, drink a soda pop or consume any other source of fast carbohydrates is that the glucose rushes into the bloodstream like a tsunami, causing the pancreas to produce large quantities of insulin. Our energy levels soar, but blood sugar levels drop soon after, and once they do that, we feel the urge for a new “energy fix”. This craving is what makes us feel that we lack willpower and character.
Consuming too much sugar may eventually increase the risk of insulin resistance, where the cells fail to respond properly to the insulin that is produced, and cellular glucose uptake decreases. This causes the pancreas to release even larger quantities of inferior insulin. Chronically elevated insulin levels may be harmful, as they can result in:

  • Incomplete glucose metabolism
  • Tiredness, lack of concentration, mood swings and other symptoms that are linked to low energy levels in the cells
  • Abnormal craving for fast carbohydrates and other stimulants
  • Weight gain and/or increased abdominal fat
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver (caused by excess calorie intake)
  • Overproduction of triglyceride and LDL cholesterol
  • Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome – an early stage of type 2 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • A tendency to inflammation, which is a common thread in most lifestyle diseases

Chromium helps control blood sugar levels

After you eat or drink, the glucose must enter the body’s cells, where insulin in the key that “unlocks” the cells from the inside. Insulin works a lot better when it is attached to a specific chromium compound (chromodulin) that helps more glucose into the cells. In a sense, you may compare this to a car that gives better mileage.
Chromium therefore plays an essential role in optimal glucose uptake, stable blood sugar, prolonged satiety, and an effective reduction of the need for excess calories.

How chromium affects insulin, blood sugar levels, and circulation

  • It enhances the effect of insulin
  • It increases the glucose uptake in nerve cells, muscles and other tissues
  • It increases the glucose uptake in the brain’s “satiety center” and helps curb cravings
  • It lowers lipid levels in the blood

Chromium sources and why sugar may lead to chromium deficiency

You get chromium from different foods such as almonds, beans, nuts, fish, meat, eggs, and brewer’s yeast. However, most contemporary diets only provide limited quantities of the nutrient. If we consume too much sugar, and our blood sugar levels drop rapidly, we lose around 20% of our chromium supply through our urine. If the body’s chromium supply is drained, it makes insulin less effective, and that can easily turn into a vicious cycle.

Supplements of chromium yeast work the best for our blood sugar

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has stated that organic chromium yeast is absorbed up to 10 times better in the body than synthetic chromium sources like chromium picolinate and chromium chloride.

Remember to read the label when you buy chromium

Organic chromium yeast is absorbed up to 10 times better than chromium picolinate or chromium chloride

Summary of advice for better blood sugar control

The energy in our food comes from carbohydrate, fat, and protein. As mentioned earlier, carbohydrates have a direct effect on blood sugar levels, and the brain and nerve cells normally only burn carbohydrate in the form of glucose. However, the heart, the muscles, and other cell types are also able to turn fat and protein into energy. In fact, fat is the heart’s main energy source when we are non-active and when we consume dietary fat.
Many people with unstable blood sugar levels may therefore benefit from a different energy distribution with fewer carbohydrates and more protein and high-quality fat. That way, a main meal can keep you satiated for at least 4-5 hours, so you don’t hit the wall and become tempted by empty calories. Just for the record, it is a myth that one must include in-between snacks to remain healthy, but they do not harm in any way. Here is a little summary:

  • Remember to study the food labels. Sugar has many different names
  • Do your shopping after you have eaten. Avoid storing candy, cake and soda pop at home
  • Make sure to eat three healthy main meals
  • Get plenty of protein with all your main meals
  • Don’t avoid fats, but eat the ones that are healthy and unspoiled
  • Choose fiber-rich carbohydrates like rye bread, oats, and whole grain pasta
  • Eat lots of greens – preferably the compact ones
  • Drink water and limit your intake of or avoid altogether liquid calories
  • Cut down on your caffeine intake
  • Take a supplement of organic chromium yeast
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Remember to exercise and to include many physical activities in the course of the day
  • Choose alternatives to candy, cake, and other sugary foods
  • Do not be fanatic

References:

Aleksandar Josevski. Danskerne er verdensmestre i slik. TV2 nyheder 18. september 2019

EFSA: Scientific Opinion on ChromoPrecise cellular bound chromium yeast added for nutritional purposes as a source of chromium in food supplements and the bioavailability of chromium from this source. EFSA Journal 2012

Huang H et al Chromium supplementation for adjuvant treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus: Results from a pooled analysis. Molecular Nutrition Food Research 2017 and 2018

https://nyheder.tv2.dk/samfund/2017-04-01-80-procent-af-danskernes-sukkerindtag-kommer-fra-mellemmaaltider

https://livsstil.tv2.dk/kropogsundhed/2014-07-02-så-meget-sukker-spiser-danskerne
https://www.bt.dk/motion/din-mad-er-proppet-med-skjult-sukker-laer-at-gennemskue-varedeklarationerne

Pernille Lund. Sådan får du styr på dit blodsukker og din vægt. Ny videnskab 2013