CAPE TOWN – Three nutrition specialists have told a sugar free breakfast meeting in Cape Town that sugar is dangerously addictive and no one should have to suffer because of it.
The breakfast, hosted by the Cape Times at the Table Bay Hotel on Saturday, was intended to start a “sugar free revolution”, and guests started their day with sugar free juices.
The first speaker – Sugar Free Revolution founder and co-author of the book “Sugar Free”, Karen Thomson – wasted no time highlighting the effects of sugar mismanagement. “The world’s obese population will outnumber those suffering from starvation by 2025,” she warned.
The average person now consumed 17 teaspoons of sugar a day, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended no more than four to nine teaspoons daily. “Scientists in the United Kingdom urged people to drop to five teaspoons of sugar a day if they want to keep their teeth for life,” she said.
Thomson also founded the Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Program (HELP), the first sugar and carb inpatient addiction program using the low carb, high fat (LCHF) nutritional approach, along with Professor Tim Noakes in 2013.
She urged the audience to understand that a person suffering from an illness such as diabetes was not to blame for being overweight, even though they were told so by some doctors and dieticians. “Sugar and carbs is an inpatient addiction. We need to remove personal responsibility and remove the foods that are causing the problem – the toxic sugary junk foods,” Thomson said.
Hormone specialist Duncan Carmichael explained that sleep-deprivation triggered the impulse centers in the brain and people craved junk food. “If we are tired, we will do whatever it takes to cheer the brain up,” he said. Sugars and sweeteners were addictive, stimulated dopamine, and induced addiction the same way drugs did.
“When we are stressed we push the dopamine button to make ourselves feel better. We should ask ourselves, am I stressed, am I sad, am I tired, instead of feeling guilty for eating the junk,” Carmichael said.
Noakes Foundation leader Jayne Bullen works closely with Noakes and a team of scientists in Cape Town addressing the escalating obesity and diabetes crisis in South Africa. Eat Better South Africa, created by the Noakes Foundation, was bringing about large-scale change through one township at a time interventions, she said.
“The poorest people in our country and the world are getting sick first,” Bullen said. She suggested that labels on food should be easier to read for consumers to the point where they could clearly see whether the sugar content was low, medium, or dangerously high.
“Many of us have been lucky to hear about the Banting and sugar-free revolution and actually put better diets into place, but what about the rest of the country?” asked Bullen. The average South Africans consumed about 100kg of maize-related products a year.
“People in Ocean view eat about 1.5kg of sugar a week and giving people in those communities eating plans and an affordable diet of canned fish, off-cuts, and good vegetables have shown phenomenal results. Nobody should have to suffer because of their circumstances,” Bullen said.