Sugar: It’s Not Just the Calories That Are Bad For You

The main aim of the UK’s new tax on sugary soft drinks is to reduce obesity in children. But, apart from causing child – and adult – obesity, too much sugar also increases the risk of many serious diseases, from cancer to heart disease. And sugar’s calories provide only part of the explanation.

Just as important is insulin. When glucose levels in the blood rise, the pancreas produces insulin, the key that opens doors on cells to allow the glucose in. But too many sugary snacks can keep blood glucose levels high, and so more insulin is also produced. In response to the continual bombardment with insulin, cells change their locks so the insulin key no longer works. With cells desensitised to insulin, blood glucose levels rise even more and the pancreas responds by producing even more insulin. This dangerous state of high blood glucose and insulin can persist undiagnosed for years and is a driving force behind many diseases, even in those of normal body weight.

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