Home News ‘Nigerians unaware high sugar intake causes hypertension, reduces immunity’

‘Nigerians unaware high sugar intake causes hypertension, reduces immunity’

by Haruna Gimba

By Asmau Ahmad with agency report

Consumption of excess sugar not only leads to diabetes and obesity but has been identified as a major cause of high blood pressure, aside from excess salt and unhealthy diet consumption, which health experts have long listed as contributors.

They describe sugar as one of the greatest threats to cardiovascular disease, warming that people indulging in high sugar intake stand the risk of having inflammation, cancer, diabetes and fatty liver disease.

The expert, who spoke during an exclusive interview with PUNCH Healthwise, said excessive consumption of sugar contributes to the burden of noncommunicable diseases in the country and can reduce the immunity of the body, making it vulnerable to infection.

The health and nutrition professionals advised Nigerians to reduce their sugar intake and avoid beverages with added sugar such as fizzy drinks, carbonated beverages, energy drinks, flavoured milk, and sugar-sweetened juices.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also affirmed that consuming excess sugar impacts negatively on health, stressing that high sugar intake increases unhealthy weight gain, heightens the risk of heart diseases and high blood pressure, and damages teeth, causing dental caries.

The global health body noted that simple or free sugars compromise the nutrient quality of diets, by providing significant energy without essential nutrients.

According to the WHO, even fruit juices can have very high sugar content and should be consumed in moderation.

Speaking on this, the President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Professor Wasiu Afolabi said many people are unaware that excessive sugar intake does a lot of harm to the body and could affect blood pressure.

The Professor of Community Nutrition, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, explained,” Because sugar is involved together with salt as constituents of electrolytes of the body, especially glucose, so, if excessive sugar is consumed, it could also affect blood pressure in the body.

“Apart from that, we also know that sugar when consumed in excess is converted into a storage form. You know sugar itself is a carbohydrate, if it is in excess, it converts the storage form into glycogen, and some of it can be converted into fat and so, increase the weight of an individual.

“We also know that when weight increases, it can cause obesity, which is also a risk factor for diabetes mellitus.”

The nutritionist also noted that excessive sugar consumption can also manifest as fatty liver by making fat accumulate around the liver.

“Also, when sugar is consumed excessively, it provides an avenue for inflammation, which can reduce the immunity of the body and make it susceptible to infection as well as other communicable diseases like cancer.

“When you look at most developed countries of the world where they consume foods that are very high in sugar and salt, diseases like cancer, diabetes and obesity are rampant and are referred to as diseases of wealthy countries.

“But unfortunately, it crossed into our system now because of changes in our dietary habits, whereby people now consume sugar-sweetened beverages and different kinds of foods that are high in sugar, salt and calories.”

Afolabi further said high sugar intake is also bad for children, warning that it could cause dental caries and expose them to the risk of teething problems.

The nutritionist advised Nigerians to shun excessive sugar consumption and embrace a healthy lifestyle.

According to the WHO, severe dental caries affects general health and often cause pain and infection, which may result in tooth extraction.

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