The world is sleepwalking into a high-sugar global diet, say experts, and it is one that, without intervention, could lead to a multitude of problems including obesity, diabetes and even a hike in the number of hair loss cases.
According to a new report by Professor Barry M Popkin PhD at the University of North Carolina and Corinna Hawkes PhD at City University London, “excessive intake of added sugars has adverse effects on cardiometabolic health.” Worryingly, their findings published in The Lancet found that 74% products in the US food supply chain contain caloric (calorific) or low-calorie sweeteners, or both.
According to their studies, the four regions with the highest consumption of sugars are North America, Latin America, Australasia, and western Europe. The authors believe that governments need to step up their involvement possibly through measures such as taxation on sugary foods, restrictions on marketing sugary foods to children and improved labelling to try and turn the tide.
Sugar has been linked to thinning hair by numerous scientists, including in one notable example by Panos Vasiloudes, Medical Director of Harklinikken, a global clinic which is headquartered in Copenhagen. He said that “a rapid glucose spike in the blood causes an overreaction by several hormones, most notably insulin and steroids.” These, he says, result in a “roller coaster” of sugar peaks and valleys high and low levels of glucose, insulin, steroids, adrenaline, testosterone and other hormones.
The result is a two-pronged attack on the hair firstly from the direct damage caused by rapid blood sugar changes; secondly from fluctuating levels of cortisone, insulin, testosterone and DHT (this is the testosterone by-product which attacks hair follicles in people who are predisposed to male and female pattern hair loss).
The shocks caused by these chemical fluctuations, says Mr Vasiloudes, can lead to generalised hair thinning.
A high-sugar diet can also play a part in type 2 diabetes, which can further compound the problem by bringing its own set of hair-loss related problems to the table.
Diabetes puts the body under a significant amount of physical stress which can adversely affect the hair growth cycle. Leonora Doclis, senior hair loss specialist at the Belgravia Centre, has noted that Diffuse Hair Loss and Telogen Effluvium are both temporary conditions which cause all-over shedding from the scalp, that can be directly caused by diabetes. These conditions can also trigger or exacerbate genetic hair loss in those with an existing predisposition.
The great irony is that the world knows sugars and sweeteners are bad but seem either reluctant or incapable of doing anything about it. A new Mintel report, in fact, found that 65 per cent of UK consumers agree that a healthy diet should be low in sugar which doesn't, sadly, mean that the same percentage of UK consumers are pursuing such a regime.
According to the Mintel report, Spain, Poland and Italy are the European countries with the best grip on the issue, with almost two-thirds of people polled in each country saying that they were actively reducing or avoiding sugary foods. Not far behind was France (59%).
Says Chris Brockman, Food and Drink Research Manager EMEA at Mintel: “Excessive sugar consumption continues to be criticized by the media and health professionals alike, resulting in today’s sugar backlash. This has led to sugar replacing fat and salt as the new dietary pariah across Europe.”
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