Know Your Sugar – Dr. S.C.Ray

sugarWith changing lifestyle, increased stress levels and literally no time for ourselves, the eating habits are changing drastically. We try to take ready to eat food packs or eat fast food to make our lives easier.  It is critical that we take the right mix of healthy food and be conscious of what we are consuming. Most processed foods have made chemical additives a significant part of our diet. It is imperative to know the constituents of what we are eating so that we make informed choices.

Our eating habits do allow various harmful chemicals to enter into our body through various channels and one of them is sulphur dioxide. The consumption of sulphur has multiple ill effects on our health and mostly sulphur is indirectly consumed through food.

Sulphur dioxide is permitted in a wide range of foods including dried fruits, breakfast sausages, sugar and burger meats. This sulphur dioxide is used as preservatives of food products to extend shelf life as also to prevent growth of undesirable micro-organisms. It is also used as an agent in the preservation of browning reaction of food products. Sweets and confectionary products are made out of sugar, which have sulphur in it.  

Sulphur normally exists in sugar and food products containing sugar as ingredients in the form of sulphur dioxide. This sulphur dioxide is understood to produce its effect by initiation of bronchoconstriction. The disease Bronchoconstriction is defined as the narrowing of the airways in the lungs. All the respiratory passages, from the nose to the terminal bronchioles are kept moist by a layer of mucus that coats the entire surface. The process by which the mucus is transported by action from the lung to keep it clean is known as mucociliary transport. Several bronchial disorders including bronchial asthma and cystic fibrosis are associated with an impairment mucociliary clearances and consumption of food containing sulphur dioxide are basically responsible for inhibiting  mucociliary function.

Most of the loose sugar as well as supermarket brands do not sell sugar that has been refined using a sulphur free process. The more the Sulphur dioxide content in sugar or food products containing sugar, the more is the risk of inhibition of mucociliary function causing broncho-constriction. It means that the formation of acid due to presence of sulfur dioxide increases the viscosity of the cough.  As a result it becomes very difficult for asthmatic patients to expel the cough produced on the air passage.

Air flow in air passages can get restricted due to 3 factors- a spasmodic state of the smooth muscles in bronchi and bronchioles; an inflammation of the airways and excessive production of mucus due to an allergic reaction or irritation caused by mechanical friction of air (due to sheer stress). Sulphur dioxide is considered allergens and can cause reactions in certain people, especially those sensitive to asthma.

To live a healthy life we should avoiding food with sulphur content.  Always buy sugar refined using a sulphur free process so that you are assured that your sweet is safe to consume.

Dr S C Ray is an eminent Sugar expert. Editor.