Beware of the Snake in the Shopping Trolley

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Beware of the Snake in the Shopping Trolley

Trolley 300x221 Beware of the Snake in the Shopping Trolley

I am often baffled when I ask new clients at Target Fit, “So what is your diet like generally?, What foods do you eat regularly?”

The reply 90% of the time is “I generally eat healthily enough, but I enjoy the odd sweet treat now and again”. Most of us are aware that too many sweet treats will lead to weight gain and in turn we are aware of the consequences, such as increased abdominal fat, extra weight on the hips and thighs and in particular for the ladies the dreaded bingo wings. 


Don’t get me wrong, having the odd sweet treat now and again is not a problem and should not lead to excessive weight gain, however  having the odd sweet treat every day will have an increase on your blood sugars and in time will most likely lead to weight gain. This is not ground breaking news and most people are aware of this. But what most people are not aware of is the amount of hidden sugars that are in a lot of the foods in our supermarkets today and to the extent that some food companies will go to hide this fact with misleading and perhaps deceitful marketing tactics.


Take one well known breakfast cereal, which is mainly marketed to women who want to drop a dress size in a short period of time, needless to say I’m not going to name this breakfast cereal. Their adverts depict a beautiful lean brunette eating the cereal where they suggest to their audience that they can drop a dress size in two weeks by eating two small bowls of this cereal per day.

They advertise the fact that it has less than 2% fat which, I will agree is a low fat product, however they fail to highlight that this product is 17% sugar. Another well known “Diet” yogurt which has a 0% fat free sign the size of the moon on its front packaging fails to highlight its sugar quantity which rolls in at 12%. What will be marketed at us next biscuits or bars for breakfast, oh hold on I think they are already on the market at 22% and 33% sugar respectively.

This is the problem, initially most of my clients at Target Fit are unaware of the amount of sugars they are taking in on a daily basis and this can often be down to marketing and food processing. They are consuming highly processed foods, which contain large amounts of sugar.

Here Comes the Science

Most of these processed foods tend to have a high quantity of sugar or high fructose corn syrup added to them during processing, both of which contain two molecules, glucose and fructose. 

Glucose is an essential nutrient that our bodies need for fuel, for bodily function and movement and there is an abundance in our bloodstream. Our bodies can manufacture glucose from proteins and fats if needs be.

Fructose is different and too much of it can wreak havoc with our hormones leading to rapid weight gain. Fructose cannot be used by many cells in the body and it is not naturally produced by the body for fuel like glucose.

Too much Fructose has been known to cause insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone secreted from the pancreas to regulate blood sugar levels. 

Fructose inhibits the production of a hormone called Leptin. Leptin is secreted from fat cells, as fat cells get bigger more Leptin is secreted. This hormone sends a signal to the brain to tell it that you are full, the fat stores are big enough, so stop storing fat and speed up the metabolism to start burning more fuel. High levels of fructose reduces Leptin secretion, the fat stores get bigger, the brain thinks it needs more fuel and your metabolism slows down. 

1) GLUCOSE> More Leptin > Fat cells full > Speed up metabolism > Brain signal – I’m Full.

2) FRUCTOSE> Less Leptin  > Fat cells not full > Slow down metabolism >Fat cells get bigger > Brain signal – I’m hungry.


Another hormone which influences our eating habits is Ghrelin which is also called the “hunger hormone” This hormone has been shown at much higher levels in fructose consumption when compared with glucose consumption both having the same calorific value. 

So the next time you go shopping, take a detailed look at what you are putting into your shopping trolley, don’t be fooled by the flamboyant fat free/diet labels on the front of the packaging, take a detailed look at the back and in particular where it says “carbohydrates, of which are sugars”.

The best way to avoid hidden sugars is to start eating fresh whole foods more often and with the right training you will be on the road to a leaner healthier you.

Tom Clarke BSc, MSc Exercise & Nutrition Science.

Tom Clarke is a Personal Trainer based in Maynooth. He runs Target Fit – Health & Fitness Camps that are science based and results driven.

For more information contact: 087 9231621 

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