A new and deadly condition affecting 5 million people in England has been called Syndrome X, the Snack Food Disease. It can cause tiredness, problems with concentration, make you age faster than normal, and can increase the risk of severe heart problems, Alzheimer?s disease, cancer and heart disease.

Essentially, Syndrome X is a group of related disorders including the inability to properly deal with dietary carbohydrates and sugars, high levels of fat in the blood, obesity and high blood pressure. Researchers say the syndrome is a silent killer because early stages often go unnoticed.

Genetics and inactivity play a role but many scientists also think that what we eat and how we eat it can make a difference. Dr. Victor Zammit, head of cell biochemistry at the Hannah Research Institute in Ayr, Scotland has been investigating the causes of Syndrome X. He found that the condition may be linked to the consumption of high-energy snacks and drinks.

These foods are packed with sugar and if eaten often enough, they expose tissues to high insulin levels for long periods of time without a long enough break. Zammit is particularly interested in the effect this may have on the liver. His research found that when insulin is present in the body for long periods of time, it trips a metabolic switch in the liver. Usually, insulin slows down the release of trigycerides from the liver, but in this case the liver begins to release even more triglycerides, turning our livers into fat-producing machines.

Zammit thinks we are concentrating on the risks associated with eating saturated fats without realizing that diets high in sugar can cause the liver to flood our systems with dangerous triglycerides, and this is just as bad as eating saturated fat itself.

The irony is that many low-fat diet foods contain more sugar than the normal versions of the same products. Fat is often replaced by sugar to add bulk, flavor and texture to processed, reduced-fat foods. Zammit says, ?Food manufacturers are good at labeling processed foods as ?99% fat-free.? What they don’t say is that they are 15% sugar. I?m concerned that people may deliberately select low-fat processed foods, thinking that they are making a really healthy choice.?

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