It is mid-October, which means that the great American Sugar Fest, which lasts from Halloween until the beginning of the New Year, is fast approaching.
As I watched the sacks and sacks of candy being loaded onto the grocery stores’ shelves, I decided to spend a few newsletters ranting about the evils of added sugar. My hope is that it will help you to help others to make healthier choices this year.
You’ve heard it before. Indeed, you’ve heard it many times before, but let’s start this series the thought that sugar is just a bad guy in the food realm. In fact, added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet.
Sugar can have harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to all sorts of diseases.
Consider these 9 reasons why added sugar should be avoided like the plague.
1. Added Sugar Contain No Essential Nutrients and is Bad for Your Teeth. Added sugars (like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) many calories, all of them empty. This means that there is actually nothing in added sugar that is helpful to the health of your body. There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar….just pure energy. When people eat up to 10-20% (or more) of their calories as sugar, they are contributing to a probability of being nutrient deficient. Additionally, sugar is very bad for teeth, because it provides easily digestible energy for the bad bacteria in the mouth.
2. Added Sugar is High in Fructose, Which Can Overload Your Liver. Before sugar enters the bloodstream, it is broken down into two simple sugars…glucose and fructose. Glucose is found in every living cell on the planet. If we don’t get it from the diet, our bodies produce it. Fructose is different. Our bodies do not produce much of it and there is no physiological need for it. However, it can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amounts. This is not a problem if we eat a little bit (such as some fresh fruit.) In this case the fructose will be turned into glycogen and stored in the liver until we need it. If, however, the liver is full of glycogen, eating a lot of fructose overloads it and turns the glycogen into fat. (This does not apply to fruit. It is difficult to overeat fructose by eating fruit.)
3. Overloading the Liver with Fructose Can Cause Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. When fructose gets turned into fat in the liver, it is shipped out as VLDL cholesterol particles. Some of the fat does not escape the liver and can become lodged there, causing liver disease (NAFLD). This is a growing problem in Western countries. Some studies show that individuals with this condition consume up to 2-3 times as much fructose as the average person.
4. Sugar Can Cause Insulin Resistance, a Stepping Stone Towards Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes. Insulin, a very important hormone in the body, allows glucose (blood sugar) to enter cells from the bloodstream and tells the cells to start burning sugar instead of fat. When there is too much glucose in the blood, the insulin stops working as it should and the sugar-loaded cells become resistant to it. This situation is known as “insulin resistance,” which is believed to be a major precursor of many diseases, especially type II diabetes.
5. Insulin Resistance Can Progress to Type II Diabetes. When our cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, the beta cells in our pancreas make more of it, thus protecting us from the harm caused by chronically elevated blood sugars. Eventually, as insulin resistance becomes progressively worse, the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand of producing enough insulin to balance the blood sugars. The blood sugar levels then skyrocket, and type II diabetes is the reality. How this translates into real life is that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages have up to an 83% higher risk of having type II diabetes.
6. Sugar Can Give You Cancer, one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It is characterized by uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells. Insulin plays a key role in regulating this sort of growth. Hence, many scientists believe that having constantly elevated insulin levels, (because of too much sugar consumption), can contribute to cancer. Many studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar ate at a much higher risk of getting some form of cancer.
7. Sugar is Highly Addictive. It causes a release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. Sugar, and the many junk foods which contain it, can cause massive dopamine release….much more that we were ever exposed to from foods as they are found in nature. People who have a susceptibility to addiction can become strongly addicted to sugar, and the many junk foods that contain it.
8. Sugar is a Leading Contributor to Obesity in Both Children and Adults. The way that sugar affects hormones and the brain is a recipe for fat gain disaster. It leads to decreased satiety…and can get people addicted so that they lose control over their consumption. People who consume the most sugar are by far he most likely to become overweight or obese….in all age groups. The link between sugar consumption and obesity is especially strong in children, where each daily serving of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a whopping 60% increased risk of obesity.
9. Sugar Raises Your Cholesterol and Can Cause Heart Disease. Saturated fat was blamed for heart disease for many decades. New studies are showing that saturated is harmless, as the evidence mounts that sugar is one of the main drivers of heart disease. Large amounts of fructose can raise triglycerides, small, dense LDL and oxidized LDL, raise blood glucose and insulin levels and increase abdominal obesity in as little as 10 weeks. These are all major risk factors for heart disease.
Pretty much everyone has heard the case against added sugar, and still the rates of all the diseases mentioned here continue to climb. This is a good season to monitor the amount of sugar you eat. Get a baseline, and then try to get the amount reduced. Your body will thank you for it. For an entertaining and very informative look at Sugar and its total lack of virtue, I recommend watching the DVD Fed Up. It is available on Netflix.