The Case Against Sugar in 3 Parts – Part II – Liquid Sugars

sugary-drinksIn Part I of this series, the discussion was a general one about some of the wretched things that sugar does in human bodies.  If you missed that piece, check it out here. The bottom line of that article was that excessive sugar, eaten by a very high percentage of Americans, is a decidedly unhealthy choice.

Shortly after I wrote that piece, I went to a local movie theater.  Like all of the big cinema complexes in this country, this one makes most of its money by selling very poor quality foods and gallons and gallons of sugary soft drinks.  Just before the movie started, they played yet another advertisement for some of these drinks…’told us to hurry and get our free refill because the movie was about to start. Push. Push. Push. That’s when I decided that Part II would be about some of the dangers in liquid sugars, and why you want to be sure to avoid them.

Beginning at the beginning, we’re talking here about sugar-sweetened sodas, which are often highly concentrated and easy to consume without feeling full.  Some of these drinks are fairly obvious offenders, such as soda and fruit punch. However, although fruit juice is typically considered a healthier option, even varieties without added sugar can be as high in sugar and calories as sweetened drinks –sometimes even higher.  Additionally, a high intake of processed fruit juices may lead to the same health problems as drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.

Consider the calories and sugars in 12 ounces (355 ml) of some popular high-sugar beverages

A sample selection of sweetened sodas and juices contained between 75 and 226 calories, representing between 23 and 54 grams of sugar. Included in the sample were soda,sweetened iced tea, unsweetened orange juice, unsweetened grape juice, fruit punch, lemonade, and a sports beverage.

Liquid Sugar hs Different Effects Than Sugar from Solid Food

Our brain doesn’t register liquid sugar calories in the same way it does solid food sugar. Drinking calories doesn’t elicit the same fullness signals as eating them.  As a result we don’t compensate by eating less of other foods later. In one study, people who ate 450 calories in the form of jelly beans ate less food later.  When they drank 450 calories of soda, they ended up eating many more total calories later in the day. In another study, people consumed a whole apple, applesauce, or apple juice on six different days.  Whether consumed as a meal or snack, apple juice was shown to be the least filling, while whole fruit satisfied the appetite the most.

Drinking Sugary Drinks Increases Calorie Intake and Leads to Weight Gain

This may be because they contain a high amount of fructose, which is harmful when consumed in large amounts. A researcher recently pointed out that all fructose-containing sugars – including, agave nectar, and fruit juice – have the same potential for causing weight gain. A high intake of it seems to promote the storage of fat in the belly and around organs in the abdominal cavity, which increases disease risk. Even when caloric intake is controlled, a high intake of liquid sugars may lead to an increase of body fat.

In one 10-weekstudy, overweight and obese people consumed 25% of calories as fructose-sweetened beverages at a calorie level that should have maintained their weight. Instead, insulin sensitivity decreased and belly fat increased. A separate analysis found that fat burning and metabolic rate decreased in those who followed this fructose-rich diet for 10 weeks.

Liquid Sugar Raises Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels, While Harming Your Metabolic Health

Because sugary beverages deliver a large amount of fructose in a short amount of time, they further increase the risk of insulin sensitivity and type II diabetes.  In a detailed analysis of 11 studies including over 300,000 people, those consuming 1-2 sugar-sweetened beverages per day were 26% more likely to develop type II diabetes than those who drank one or fewer sweetened beverages per month. Frequent sugary beverage consumption has been linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Liquid Sugar Raises Your Risk of Heart Disease.

Consuming lots of fructose releases triglycerides and other fat molecules into the bloodstream.  High amounts of these fats in the blood increase heart disease risk. Unquestionably, liquid sugar may be particularly harmful to people who are already insulin resistant, overweight, or have type II diabetes. However, studies have shown that several heart health markers worsened in both overweight and normal-weight young men who drank large amounts of beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.

What Is a Safe Amount of Liquid Sugar?

There are no easy answers here because all bodies are different.  Obviously, the safest amount is zero, as there is no amount of liquid sugar that is at all beneficial to your body in any way.  The more of it that you drink, the more likely you will be to have adverse effects. In a study that provided between 0-25% of calories from sugar-sweetened beverages, those in the 25% group had a greater increase in disease risk factors than the 10% group.  Only the 0% group experienced no adverse effects. Another study showed that consuming 6.5% of calories as sugar-sweetened beverages for 3 weeks negatively affected health markers and body composition in healthy men. On a 2200 calorie diet, this would be about 143 calories, or one soda per day.

The amount of liquid sugar that can be consumed without causing health problems varies from person to person.  However, limiting fruit juice to 2 ounces per day and completely avoiding other beverages with added sugars may be your best bet.

Better Drink Choices

The healthiest drink is plain water.  If you tire of that, there are several ways to add flavor to it.

– Add a slice of lemon or lime to a glass of plain or sparkling water.

– Iced black or green tea is good with lemon in it.

– Iced herbal tea

– Water infused with fruits and/or herbs.

– Make some rejuvelac or kombucha

– Enjoy some fresh young coconut water

However you do it, your body will thank you for moving away from added sugar, especially liquid sugars. Your pocketbook may thank you as well.

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