We are currently in the middle of a global crisis. Diabetes, heart disease, obesity and mood disorders are all on the rise. What if I was to tell you that they all have one familiar thing in common? What if I could show you simple ways to improve your health by sifting through the lies and misconceptions? The following is just a piece to this puzzle we call health care; but a very important one.
I’m not sure if there is a nutritional topic with greater misinformation than sugar consumption and sources. To begin we need a brief overview of sugar. Sugar is a carbohydrate made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. These molecules make combinations of simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple sugars are glucose (dextrose), fructose and galactose. Disaccharides are considered complex sugars and are combinations of the simple sugars ie: Sucrose or table sugar is made up of glucose and fructose. Where can these simple and complex sugars be found? Just about anywhere from diary products to butterscotch candies even in unsuspecting items such as ketchup.
Lets look at some figures. Below is a chart of major Countries consumption of sugar from 2007-2013.
As you can see the staggering amount of sugar consumed throughout the entire world; so exactly what is wrong here? Lets keep it simple….sugar in excess causes inflammation and we’re not just talking “stub your toe” inflammation but rather that which happens at a cellular level and can disrupt the very fabric of our physiology. Inflammation has proven to be at the root of nearly every illness.
The Dangers of sugar
Excessive sugar in the blood stream causes the pancreas to work harder in its production of insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps get glucose into the cells for energy production. There are 2 problems with our current diets: We have too much sugar which causes the pancreas to become “tired” and insulin production diminishes; while at the same time the cells that were bombarded with excessive sugars and insulin retract their receptors (or translocate) so insulin’s action is no longer as powerful. This creates the perfect storm for disease; not only talking about diabetes here- cardiovascular disease, autoimmunity and behavioral disorders such as ADHD/ADD have all been linked back to the abnormal intake of sugar. A recent study published in the, Journal of Pediatrics, looked at almost 3000 5 year-olds who drank 1-4 servings of soda per day. The result was those who consumed the soda had a significant higher level of aggressiveness compared to those who did not. They further described that it was a dose-dependent response, which means the more soda was drank the more, exaggerated the poor behavior.
Artificial sweeteners come in all shapes and sizes. A very popular one is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS was placed under the magnifying glass a few years ago only to have clever marketing to follow and “ease the public”. The saying that sugar is sugar and your body doesn’t know the difference does hold some validity but when it comes to HFCS we need to look at some facts. Corn is not a source of fructose so there needs to be some chemical reaction to convert corn’s natural sugars to fructose. The process of creating HFCS uses acids that can be a source of mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal that can further complicate insulin resistance and alter immune function, which can lead to autoimmune conditions. A 2003 study looked at over 1700 women of child bearing age and concluded that 8% of them had concentrations higher than “normal” which should be monitored and mercury exposure should be limited. With the average American consuming about 50grams of HFCS per year, this can quickly become a major source of heavy metal toxicity.
So you’ve gotten this far in the article and your thinking how about artificial sweeteners…. well we are glad you asked.
The biggest draw to consume artificial sweeteners is that they are low in calories and do not act like sugar in regards to triggering an insulin response. Well, this isn’t entirely true. Most people forget that digestion starts in the brain. As soon as your nostrils sense a sweet substance or your tongue the digestive process begins which also includes the release of insulin to prepare for a sugary meal. Research shows us that those who consume artificial sweeteners can actually become addicted because they can be up to 1000x sweeter to our brain than regular table sugar. In fact an article published in Environmental Health stated that women who drank diet soda drank twice as much when compared to those who drank sugar-sweetened soda.
So we have mentioned table sugar, sodas and diet drinks but there is one more major source of sugar in the American diet…fruit! Stay tuned for our review blog on the article titled, ‘Fructose: It’s “Alcohol without the Buzz”’, and we think you’ll be very surprised.
What do I recommend?
The obvious answer is to avoid all of the above as much as possible. We also need to increase our daily intake of pure water, there is no magic calculation for the amount but a general estimate is about half your body weight in fluid ounces per day. Your vegetable to fruit consumption should be somewhere in the neighborhood of a 3:1 ratio and also include a wide varied of colors and types. Last but not least, stay active. Pushing the energy pathways by exercise will require your body to utilize sugar more readily for energy thus less circulating in the blood. Above all we need to start burning fat as a fuel source instead of relying on sugars. Burning fat for energy and entering a state of ketosis is also for another blog post so stay tuned!