Imagine your ancient ancestors…
They were hunter gatherers. How often would they have encountered sugar in their travels? Apart from natural sugars in any fruits, berries and honey the answer is never. Sugar just wasn’t part of their diet. Nature wanted them to take full advantage of any fruit and honey they found, so we never developed any built-in off switch for the fructose component of sugar. High fructose corn syrup is a cheaper, sweeter alternative to sugar which entered mass production in the ’70’s. The body has evolved to shut off your appetite when eating sugar, but with high fructose corn syrup there’s no off switch. The off switch is the production of insulin and leptin which aren’t triggered by corn syrup.
Fast forward to our modern lifestyle and diet… We have gone from zero added sugar to eating pounds of sugar per week. We are bombarded by sugar every day, it’s incredibly hard to avoid even when you’re trying. Processed foods are notorious for having an overload of sugar – just read the labels carefully. Frequently you will see more than one type of sugar listed. Some examples are:-
- Galactose – from dairy products
- Glucose/Dextrose – from honey, fruit and vegetables
- High Fructose Corn Syrup.
- Fructose – from fruits and honey
- Lactose – found in milk (made from glucose and galactose)
- Maltose – found in barley
- Saccharose – from sugar cane
- Sucrose – made from glucose and fructose and from plants
Nature never expected us to consume the massive quantities of sugar we eat today. So what happens when we get to much sugar in our diet?
Well, lets be frank. Our bodies can only handle 1 teaspoon of sugar in our bloodstream per day. Given that the average glass of unsweetened fruit juice contains the equivalent of 8 teaspoons of sugar, this means we are in serious trouble. If those 8 teaspoons entered our bloodstream unaltered there would only be one outcome – a hyperglycemic coma followed by death. So, why don’t we die?
Our pancreas is our saviour. Our poor pancreas goes into emergency mode every time we overload with sugar. Eventually we overwork our pancreas and it may stop responding, causing insulin resistance or diabetes.
What does our pancreas do with all that sugar? It converts it into LDL cholesterol (the bad sort) and body fat. This goes a long way to explain why all those “low fat/no fat” foods have not cured obesity. Even worse, low fat foods are often loaded with sugar, making them even more damaging than a higher fat choice.
One glass of unsweetened fruit juice per day will make you gain 5 and half pounds in the course of a year. And it’s not even the calorie count which matters, it’s what the sugar is converted into, for example LDL cholesterol and fat. When you liver’s ability to store fuel (fat) is exceeded the fat gets stored as body fat.
Beware high insulin levels, they are a predictor of heart disease. The link between heart disease and sugar consumption is established. Sugar causes chronic inflammation of the skin, discolored spots on your skin are advanced glycosylation end-products (AGE) spots, tooth decay, impaired learning performance in children. Sugar is known to “feed” cancer cells, through a process called “anaerobic glycolysis”. Sugar also dampens your immune system because it works so hard to keep your body from dying, your organs don’t get the support they need to work properly.
Obviously it’s not easy to give up sugar. Sugar is addictive. Lab experiments with rats showed the rats preferred sugar to cocaine. Even those already addicted to cocaine preferred to eat sugar.
Sugar has no nutritional value, it’s just empty calories with no fibre, no vitamins, no minerals. In fact is add no benefit at all for your health, worse still your body needs to “borrow” nutrients to metabolize it. It’s a waste of your daily calorie allowance.
Chemical artificial sweetners are not the answer. The harm artificial sweeteners can do would take another series of articles so it won’t be addressed here. What I can give you now is a solution to help you reduce your sugar consumption.
How to manage your sugar consumption:-
Think before you eat and drink
Avoid processed foods where possible
Read labels and try to buy those with the least sugar added
Drink water instead of sodas or fruit juice
Healthy sugar substitutes are:-
Stevia – from a South American herb
Xylitol – known as birch sugar
Isomalt – from beets
Agave nectar – from the agave plant
This article is written, without scientific jargon, as a layman’s guide to the damage we are doing to our bodies by consuming too much sugar.
Some interesting links are:-