Increasing evidence is piling up that not saturated fats but sugar is the main culprit behind the skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. Yet, we still hear from mainstream media and the medical profession that saturated fats are harmful but sugar is “OK” in moderation.
This is all misguided information. We now know for a fact that eating saturated fats do not lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Recently released studies have proven that.
However, can sugar be possibly that bad? Is sugar really toxic to the human body and causes all those diseases? Let’s look at the statistics:
- In 1980, about 1 in 7 Americans were obese and about 6 million had diabetes. Sugar consumption then was 75 pounds per person per year.
- Nowadays, 1 in 3 Americans are obese and almost 26 million are diabetic! Sugar consumption has soared to 135 pounds per person per year!
There is no accident that childhood obesity is at a record high – at least 15% of U.S. school children are obese – and life expectancy for the youngest generation is, for the first time, lower than that of their parents.
Sugar is the cause of many evils. Learn why sugar is extremely addictive, makes you more hungry, promotes fat accumulation in the liver and arteries, cause you to gain weight, and lead to many degenerative diseases.
Sugar Is Highly Addictive!
Many people have a “sweet tooth” or an addiction to sweets. Research finds that sugar may be even more addictive than cocaine, which is one of the most addictive substances currently known.
In a study when rats were allowed to choose either sweetened water or cocaine, an astonishing 94% of rats chose the sweetened water. Even rats that were addicted to cocaine quickly switched their preference to sugar once it was offered as a choice.
Sugar triggers production of your brain’s natural opioids, which is a key to the addiction process. Your brain becomes addicted to its own opioids as it would to cocaine, heroine, or morphine.
Strong sweet cravings are usually the result of a complex hormonal reaction. Every time you eat, the body produces a satiety hormone called leptin which suppresses appetite, increases fat burning, and reduces fat storage.
However, research discovers that people who have diminished feelings of satiety and continue to eat sweet foods tend to have leptin resistance. Leptin is produced by the fat tissue, and the amount circulating in the body is directly proportional to the amount of fat you have. When your body is always exposed to too much leptin, yours cells eventually become desensitized. Leptin resistance is, therefore, quite common with people who are overweight or obese.
What Really Happens When You Eat Sugar
We all know that sugar is empty calories and has little nutritional value, but the problems of sugar go far beyond the calories. Sugar comes in many different forms but the most common type is refined table sugar, which is made of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Glucose and fructose are processed differently by the body.
When you take in glucose, it is rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream and your pancreas responds by secreting the hormone insulin to bring the blood glucose back to a normal range. If you are always taking in a lot of glucose, over time your cells become desensitized to the circulating insulin and you develop insulin resistance and eventually diabetes, meaning your blood sugar level stays abnormally high all the time.
Fructose, unlike glucose, does not trigger the rapid rise in blood glucose. However, the entire burden of metabolizing fructose falls on your liver. Fructose is turned into fat (VLDL and triglycerides) that is deposited in your liver, arteries, and throughout your body. As mentioned above, people who are overweight or obese also tend to have leptin resistance that diminishes their feelings of satiety and make them overeat and store even more fat.
Therefore, excess consumption of glucose and fructose have detrimental effects on your health. It leads to:
- Weight gain, abdominal obesity, increased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, decreased HDL (“good”) cholesterol, increased triglycerides (fat in blood), elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure – the classic metabolic syndrome.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Insulin resistance. One in three Americans have insulin resistance, this includes the pre-diabetics and the diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetics.
- Elevated uric acid, (a by-product of fructose metabolism which is related to gout, kidney stones, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and heart disease) and chronic inflammation in the body.
Food Sources Of Fructose And Glucose
- All forms of sugar contain varying percentages of fructose and glucose. Refined sugar is 50-50. High fructose corn syrup used in sodas is 55% fructose, 45% glucose. Agave nectar, a highly processed sweetener derived from the plant that makes tequila, contains up to 90% fructose. Given the detrimental effects of eating too much fructose, this so-called “healthy” sweetener should be absolutely avoided, even if it has been touted as “organic” or “raw”.
- Fruits are high in fructose. Therefore, even though fruits provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, it is not wise to over consume. Fruit juices are loaded with fructose and can be as damaging to your body as sodas. A can of soda has about 40 grams of high fructose corn syrup or 22 grams of fructose. A glass of fresh orange juice with 3-4 medium oranges in it has 18-24 grams of fructose!
- All starches, such as potatoes and grains break down to glucose, no matter whether it is refined, whole, sprouted, or organic. For this reason, it is extremely important to watch your portions of starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, cereals, pasta, and rice. Too much “good” carbs (from whole grains) is still bad for you.
- Be aware that processed foods often contain hidden sugars. Processed foods are usually loaded with unsavory ingredients. If you choose to buy them, at least read the ingredients list. Even if you don’t see the word “sugar”, it can still be disguised as barley malt, caramel, corn syrup, dextrose, golden syrup, honey, maltodextrin, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, rice syrup, sorghum, or treacle. Look for the number of grams of sugar per serving. Every teaspoon is equivalent to 5 grams.
- Diabetics should refrain from eating sugars, fruits, and starchy foods until their blood sugar levels return to normal.
- Your best source of carbohydrates is above ground, leafy vegetables. They are very low in glucose and fructose and high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber and can be safely consumed in high quantities.
Sugar’s Connection To Cancer
Cancer researchers found that you are more likely to get cancer if you are obese, diabetic, or insulin resistant. The connection is sugar.
When you eat sugar, your blood sugar rises and the pancreas secrets insulin to mop up the excess sugar in the blood. With the insulin, your body also secretes a related hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which promotes tumor growth and inhibits cell death. In fact, many pre-cancerous cells would never acquire the mutations that transform them into malignant tumors if they were not being driven by insulin to take up more and more blood sugar and metabolize it. Insulin promotes many of the most common cancers, especially the hormone-dependent cancers, like breast, colon, and prostate.
There is more than enough evidence that sugar causes havoc to your health. So stay away from sugar and high fructose sweeteners such as agave nectar, refined grains, baked goods, candies, and sugary beverages.
How To Kick Your Sugar Addiction
First of all, to break the addiction, you need to stop eating sugar. Studies find that people who eliminate sugar (including artificial sweeteners), limit their intake of carbohydrates (including fruits and whole grains), and eat a diet higher in protein and fats have substantially reduced sweet cravings.
The finding makes sense because when you eat lots of sugar, the sugar gets metabolized to fat and is stored as fat in your cells, which in turn releases surges in leptin. Over time, if your body is always exposed to too much leptin, you will become leptin resistant (just as your body can become insulin resistant).
When you are leptin resistant, you can no longer hear the messages to stop eating and burn fat. You feel hungry, you crave sweets, and your body stores more fat. To stop this viscous cycle, you need to avoid high glycemic foods that rapidly raise your blood sugar and increase protein and fats (which are low glycemic) in your diet.
Secondly, if you are an emotional eater, you need to consciously find healthier ways to cope with your stress. Research suggests about half of the Americans turn to food in times of boredom, stress, and loneliness. People who feel a lack of emotional support in their lives tend to use food as a coping mechanism. If you have a hard time resolving this yourself, look for professional help.
Thirdly, cardiovascular exercise decreases sweet cravings. By and large, when your insulin levels are elevated, you tend to have sweet cravings. However, after a good workout, there is a dramatic reduction in insulin levels and as a result, cravings often simply disappear. In addition, doing interval training (short bursts followed by recovery) 3-4 times a week has been proven to be very successful in improving insulin sensitivity. If you are not used to exercising, consult a professional before engaging in vigorous exercises.
Finally, sweet cravings are a sign of imbalance in the body. If you have tried all of the above and are still struggling with a sugar addiction, seek help from a health care practitioner who is knowledgeable in addressing conditions like adrenal fatigue, yeast or Candida overgrowth, systemic viral, bacteria, or fungal infection, and hormonal imbalances as these may be the underlying causes of your problem.