Sugar Could Be Killing us Physically and Financially
By Bob Aronson
In September 2013, a bombshell report from Credit Suisse’s Research Institute brought into sharp focus the staggering health consequences of sugar on the health of Americans. The group revealed that approximately “30%–40% of healthcare expenditures in the USA go to help address issues that are closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar.” The figures suggest that our national addiction to sugar runs us an incredible $1 trillion in healthcare costs each year. The Credit Suisse report highlighted several health conditions including coronary heart diseases, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which numerous studies have linked to excessive sugar intake.
This blog is not meant to be a condemnation of sugar. It is a condemnation of our addiction to it. We all love a sweet taste and frankly, we deserve it from time to time. Often,there is no better reward, but we have to learn to limit our intake. Like so many things in life it is the abuse of any substance that can cause us to suffer. Sugar is particularly tough because it is unavoidable. It is in almost everything and often is a naturally occurring substance. We would all be a lot healthier if we would just read food labels and limit our excesses. Having established this little disclaimer, we can now discuss sugar and its potential and real dangers.
Women’s Health Magazine says that the typical American now swallows the equivalent of 22 sugar cubes every 24 hours. That means the average woman eats 70 pounds—nearly half her weight—of straight sugar every year. Women’s Health Magazine. http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/dangers-of-sugar
In a major story on sugar Women’s Health goes on to say: When eaten in such vast quantities, sugar can wreak havoc on the body. Over time, that havoc can lead to diabetes and obesity, and also Alzheimer’s disease and breast, endometrial, and colon cancers. One new study found that normal-weight people who loaded up on sugar doubled their risk of dying from heart disease. Other research pinpoints excess sugar as a major cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to liver failure.
The magazine characterized the use of sugar this way, “The instant something sweet touches your tongue, your taste buds direct-message your brain: deee-lish. Your noggin’s reward system ignites, unleashing dopamine. Meanwhile, the sugar you swallowed lands in your stomach, where it’s diluted by digestive juices and shuttled into your small intestine. Enzymes begin breaking down every bit of it into two types of molecules: glucose and fructose. Most added sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets and is equal parts glucose and fructose; lab-concocted high-fructose corn syrup, however, often has more processed fructose than glucose. Eaten repeatedly, these molecules can hit your body…hard.
Anne Alexander, editorial director of Prevention and author of The Sugar Smart Diet provided this explanation of what sugars can do to your body.
- It seeps through the walls of your small intestine, triggering your pancreas to secrete insulin, a hormone that grabs glucose from your blood and delivers it to your cells to be used as energy.
- But many sweet treats are loaded with so much glucose that it floods your body, lending you a quick and dirty high. Your brain counters by shooting out serotonin, a sleep-regulating hormone. Cue: sugar crash.
- Insulin also blocks production of leptin, the “hunger hormone” that tells your brain that you’re full. The higher your insulin levels, the hungrier you will feel (even if you’ve just eaten a lot). Now in a simulated starvation mode, your brain directs your body to start storing glucose as belly fat.
- Busy-beaver insulin is also surging in your brain, a phenomenon that could eventually lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Out of whack, your brain produces less dopamine, opening the door for cravings and addiction-like neurochemistry.
- Still munching? Your pancreas has pumped out so much insulin that your cells have become resistant to the stuff; all that glucose is left floating in your bloodstream, causing prediabetes or, eventually, full-force diabetes.
- It, too, seeps through your small intestine into the bloodstream, which delivers fructose straight to your liver.
- Your liver works to metabolize fructose—i.e., turn it into something your body can use. But the organ is easily overwhelmed, especially if you have a raging sweet tooth. Over time, excess fructose can prompt globules of fat to grow throughout the liver, a process called lipogenesis, the precursor to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Too much fructose also lowers HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and spurs the production of triglycerides, a type of fat that can migrate from the liver to the arteries, raising your risk for heart attack or stroke.
- Your liver sends an S.O.S. for extra insulin (yep, the multi-tasker also aids liver function). Overwhelmed, your pancreas is now in overdrive, which can result in total-body inflammation that, in turn, puts you at even higher risk for obesity and diabetes
Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist from California gained national attention after a lecture he gave titled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” went viral in 2009. www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
Lustig’s research looked at the connection between sugar consumption and the poor health of Americans came to a conclusion that startled many. The Doctor has published twelve articles in peer-reviewed journals identifying sugar as a major factor in the epidemic of degenerative disease that now afflicts our country. Lustig’s data clearly show that excessive sugar consumption is a key player in the development of some cancers along with obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. As a result he has concluded that 75% of all diseases in America are brought on by our lifestyle and are entirely preventable.
While most in the medical profession seem to accept Lustig’s assessment of sugar at least one MD David Katz the director of the Yale Prevention Center, disagrees. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/sugar-health-evil-toxic_b_850032.html Katz says, among other things, “So those most motivated to get the sugar they need wind up getting the most sugar. They, in turn, benefit from this by having more of the needed food energy — and thus are more likely to survive. In particular, they are more likely to survive into adulthood, and to procreate. And thus they become our ancestors, who pass traits along to us.”
Lest you think I am making a mountain of a molehill allow some of the body of evidence that sugar can cause health problems. The claims about the ill health effects of sugar are not just those leveled by Dr. Lustig, they are backed by a solid body of research. Here are just a few of the research headlines.
- Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Linked to Heart Disease
- How Fructose Causes Obesity and Diabetes
- Fructose intake connected with an increased risk of cardiovascular illness and diabetes in teenagers
- Fructose consumption increases the risk of heart disease.
- The Negative Impact of Sugary Drinks on Children.
- Sugar and High Blood Pressure
- Sugar Consumption Associated with Fatty Liver Disease and Diabetes
- The Adverse Impact of Dietary Sugars on Cardiovascular Health
- Rats Fed High Fructose Corn Syrup Exhibit Impaired Brain Function
- High Fructose Corn Syrup Intake Linked with Mineral Imbalance and Osteoporosis.
- Diet of Sugar and Fructose Impairs Brain Function
To be healthy and avoid sugar or at least limit your intake you simply must read labels. Unfortunately those who seek to force sugar into our systems have found many ways of complying with the law and telling us there’s sugar in their food but they do it in a manner that sounds less menacing.
Watch for these sneaky ingredients when reading food labels. Some sound scientific, some almost healthy—but in the end, they all mean “sugar.”
Barley Malt Syrup
Cane Juice Crystals
Corn Syrup Solids
Evaporated Cane Juice
Fruit Juice Concentrate
Grape Juice Concentrate
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Organic Raw Sugar
PICK YOUR POISON
Ultimately, added sugar is added sugar—it all affects you roughly the same way, regardless of where it comes from. Below you will find a short list of the most active and dangerous evil doers. .
High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Derived from corn starch, syrupy HFCS might be the scariest sweet. Much of it contains mercury, a by-product of chemical processing. But another danger is its high artificial fructose content, not to mention that it can be 75 times sweeter than white sugar. (Listen up, agave eaters: The processed nectar can be up to 85 percent fructose and possibly more damaging to your liver than HFCS!)
Often touted as far healthier than refined sugar, these do contain fewer chemicals and a better glucose-fructose balance (plus a few helpful antioxidants). However, says Anne Alexander, author of The Sugar Smartdiet even if the unique flavors of maple syrup and raw honey may lead people to use less, these sweeteners can still spike the body.
Sweet news! Unless it’s all you eat, it’s hard to go overboard on truly natural sugars that come directly from fruits and some veggies. Here’s the trick: You have to actually eat the produce. Fruit juices, even those without added sweeteners, will still sugar-bomb your bloodstream. The key is in the fiber, which slows sugar’s absorption in your body, preventing an insulin spike. Any fruit is fair game. “Ones with the most natural sugar have the most fiber,” says Robert Lustig, M.D.
So what’s the bottom line? Should we avoid sugar completely? Is that even possible? Are sugar substitutes a healthy alternative?
First, you probably cannot avoid sugar completely and still eat because it appears naturally in so much of our daily diet. Additionally, sugar is added to almost every product on the supermarket shelves so the best you can do is severely limit the amount you consume. Here’s what the Mayo Clinic says. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/added-sugar/art-20045328
How to reduce added sugar in your diet
To reduce the added sugar in your diet, try these tips:
- Drink water or other calorie-free drinks instead of sugary, nondiet sodas or sports drinks. That goes for blended coffee drinks, too.
- When you drink fruit juice, make sure it’s 100 percent fruit juice — not juice drinks that have added sugar. Better yet, eat the fruit rather than juice.
- Choose breakfast cereals carefully. Although healthy breakfast cereals can contain added sugar to make them more appealing to children, plan to skip the non-nutritious, sugary and frosted cereals.
- Opt for reduced-sugar varieties of syrups, jams, jellies and preserves. Use other condiments sparingly. Salad dressings and ketchup have added sugar.
- Choose fresh fruit for dessert instead of cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream and other sweets.
- Buy canned fruit packed in water or juice, not syrup.
- Snack on vegetables, fruits, low-fat cheese, whole-grain crackers and low-fat, low-calorie yogurt instead of candy, pastries and cookies.
The final analysis
By limiting the amount of added sugar in your diet, you can cut calories without compromising on nutrition. In fact, cutting back on foods with added sugar and solid fats may make it easier to get the nutrients you need without exceeding your calorie goal.
Mayo concludes it’s summary on sugary by saying, “Take this easy first step: Next time you’re tempted to reach for a soda or other sugary drink, grab a glass of ice-cold water instead.”
“So if I am supposed to avoid sugar, but I like sweets what are my alternatives?” Well, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this topic so we’ll turn to Web MD for an answer. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/best-sugar-substitutes
Thanks to the newest sugar substitutes, it’s becoming easier (and healthier) to bake your cake and eat it too!
There are so many alternative sweeteners available now that they seem to be elbowing sugar right off the supermarket shelf. But what’s so wrong with sugar? At just 15 calories per teaspoon, “nothing–in moderation,” says Lona Sandon, R.D., an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “The naturally occurring sugar in an apple is fine, but if we can reduce some of the added sugar in our diet, we can remove some of the empty calories.” Less than 25 percent of your daily calories should come from the added sugar in foods like cookies, cereal, and ketchup, she says. To satisfy your sweet tooth–especially if you’re counting calories, limiting carbs, or dealing with diabetes–try these options:
SWEETLEAF AND TRUVIA
What they are: These sugar alternatives are the latest made from stevia, an herb found in Central and South America that is up to 40 times sweeter than sugar but has zero calories and won’t cause a jump in your blood sugar. Stevia was slow to catch on because of its bitter, licorice-like aftertaste, but makers of Truvia and SweetLeaf have solved this problem by using the sweetest parts of the plant in their products.
Where to find them: In grocery stores and natural-food stores throughout the country and online at sweetleaf.com and truvia.com.
Health Rx: “Truvia’s one of the most promising alternatives out there,” says nutritionist Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., author of The Healthiest Meals on Earth . “Right now, it looks safe. It tastes just like sugar and has almost no glycemic index, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar.”
What it is: Three naturally occurring sugars–fructose, the sugar in fruit; sucrose, or table sugar; and lactose, the sugar in milk–are blended to create this sweetener. While individually the sugars are fully caloric, when blended in Whey Low they interact in such a way that they aren’t completely absorbed into the body. As a result, at four calories per teaspoon, Whey Low has one quarter of the calories and less than one third of the glycemic index of sugar, so you’re less likely to crash after consuming it. It’s available in varieties similar to granular sugar, brown sugar, maple sugar, and confectioners’ sugar.
Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 4,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.
Posted on August 5, 2014, in Healthy Living and tagged diabetes, Fructose, fruit, Glucose, Health, heart, HFCS, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Honey, Kidney, liver, natural, Obesity, sugar, Sweetleaf, Truvia, veggies, Whey low. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.