Giving up sugar is one of the greatest things you can do for your health, but it is also one of the hardest. Sugar is addictive and most people have been hooked since childhood.
But it tastes so good, right? And it is SO hard to stop eating it. Why is that? Because when consuming overly processed sugar, it creates a hormone cascade that starts a “positive feedback” loop in the body which only encourages more consumption. Brain scans have shown how sugar lights up the “pleasure centers” in our brain.
If sugar is found naturally in plants, then why is it so bad for us? It’s all in how it is processed. Highly processed sugar, coupled with excess consumption, leads to many detrimental effects on the body. When your sugar is white/refined, it has been put through a complicated process of being heated, stripped, heated some more, chemically altered, heated, stripped, etc. What is left over is something not even closely resembling anything found in nature.
So what is the difference between natural (glucose and fructose) sugar and processed (sucrose, and other types such as high fructose corn syrup, agave, etc.) sugar? You can’t really pit the two groups against each other as it would be like comparing apples to apple juice. The main difference between natural and processed sugars is how each one delivers glucose and fructose. Fructose contains a pile of nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Where as your typical table sugar doesn’t. This full spectrum of nutrients allows the body to slow down the absorption of fructose.
Let’s explore high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is a highly processed form of sugar and 20 times sweeter than table sugar. It is found in almost all types of processed foods and drinks. The bad news is that the human body is not made to consume excessive amounts of sugar. Especially when it is devoid of nutrients.
According to Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, your body can safely metabolize at least 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Unfortunately, most Americans are consuming at least over three times that amount, usually in form of HFCS. This overload of sugar is metabolized as fat which leads to the debilitating chronic diseases that people are struggling with today.
Damaging Effects of Excess Sugar
Liver Disease – When we eat fructose, it goes to the liver. If liver glycogen is low (such as after a workout) the fructose will be used to replenish it. However, consuming fructose when glycogen levels are not depleted, the liver turns the fructose into fat. This fat build up, over time, can ultimately lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
Weight gain – Sugar will trick your body into gaining weight, as it affects your insulin and leptin signaling. Fructose fools your metabolism, by turning off your appetite control, causing you to eat more.
Increased uric acid levels – Having high uric acid levels is a risk factor for kidney and heart disease.
A sugar-rich diet stresses the heart in other ways, too. With each swallow of a high sugar food/drink your blood sugar rises. To bring levels back to normal, the pancreas releases insulin which lowers blood-sugar levels by sending the sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells. If energy needs are high at the time the sugar hits the bloodstream then that sugar is put to good use. But too frequent or too heavy of a supply of sugar causes the pancreas to work in overdrive and release too much insulin. Excess release of insulin leads to inflammatory trouble. When that inflammation is deep inside the body (such as your arteries and heart) heart disease becomes a real possibility. See the correlation here? Weight gain is a symptom of a poor diet. It should be viewed as a signal, a loud and clear message, from your body that it is struggling. That weight gain could mean, amongst other things, that your heart is in trouble.
Cancer – Even more frightening is the link between sugar and cancer. Studies have found that fructose is readily used by cancer cells to increase proliferation – it “feeds” the cancer cells, promoting cell division and speeds their growth, allowing cancer to spread faster.
A list of other dangers of consuming too much sugar:
- Feeds candida
- Promotes aging
- Leads to osteoporosis
- Depletes the body of minerals
- Contributes to gallstones
- Suppresses the immune system
- Can weaken eye-sight
- Can contribute to eczema
- Can cause arthritis
- Rots teeth
Ok, but what about fruit and the natural sugars found in plants? Many people believe that because added sugars are bad, the same must apply to fruits, which also contain fructose. However… this is wrong, because fructose is only harmful in large amounts and it is almost impossible to overeat fructose by eating fruit, certainly not enough to do harm. That’s because fruits are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and water and have significant chewing resistance (pre-digestion). For this reason, most fruits take a while to eat and digest, meaning that the fructose hits the liver slowly.
Bottom line, stick closer to natural sugars found in plant foods and detox your body’s addiction to added sugars in the form of processed foods and drinks and your health will improve greatly!