The Sugarcane (craving) within me
There is a huge uprising regarding sugar, especially with the new documentary that has been released “That Sugar Film”. People are talking more about sugar and how bad it is and that sugar should be cut from your diet. I say: “Let’s look at the facts and then decide”.
Some call sugar the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. – harsh, but true?
For me to starts this blog nicely I need you to have something sweet while you are reading. Yes, you read it correctly. Go ahead and do it! Have that something sweet while I explain the working of sugar to you and give you some hard-core facts around this sweet ingredient.
THE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
We are born with the urge to want sugar, something sweet and something we interpret as a boost of energy. How is that chocolate tasting? As soon as the sweet delicious taste touches our tongues our Noggin’s Reward System comes alive and releases the dopamine we use to feel good.
The chocolate (aka sugar) you just swallowed lands in your stomach where digestive juices dilute it and then transport it into the small intestine. There enzymes brake every bit of that “sweet thing” down into glucose and fructose.
So why is that so bad?
- LET’S ASK THE TOOTH FAIRY.
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, starting from the top and working its way through.
The digestible energy sugar provides is an excellent source of nutrition for bacteria in the mouth, hmm mm, yum! Tooth decay here we come!
Added sugars are known as empty calories because they provide no added nutritional value only pure energy which is not used properly. Is the tooth decay worth it?
If you think about it, when you are eating all the processed foods, and obtaining all those empty calories, what real nutrient are you actually gaining? Empty nutrients (calories) will put you at risk of developing various nutrient deficiencies.
- ADDED SUGARS CAN OVERLOAD THE LIVER
For you to understand why sugar is bad you need to know how it is metabolized. Once consumed the body brakes sugar down in to two parts, glucose and fructose, as I said before.
So how does the liver metabolize glucose?
Glucose goes from the small intestine into the blood. This triggers the pancreas to secrete a hormone named insulin which assists glucose to move from the blood into the cells to be used as energy. This is the normal process. Why the big fuss? Many of our foods today are so processed and contain a very high amount of added sugars. This increased load of added sugar can flood your body and give you a stimulating high for a short period of time. Your brain then tries to balance this as your brain would by secreting serotonin (sleep-regulating hormone) and then you crash. Sound familiar?
The other side of the coin is fructose.
Fructose is a little bit different. Our bodies do not produce it and there is no physiological need for it. Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver. The liver can cope with small amounts which we get from fruit, or if the energy is used during an exercise session.
Fructose will go from the small intestine to the blood stream, to the liver and stored as glycogen until we need it. Once the liver is saturated with glycogen and you keep on loading it with the sugar added foods you eat, fat globules will develop and grow over time which then leads to a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. That’s not all; fructose can lower your good cholesterol or otherwise known as HDL cholesterol and increase your triglycerides which move from your liver to your arteries and increase you risk of stroke and heart disease. Wonderful!?
Remember that the above mentioned does not include the fruit you eat. It would be very difficult to eat enough fruit to overdose on fructose. And people who are active can tolerate high amounts of sugars better than people who are not so active who consume a high calorie diet consisting of high carb foods.
For the body to cope with this increased amount to fructose it receives, your liver sends for the pancreas to produce more insulin. An overworked and overloaded pancreas can cause inflammation in the body which increases your risk for diabetes and obesity.
In the end after your body has secreted so much insulin your cells stop responding to it (insulin resistance) leading to pre-diabetes. Insulin resistance is the stepping stone to developing other chronic disease like cardiovascular disease, diabetes type two, obesity and metabolic syndrome.
- DID YOU SAY CANCER?
Something else that might scare you is that due to the harmful effects on the metabolism of sugar, there is a substantial amount of evidence which shows that insulin promotes the uncontrolled growth of cancerous cells. The inflammation caused by the overworked pancreas also contributes to the risk of developing cancer.
What you might have not known is our friend insulin inhibits the production of leptin which is a hormone that controls whether you are full or not. Oh dear, now the “munchies” are coming. You have just finished the chocolate, but you are still hungry, right? This is called the “stimulating starvation mode” and your worst nightmare is about to take place. Your brain instructs your body to feed your belly fat by storing the glucose exactly there.
What is worse is that fructose has an even less effect on satiety. Glucose, can to some extent, lower your munchies hormone, ghrelin. But fructose does not even come close. Meaning you could have an increased calorie intake in an attempt to still the hunger pangs. And what happen if you have an increased calorie intake and a low calorie output? We feed the fat!
In the beginning I explained how your Noggin’s Reward System ignites when you have sugar and how dopamine is released. This is a normal safe process that takes place when you consume foods found in nature. But once you start taking in processed foods and fast foods you expose your brain to very high levels of dopamine. Your brain becomes use to this kick you are giving it and in return becomes lazy in producing normal amount of dopamine on its own without the kick. Whoa…you are addicted and you start craving the dopamine-kick (sugar-fix). Added sugars can be addictive to a lot of people like being addicted to drugs. The only way to stop the addiction is abstinence. Having sugar in moderation or having an alternative (sweetener) which provides less calories, will only feed the addiction.
Another bad part to this story is the over production of insulin rushes to your brain which if not controlled can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Can you remember that you just had a piece of chocolate?
Due to the variety of processed foods (sugar-added foods) we have in our country we can understand why the incidence of obesity in children and adults is increasing yearly. People are not aware of the amount of sugar in foods and also what sugar can do to your body in terms of “feeding the fat” when your insulin levels spike, not having control over your hunger and becoming addicted to sugar added foods. People need to make themselves more aware of the sugar content in food by reading food labels.
- ADDED SUGAR AND HEART DISEASE
Back in the day it was believed that saturated fats are the reason for our number one killer in the world, heart disease. But is saturated fat the only culprit? Studies have shown that sugar also plays a part.
Every one ignored the sugar and promoted low fat product across the board. If you do not have fat in food, what do you add to it to make it more palatable? ADDED SUGARS!!!!.
As explained earlier, your triglycerides and LDL (Bad cholesterol) can be elevated if you consume increased amounts of fructose. High levels of fructose can increase your blood glucose levels which in turn increase your insulin levels and feeds your belly fat. The bad news is that this can all happen in a very short space of time.
Now what are the risk factors for heart disease?
- Increased LDL
- Increased triglycerides.
Can you see the link?
If you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen and cut your sugar completely! “Empty calories are just the tip of the iceberg” as they explain in “That Sugar Film”. Remember a healthy diet is about balance, variety and moderation. Sugars occurring in nature are good for you because the foods that contain it will also provide minerals, vitamins, fiber and water. All elements you need as part of a balanced diet. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, fruit and vegetables form part of a balanced diet. It aids in good digestion, provides vitamins, minerals and fiber, assists in controlling your blood glucose levels and helps burning the unnecessary body fat. So make sure to include them daily. Start reading the food labels and make yourself aware of the amount of sugar you consume.
2. Saris WHM, Sugars, energy metabolism, and body weight control , Am J Clin Nutr October 2003, vol. 78 no. 4 850S-857S