What is sugar?
Sugar is the general term for a class of molecules known as carbohydrates.
The white granular form of sugar that we know is also known as sucrose which is made up of two smaller molecules: fructose and glucose.
There are many other forms of sugar including:
- Corn Syrup
- Fruit Juice
- Raw Sugar
- Invert sugar
Added sugar – the food industry’s best friend
Sugar is not only found in obvious products such as cakes and sweets. Just take a look at all the processed foods lined up on the shelve of your supermarket. Carefully read the labels and you’ll soon realize that there is hardly a product that doesn’t contain some form of sugar.
Here are just a few examples:
- Tomato Sauce (Ketchup)
- Salad dressings
- Energy and sports drinks
- Breakfast cereals
- Low-fat products and ready meals
Sugar’s Adverse Effects on Health
Weight gain, insulin resistance and type 2 Diabetes
Sugar provides empty calories, meaning that it doesn’t have any nutritional value.
There are no nutrients, minerals, vitamins or fiber in sugar.
This means that body cells are starved of energy and the feeling of hunger is not satisfied. But let’s explore a little deeper into this….
Consumption of sugar or a high carbohydrates meal leads to a rise of glucose in our blood. This then stimulates the pancreas to releases a hormone known as insulin.
Insulin is required for the absorption of glucose by muscle cells and the release of energy. It does that by attaching to specific receptors found on the cells.
Over time, however, high consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar leads to more insulin being produced by the pancreas in attempt to cope with the constant increase in blood glucose.
Eventually, the insulin receptors become unresponsive and cells are being starved of energy while blood glucose levels remain high.
Insulin then begins to deposit glucose in fat cells causing increased belly fat.
In the meantime, we continue to feel hungry, eat more and as a result continue to gain weight.
Insulin resistance is one of the most common causes of obesity and Type 2 diabetes
What’s more, increased levels of insulin, due to continuously high blood sugar levels, block leptin – another hormone that signals the brain that we are full and have enough energy which we can utilize properly.
The more sugar we consume not only do we not go out to use stored energy but we continue to feel hungry and want more food as the brain thinks we are starving.
Increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease
Studies have shown that high sugar consumption is linked to cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease.
Abnormally high insulin levels in the blood have also been linked to inflammation as well to multiplication of tumor cells which need the source of glucose to grow.
A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates causes an increase of bacteria called mutans streptococci. These feed on sugar and generate the byproduct lactic acid, which degrade the teeth’s protective layer known as enamel.
The acid can then continue to wear down a pathway deeper into the tooth allowing more bacteria to enter and may lead to the whole tooth being infected.
Consumption of sugar is linked to the reward center in our brain. It causes the release of a neurotransmitter known as dopamine which conveys the feeling of pleasure.
Chronic stimulation of the dopamine system, however, results in less receptors for dopamine in the brain, blunting the feeling of reward and pleasure, meaning that we need increasingly more food to achieve a sense of satisfaction.
To certain people sugar can become addictive, just like a drug. However, unlike drugs, sugar addition comes without the immediate social repercussions which can make it harder for people to take steps towards giving it up.
How to break your addiction and cut down on sugar
It’s time to clear your cupboards and fridge from the following:
- White bread
- White spaghetti
- White rice
- Candies and sweets
- Corn flakes
- Rice cake
- Processed foods such as ready meals
- Soft drinks
- Fruit juices
- Baked goods such as cookies and cakes
- Dried fruit
- Fruits canned in syrup
- Low-fat products (sugar is often added to compensate for flavor normally provided by fat)
And stock up on:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Protein rich foods such as eggs, dairy, seafood and grass-fed lean meats
- Fruit (not the juice) high in fiber such as apples, berries and oranges
Lack of sleep (less than 6 hours a night) contributes to elevated insulin in the blood.
This then leads a number of further complication including:
- Muscle loss
- Increased fat storage
- Increased blood fats such as cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL
- Increased blood pressure
- Hormonal imbalances
- Slower metabolism due to reduced thyroid function
- Low energy and fatigue
- Mood cognition (Alzheimer’s disease)
“The food that you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison”
– Ann Wigmore, nutritionist
- Fat Chance , the hidden truth about sugar, obesity and disease by Dr. Robert Lusting
2. Insulin resistance and cancer: the role of insulin and IGFs – http://erc.endocrinology-journals.org/content/20/1/R1.full#sec-9
3. Insulin and Cancer – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14713323
4. Sugars and Tooth Decay –http://www.actiononsugar.org/Sugar%20and%20Health/Sugar%20and%20dental%20caries/151885.html