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Let us point out some facts related to sugar consumption:
The average child consumes 32 teaspoons of sugar per day
Sugar releases an opiate-like substance that activates the brain pleasure center and that can easily make you addicted
The consumption of sugar is growing faster than the world’s population, with the increase of about 1 percent every year
Refined sugar depletes the body of B complex vitamins
Refined sugar has no nutritional value, only empty calories
Many foods contain hidden sugar (for instance, ketchup, peanut butter, pasta sauce, French fries, mayonnaise).
There are 53 teaspoons of sugar in a 64 ounces of soda
Refined sugar is linked to hair loss, insomnia, dizziness, allergies, tooth decay, obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hypoglycemia, manic depression, and cardiovascular disease.
High doses of sugar can be toxic.
That being said, the question is what we should do. Should we stop eating sugar? Can we stop? Is everything bad related to sugar? Here is what you need to know.
A word about sugar
Simple, sugar is a carbohydrate, but there are different kinds of sugar – simple sugars (monosaccarides – glucose, fructose and galactose) and complex forms of sugar (disaccharides – lactose, maltose, and sucrose).
Glucose occurs naturally in plants and fruits, and it is a product of photosynthesis; in our body glucose can be burned as energy or converted into glycogen. Fructose occurs naturally in fruits. Less sweet than glucose, galactose is found in dairy products, sugar beets and other gums.
Lactose is in fact milk sugar. Maltose is found in beverages, beer, pasta, cereal, potatoes and in many processed products. Sucrose is found in roots of sugar beet and in certain fruits and plants.
The sugar we eat comes as a result of the processing of either sugar beets or sugar cane. This sugar has no nutritional level, it is pure, and refined.
What happens when we eat sugar?
Our body processes sugar in a very specific way. Sugar can be converted into fat and stored in our fat cells, or burned as an energy. The problem is that there is a higher probability that sugar is going to be turned into fat then used as an energy.
When pancreas detects sugar in our blood stream, it releases a hormone insulin to deal with all of the sugar. The more sugar in the blood stream, the more insulin is released. Insulin regulates the level of sugar in the blood, and it helps store glucose in the liver, muscles and fat cells. When sugar quickly comes into our system it results in the decrease in blood sugar level below normal levels. This is hypoglycemia – and this means our body wants more sugar.
The more sugar we consume the more severe the blood sugar spike is, and it becomes easier to skip using sugar as an energy. This is one of the reason you can easily get extra pounds even when exercising.
This is also the reason why sugar is the main culprit for obesity, diabetes, dementia, macular degeneration, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and more.
Can we just stop consuming sugar or eat less?
It is a good idea, but certain carbohydrates are processed in the same way our body processes pure sugar. Studies showed that white bread, French fries or other simple carbohydrates have almost identical effects on our blood sugar as glucose. The best way to control sugar intake is to consume food that has a low glycemic index in order to reduce blood sugar spikes and the production of insulin.
Can we get addicted to sugar?
Foods rich in sugar are addictive as many drugs. Fructose causes addition in four ways: bingeing, craving, withdrawal and sensation to other addictive substances. There is a reward center in our brain called nucleus accumbens, and this center tracks down the intake of sugar. The problem is that the center lights up less and less when we consume sugar repeatedly.
In time, you need more and more sugar to achieve the same effect.
What are the worst side effects of regular sugar intake?
A study showed that sugar affects the pumping mechanism of heart and increases the risk of heart failure. Excess sugar intake increase the overall risk of heart diseases. The molecule of sugar called glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate is responsible for the changes in the heart muscle.
There is a strong connection between sugar consumption and aging process – sugar accelerates the aging of the cells. We should be more concerned with the effects of the sugar related to brain aging as well. Excess sugar consumption affects the memory and cognitive health.
Increase consumption of the fructose-laden beverages result in obesity. Fructose causes visceral fat cells to mature, increasing the belly fat and risking the heart health in the future.
Excess sugar consumption is linked to the condition called leptin resistance, and leptin is a hormone that tells you when you have had enough food. In time, we start ignoring the signals from this hormone, and after a while this hormone just “does not work”, leaving us with no information about the food intake. This leads to obesity as well.
The studies showed the strong link between insulin resistance and cancer. Sugar in intestine triggers the formation of hormone called GIP, which is controlled by a protein called β-catenin, moreover, this protein is dependent on sugar levels. This hormone, GIP, increases the inulin released by pancreas, and β-catenin affects the cells’ susceptibility to cancer formation.
Consumption of sweetened beverages can increase the risk of death. Research showed that many deaths are associated with sweetened beverage consumption especially for those who had an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Fructose and glucose can cause liver toxicity the same way alcohols (ethanol) can. Other studies showed that sugar increases the risk of several chronic conditions that are triggered by excess alcohol intake.
What should we do?
These are healthy alternatives we should include in our daily nutrition.
Raw honey is lower in free fructose and high in mineral content.
Maple syrup is full of beneficial minerals. Be sure to buy authentic organic maple syrup.
Dates are packed with fiber and very sweet.
Stevia is great for diabetics and for those that are worried about blood sugar levels.
Bennet, C. & Sinatra, S.T. (2007). Sugar Shock! How Sweets and Simple Carbs Can Derail Your Life – and How You Can get back on Track. Berkley Trade.
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