Why don’t you eat sugar? I admit I was a little affronted the other day when prompted with this question. It’s been so long since I determined to cut sugars and that refined sugars are a health killer. Just one of those things I do (like not eating gluten), that I forget about the why. So I looked back at some of the research I’d done in the past and some of the blogs I used to write for my parents and found this gem. Warning: it’s sciency because I used to be a dork and enjoyed this stuff (hello my degree is a Bachelor of Science). So let’s start with hormones, so instrumental to good health, yet I feel a little under respected.
We shall start with insulin. Your body needs insulin, but the problem is that most of us don’t utilize or benefit from its anabolic effects, but suffer at the hands of its catabolic side. Yes we are out of balance, life is a fragile teetering of hormones and a lot of the population is on the wrong side of the scale, dipping into the unhealthy habit sector. When you eat food, notably carbs, your pancreas secretes insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. When we become resistant the insulin, we keep pumping more and more insulin to handle blood sugar. Your poor pancreas can become exhausted and the doctor will claim you have ‘pancreatic exhaustion’ (bet you didn’t see that one coming). Your blood sugar will then continue to rise, turning into an undisciplined child, wild and out of control. Next up will come the diabetes. Now not everyone that is insulin resistant is diabetic. And not all people that are insulin resistant are fat (although we’ll see that an expanding waistline is usually an indicator). These chronically high levels will take a toll, though. You really can’t hide from increased risk of:
- heart disease
- higher triglycerides (a good indicator of the first one)
- high blood pressure
- low HDL (ah this cholesterol we want to be as high as possible)
Now that we’ve looked at insulin before we get into the world of ‘Ose let’s look at metabolic syndrome. I was surprised to realize that I have not done a post on metabolic syndrome, a virtual umbrella term for what is wrong with our country and the real reason for widespread disease, created by lifestyle of course. Metabolic syndrome is a major risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. They estimate that 75% of the population may have metabolic syndrome. Wholly cow that’s a lot, no wonder there is so much disease when 3/4 of the population is at greater risk! What sets off metabolic syndrome?
- Hypothesis: Fat in the liver
What causes fat in the liver?
- Cue in sugar
You know those stupid commercials where they say, sugar is sugar? Well they may be wrong (huh. . an add where they’re trying to get you to buy their product lying to you? Never!) Robert Lustig (for you credential junkies, he is the lead expert in childhood obesity at University of California, San Francisco and a specialist in pediatric hormone disorders) is leading the charge against sugar, giving it the label of toxic. He says:
‘It’s not about the calories. It has nothing to do with calories. It’s a poison by itself.’
Fructose consumption has taken off the last few decades, as it took off in the processed food companies and made its way into homes nationwide. Of course we like fructose, it makes food taste sweeter. We when look at how glucose is metabolized vs. how fructose is metabolized, we realize the calorie thing more.
- 100 calories of glucose (like a potato) vs 100 calories of sugar (1/2 fructose and 1/2 glucose) have different effects
- fructose is processed by the liver whereas glucose is used by every cell in the body
- Go back to the 100 calories: the sugar is more work for the liver
- Liquids (like juice and pop) allow the fructose and glucose to hit the liver even faster. In animals given this scenario (speed and quantity), the liver converted much of it to fat.
Let’s go back to metabolic syndrome. What sets it off?
- animals feed pure fructose or large doses of sugar, liver’s converted fat (mainly palmitate, the fatty acid usually predisposing us to heart disease). The fat accumulates, insulin resistance followed they developed metabolic syndrome.
If you want to make further correlation between sugar intake and disease, just look at the rising number of sugar consumption. We’ve been blaming the wrong victim: cholesterol and dietary fat (shooting ourselves in the foot even more).
In this paper, we developed a theory accounting for all the features of MetS [Metabolic Syndrome], which involves a cascade of events brought on by gross dietary imbalances. We argue that this syndrome has reached epidemic proportions due to misguided advice regarding a “healthy” lifestyle, leading to reduced dietary intake of fats and cholesterol and excessive sun avoidance. The increasingly widespread availability of highly processed foods, particularly the practice of substituting fructose [HFCS] for glucose as a sweetener due to economic considerations, has been an equally damaging contributing factor. Calcium and vitamin D deficiency play a role as well. –Dr. Stephanie Seneff
We’ve known about this for awhile, though. In 1924 (yes 90 years ago) Haven Emerson drew the line between diabetes deaths 15 fold increase since the Civil War and the fourfold increase from 1900-1920, with the equally significant rise in sugar consumption (which had nearly doubled from 1890 to the early 1920’s with the spurt in the soda and candy industries). Of course like all good things, he was overshadowed by the holey work of Elliot Joslin, correlating the rice eating Japanese and their low heart disease rates. Joslin failed to look at how rice is mostly carbs, forgetting that rice and sugar are not identical (and there effects). Plus hiding that the Japanese, also, ate little sugar. Let’s look more recently. In the 1980’s research recommended no more than 40 lbs of sugar per person per year (that’s 200 calories or two cups of milk). By the early 2000’s we had more than doubled this recommendation, with an average of 90 pounds per person per year. Look at another set of numbers: in 1980 1 in 7 adults were obese and there were 6 million diabetics. In the early 2000’s, 1 in 3 adults were obese and there were 14 million (more than double the amount) diabetics. Clearly sugar is bad, and clearly fructose places a lot of stress on the liver, but how much. That’s tricky and there are not enough studies, because with toxic foods like this, longer studies are required to get the best results. I think a starting point would be to limit sugar intake, remember that article were ancestors may only stumble upon a tablespoon of honey a day? Well what about fruit? Ah yes, well here is a natural form of fructose, and unlike juice it is going to take longer to hit your system. On one site it said that some suggest 50 grams of fructose a day, yet some say 25 (see the controversy from above, it’s hard with the lack of research and variables like lifestyle and the fact that we are all individuals). Furthermore, they say 15 if you’ve got metabolic syndrome. If you recall 75% of the population could have metabolic syndrome, so really most people should be getting hardly any.
Bottom line: I try to stay away from sugar and eat more REAL foods. Nice and simple. Preventative eating if you will.