What do you think of when you think of sugar? Most of us think of the white granules we add to coffee, sprinkle over our cereal or put in when we make cookies. In reality, that is only a tiny fraction of the sugar that we consume in our lives. In this article we’ll go over the different types of sugars, the side effects of what added sugar does to our bodies, a bit of the history of the research, and where to go from here.
When it comes to sugar, there are four main ones to look at: sucrose or table sugar, fructose or the sugar in fruit, dextrose which are sugars from corn (identical to the blood sugar in our system called glucose), and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) from corn starch. (Nestle 2010) The big differences between these sugars are how quickly they are absorbed into the system.
I’m guessing you’ve heard that you need to cut down on sugar from many difference sources for a while now, but why? First off, there’s no nutritional value to it such as vitamins, protein, minerals, water, fat, or fiber. (Colbin 2005) Secondly, it has be linked to a lot of health risks. Robert Lustig, a leading expert in childhood obesity at U of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, has done over a dozen years of research on the effects of sugar on the body, declaring it “evil”, a “toxin”, and “poison”. And what about his findings led him to have such a strong distaste for the sweet little additive? It’s that with the huge leap of added sugar in the American diet over the last 30 years, obesity and diabetics has dramatically increased as well as heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers.
Now some people might conclude that it’s just circumstantial evidence and that so much of our lifestyles have changed over the last 30 years that we can’t just blame it on sugar. Over the years many researchers have looked into sugar as a toxin. John Yudkin, a researcher from the UK, found that it raised blood levels of triglycerides (fat) without fail, adding to obesity and heart diseases. He also found that it raised insulin levels, which have been linked directly with Type II Diabetes.
In 1970 A nutritionist named Ancel Keys tried to discredit Yudkin, by blaming the cause on the Western diet being high in fat. Americans ended up siding more with Keys and people in the UK with Yudkin. It became so divisive that researchers in the US avoided saying anything negative about sucrose for fear of being lumped in with Yudkin.
This brings us into the turn of the century. Roughly 75 million Americans have Metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance), and chances are if you have a heart attack you have Metabolic syndrome. This brought research back to the topic of sugar and found that feeding someone a diet full of sugar had a “very obvious, very dramatic effect.” Effects either negative by adding sugar or positive by removing sugar were easily noticeable within a week.
The FDA is still tentative to look at Sugar as an “acute toxin”, and it’s possible that they don’t feel there’s enough evidence, or possibly because of the economic fallout in American food companies if they suddenly had to adjust the amount of sugar in what we eat. Whatever the reason, we need to start taking personal responsibility and look at our own nutrition and what we put in our bodies.
“I can stop if I wanted to.” This is the mantra for addicts of any substance or habit. Thinking that sugar isn’t addicting? Well if you forgo your usual sugar high after having gotten used to it, you’ll probably feel a craving. Your body is missing the dopamine, a chemical released in your brain that causes a sensation of pleasure, which it produces from that treat. In other words, you’re going through withdrawal. And just like any substance, the more you use it, the less dopamine your brain produces over time, causing you to crave more to get the same fix. (Colbin 2005)
So how do you avoid “poisoning” your body with so much sugar? Just know that a little goes a very long way. Look for ways to avoid commercial desserts, soft drinks, and condiments. Dr. Annemarie Colbin made a list of foods that are naturally sweet that aren’t so bad on your system:
-Sweet fruits: bananas, dates, figs, mangoes, etc. These are high in potassium and other trace minerals.
-Sweet vegetables, especially the orange kind: sweet potatoes or yams, pumpkin, squashes. These are especially rich in beta-carotene and other anti-oxidants.
-Cookies, cakes, james, and sweets made with small amounts of natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, and concentrated fruit juices.” (Colbin 2005)
So this Halloween, you can treat yourself to a candy bar at your own risk. A spoonful of sugar my help the medicine go down, but it’s might just be way you have to take it in the first place.
Collin Anderson CPT
TRI – D Fitness
“Work hard, eat well, and live actively!”
1. Annemarie Colbin, P. D. (2005). Retrieved from http://www.foodandhealing.com/articles/article-sugar.htm
2. Taubes, G. (n.d.). Nytimes. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?pagewanted...
3. Nestle, M. (21,S). The daily green. Retrieved from http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/blogs/healthy-food/types-of-...