Is sugar really toxic? That seems like such a strong word. It is gluten free, how can it be bad for you? But an article published in the New York Times suggests that sugar can act like a drug and do harm to many systems in our body.
According to some researchers, sugar or sucrose, is a drug, since it contains no nutritional value and, because of this, it has many disadvantages as well as few advantages if consumed. For one it can enter the blood stream quickly and provide a boost of energy when needed. However, if done on a regular basis, can be detrimental, as it can cause the pancreas to be overworked and thus diabetes can set in.
Another problem with eating sugar is that it breaks down the immune system to the point where it is unable to defend the body from invading forces. Have you ever been really, really sick during the holidays? It may be because of all the sugar you consume! In fact, an average white blood cell can destroy up to 18 different bacteria before it is killed but by the time there are 24 teaspoons of sugar in the bloodstream, that number drops down to one! And since the integrity of our immune system is involved in our ability to fight disease, sugar is also a major cause of cancer.
The American Heart Association puts a cap of 6 tsp or 24 grams, roughly 100 calories worth of sugar a day. It sounds reasonable, right? Think again! My 1 tablespoon of cream in my morning coffee already uses one quarter of MY daily allowance of sugar. Talk about a reality check!
In 2009, Robert Lustig gave a lecture called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” discussing the nuances of fructose biochemistry and human physiology. Lustig is a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders an expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. He firmly believes that sugar is a “toxin” or a “poison.” This includes not only sucrose, but high-fructose corn syrup as well. In Lustig’s view, sugar should be thought of, like cigarettes and alcohol, as something that is killing our society.
Refined sugar, sucrose is made up of one molecule of the carbohydrate glucose, bonded to one molecule of the carbohydrate fructose in a 50-50 ratio. High-fructose corn syrup is 55 percent fructose, and the remaining 45 percent is nearly all glucose. The fructose component of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup is metabolized primarily by the liver, while the glucose from sugar and starches is metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming sugar means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch glucose. Also, the property of the sugar makes a difference. If you drink a can of soda, which is mostly sugar, your liver has to work much harder than when you eat an apple. The reason is that the speed with which the liver has to do its work will also affects how it metabolizes the fructose and glucose. The faster it gets the sugar, the more the liver will convert it into fat in the body.
The ingestion of sugar not only raises your blood sugar, but raises your triglycerides, which are also linked to heart disease. Since sugar causes a metabolic response which allows the pancreas to secrete insulin, high levels of insulin for prolong periods of time can also cause a condition known as metabolic syndrome which is now considered by physicians and medical authorities to be a major risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. Having metabolic syndrome is another way of saying that the cells in your body are actively ignoring the action of the hormone insulin, a condition known as insulin resistance Insulin resistance is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in type 2 diabetes, commonly found in obese and overweight individuals. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers. When your cells are resistant to insulin, your pancreas respond to rising blood sugar by pumping out more insulin. Eventually the pancreas can no longer keep up with the demand. Now your blood sugar will rise out of control because your body is not taking the cues from the insulin to metabolize the sugar in your cells. However, not everyone with insulin resistance becomes diabetic; some continue to secrete enough insulin to overcome their cells’ resistance to the hormone. It is what some people call, having ‘good genes.’
And if you want to mimic this effect in the lab, researchers say that all you have to do is feed lab animals good old fashioned fructose. Researchers found that if they feed animals enough pure fructose, their livers convert the fructose into fat by raising LDL cholesterol. The fat accumulates in the liver, and insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome follow. Insulin resistance is also correlated with fat accumulation in the liver, in patients ‘lean or obese.’ Oh man!!!! This bit of information is a huge eye opener. I eat a ton of sugar! I am about 100 lbs, my dad was maybe 120 lbs, my husband is maybe 120 lbs, but this condition could be the underlying factor of many health issues in our families. The good news is that if they stop feeding theanimals the sugar, the fatty liver promptly goes away, and with it the insulin resistance. Oh, thank god! I am NOT a lost cause! It is reversible if I decrease my sugar intake…hum, 24 grams a day, can YOU do it? Maybe I will give it a try.
One of the diseases that increased in incidence with obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome is cancer. The connection between obesity, diabetes and cancer was first reported in 2004, in large population studies by researchers from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is not controversial research. What they found is that you are more likely to get cancer if you’re obese or diabetic than if you’re not, and you’re more likely to get cancer if you have metabolic syndrome than if you do not. Cancer researchers now consider that the problem with insulin resistance is that it leads us to secrete more insulin which actually promotes tumor growth. In fact, many pre-cancerous cells would never acquire the mutations that turn them into malignant tumors if they were not being driven by insulin to take up more and more blood sugar and metabolize it. Many of the experts writing about the insulin/cancer link from a public health perspective work from the assumption that chronically elevated insulin levels and insulin resistance are both caused by being fat or obese. They recommend that we should all work to be lean and more physically active, and that in turn will help us prevent cancer, heart disease and obesity in our society.
In an attempt to provide you with snacks and recipes free of sugar, here is a great place to start…succulent, ruby red grapefruit. The peak of grapefruit season is March. This half grapefruit is only about 53 calories and will be sweet enough for you to pass up that chocolate cake with ease!