Ronit Mor, ND
Let’s face it — we could all probably use a little assistance in the sugar department.
The U.S. ranks number one worldwide with the highest sugar consumption per person, currently at 126 grams (that’s 29 teaspoons!) of sugar per person per day. All this extra added sugar is extremely detrimental for your health.
Nearly 75 percent of adults in the U.S. get approximately 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugar
Over the past several decades, added sugar has become one of the leading contributors to America’s obesity as well as a host of other chronic diseases. “Added sugar” refers to any type of sugar or sweetener that is added to foods or beverages during preparation or processing. Sugar comes in many forms, including high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, honey, sugar granules, syrup, corn syrup, sucrose and dextrose.
The food industry is under no obligation to tell you about the sugar that is added to virtually every product, including staples like bread. There are some 257 names for added sugar that could be listed on food labels, but despite very minor variations, they all create the same damage. Please refer to the author’s How to Invite Vibrance Into to Your Body eBook for additional information.
Added sugar leads to chronic, low-grade inflammation from your brain to your abdomen, causing a slew of health issues from dementia to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and allergies.
There are many reasons why you should avoid the sweet stuff. Here are the main ones:
SUGAR FUELS CANCER CELLS
Cancer cells love sugar! Cancer cells uptake sugar at 10-12 times the rate of healthy cells. The 1931 Nobel laureate in medicine, German Otto Warburg, PhD, discovered that cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells. He found that malignant tumors exhibit increased glycolysis -- a process whereby glucose is used as a fuel by cancer -- as compared with normal cells. In his own words:
“Cancer, above all other diseases, has countless secondary causes. But, even for cancer, there is only one prime cause. Summarized in a few words, the prime cause of cancer is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells by a fermentation of sugar.”
In fact, that is the basis of PET (positron emission tomography) scans -- one of the most accurate tools for detecting cancer growth. PET scans use radioactively labeled glucose to detect sugar-hungry tumor cells. When patients drink the sugar water, it gets preferentially taken up into the cancer cells and they light up!
SUGAR SABOTAGES THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Sugar is known to suppress the immune system. A Columbia University study found that upon consuming 100 grams of sugar (similar amount found in a medium soft drink), white blood cells - responsible for trapping and killing harmful pathogens in the body - were 40 per cent less effective.
Refined sugar has far-reaching effects on many of the body’s organs and systems. Ever wondered what’s happening to your body when you overindulge on biscuits or chocolate? Now you can find out. Beneden, a healthcare insurance provider, has created an online tool showing how sugar affects the body. Click here to use this online tool
SUGAR ACCELERATES THE AGING PROCESS
Perhaps one of the most disturbing – and long-term – effects of refined sugar on the body is observed at the DNA level. Sugar causes the shortening of telomeres, thus accelerating the aging process. Telomeres are an essential part of human cells that affect how our cells age. They are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Without telomeres, DNA strands become damaged and our cells can’t do their job.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health reports that sugar accelerates the aging process as much as smoking does. By measuring the cell telomere lengths, scientists can find out the aging speed on an individual. In a study of 5,309 individuals, those who drank sugary drinks on a regular basis were shown to have much shorter telomere lengths than individuals who did not drink sugary drinks.
SUGAR IMPAIRS THE BRAIN
Brain cells require two times the energy needed by all the other cells in the body. This energy is derived from glucose (blood sugar). Sugar is not the brain's enemy, added sugar is.
Excess sugar consumption has long been linked to weight gain, and the development of obesity and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Studies of long-term diabetics also confirm progressive brain damage leading to deficits in learning, memory, motor speed, and other cognitive functions.
Even for those without diabetes, higher sugar consumption is associated with lower scores on tests of cognitive function, serious bouts of brain fog, impaired ability to both learn new information and recall it later on down the road, impaired ability to heal after trauma, and structural changes in the brain similar to those caused by amphetamine, cocaine, and nicotine – powerful stimulant drugs.
Even worse, a 2013 Harvard University study found a direct correlation between higher sugar intake and increased rates of both anxiety and depression.
And, when it comes to Alzheimer’s, researchers found that higher brain glucose levels may mean an increase in severity of the disease.
SUGAR HARMS THE HEART
Numerous studies have shown that chronic high blood sugar levels lead to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, associated with cardiovascular disease, the world’s number one cause of death.
Over the 15 years of a Harvard School of Public Health study, those who got 17 to 21 percent of their calories from added sugar were 38 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who got just 8 percent of their calories from sugar. The risk rose with the amount of sugar: People getting 25 percent of their calories from sugar experienced a 50 percent greater risk of death from heart woes than those who got less than 10 percent of calories from sugar, regardless of a person’s exercise levels, body mass index, Healthy Eating Index, and age.
The case against sugar is so compelling that in 2014 the advisory panel that helps create the U.S. Dietary Guidelines eased up on its hardline stance against fat and cholesterol, recommending instead strong limits on added sugar. The group suggested that Americans limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily calories (that’s 12.5 teaspoons for someone with a 2,000-calorie diet). The American Heart Association takes an even tougher position, recommending no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars or 6 teaspoons for women, and 150 calories (9 teaspoons) for men.
SUGAR INCREASES THE ODDS OF DEVELOPING TYPE 2 DIABETES
Based on market research, approximately 50% of the American population drink at least 1 to 3 servings of sugary beverage per day. That means about half the United States population have at least 26% increased chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
Sugar contains a lot of calories, with no essential nutrients. It can cause resistance to the hormone insulin, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and many other diseases. According to multiple longitudinal case studies that involved 310,819 participants, the results showed that those who consumed 1 to 2 servings of sugary beverages per day had an increased 26% risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
A research study have shown that individuals who increased their sweet beverage consumption from 1 drink per week to 1 drink per day had an average weight gain of 4.03 kg. They were also 50% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than individuals who consume less than 1 sugary beverage per month. The finding suggests that daily intake of sweet beverage with high amount of fructose can greatly increase weight as well as significantly raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO MINIMIZE YOUR ADDED SUGAR INTAKE
Studies in which added sugar is removed from the diet have demonstrated the remarkable resiliency of the human body. Within days of eliminating refined sugar, biomarkers of inflammation decrease markedly, and blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels improve. Risk of type 2 diabetes drops by nearly 25 percent.
For example, an intervention study demonstrated that by reducing the consumption of 1 can of soda per day and increasing a cup of beans in diet, all participants became much healthier over the course of 16 weeks. Their blood glucose level decreased by 15%, insulin level decreased by 9%, body mass index decreased by 2%, and visceral adipose tissue mass decreased by 10%.
According to Harvard School of Public Health, even though the average consumption of soft drinks have been decreasing in recent years (40.7 gallons per person in 2015), many people have increased their consumption of energy drinks instead. Note that while a 20 oz. of Coke contains about 16 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup, the average 20 oz. of energy drink can contain 54 to 62 grams (!) of high fructose corn syrup. A 2016 market survey confirmed that more than 29 billion gallons of energy drinks were consumed by Americans in 2016.
So, please watch for added sugar on food and beverage labels and make a special effort to avoid those loaded with sugar. And, yes, go easy on energy drinks! Remember, it’s never too late for your body to bounce back and heal.
There is no reason, however, to avoid naturally-occurring sugars. Natural sources like those from fruits, vegetables, dairy products, honey, and maple syrup aren’t as bad as from processed sugars and high fructose corn syrup. These foods also contain antioxidants, fiber, minerals, vitamins and various beneficial compounds which make the sugar a more healthful, sustained source of energy.