Sugar, as we have all heard, is the new tobacco. We cannot forget how we were bombarded with warnings about the dangers posed by cigarette smoking to our health. Cancer, asthma in children, lung disease in it’s different forms, as well as heart disease. We have not reached that level of outcry as far as sugar is concerned, the warnings are somewhat subdued, but that may change very soon. Sugar is apparently eight times more addictive than cocaine, and, and maybe delivers a better high; just maybe.
The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, which amounts to an extra 350 calories. While we sometimes add sugar to food ourselves, most added sugar comes from processed and prepared foods. Sugar-sweetened beverages and breakfast cereals are two of the most serious offenders. The American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended that Americans drastically cut back on added sugar to help slow the obesity and heart disease epidemics.
1. Excess sugar depresses immunity.
Studies have shown that downing 75 to 100 grams of a sugar solution (about 20 teaspoons of sugar, or the amount that is contained in two average 12-ounce sodas) can suppress the body’s immune responses. Eating or drinking 100 grams (8 tbsp.) of sugar, the equivalent of two- and-a-half 12-ounce cans of soda, can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by 40 percent. The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours. In contrast, the ingestion of complex carbohydrates, or starches, has no effect on the immune system.
2. Sugar sours behavior, attention, and learning.
Studies of the effects of sugar on children’s behavior are as wildly contradictory as a sugar-crazed four-year-old after a birthday party, but the general consensus is that some children and adults are sugar-sensitive, meaning their behavior, attention span, and learning ability deteriorate in proportion to the amount of junk sugar they consume.
Children may be more sensitive than adults. A study comparing the sugar response in children and adults showed that the adrenaline levels in children remained ten times higher than normal for up to five hours after a test dose of sugar. Studies have also shown that some children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) react to glucose intolerance tests with a dip to low blood sugar levels. High adrenaline levels or low blood sugar levels produce abnormal behavior.
While studies show that activity levels go up in both hyperactive and normal children on high- sugar diets, the hyperactive children also become more aggressive. Adding protein to a high- sugar meal mellows out the behavioral and learning deterioration. Chalk up another point for eating a balanced breakfast.
3. Sugar promotes obesity.
People tend to eat and drink too much foods and beverages that are sweetened with refined sugar. Foods with a high glycemic index stimulate the production of LPL (lipoprotein lipase), the enzymes that encourage the body to store food in fat cells.Thus, lowfat diets that contain carbohydrates with a high glycemic index can actually cause weight gain. It’s much easier to binge on chocolate chip cookies than fresh peaches or apples. Healthier sugars usually come with a lot of fiber that takes up room in the stomach. All those extra calories have to go somewhere. Refined starches, such as white flour, white rice, white pasta, and corn starch are more likely to turn into body fat than natural starches, such as whole grains which, because they contain more fiber, are digested more slowly and raise the blood sugar less drastically. Yes, fat will make you fat, but so will sugar. Put them together in soda and chips or high-fat baked goods, and you can expect to put on some pounds. Sugar drives fat storage and makes the brain think it is hungry, setting up a “vicious cycle,” according to Lustig. The major culprit is fructose. Fructose is a component of the two most popular sugars, table sugar or sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup is the magic ingredient in soft drinks and many other processed foods.
4. Sugar promotes diabetes.
While the risk of developing diabetes lies more in the genes than in the diet, the old grandmother’s tale that too much sugar causes diabetes does have scientific support. The results of a large epidemiological study suggest sugar may also have a direct, independent link to diabetes. Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-San Francisco examined data on sugar availability and diabetes rates from 175 countries over the past decade. After accounting for obesity and a large array of other factors, the researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates.
When you eat excess carbohydrates, your body turns these sugars into fat. The body stores excesses of most nutrients as a safeguard against starvation. If you eat more carbohydrates than you can burn off, the excess is stored as fats. People who eat too much sugar tend to have higher blood tryglycerides, and this increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
People who eat more sugar have higher cardiovascular mortality,” says Dr. Teresa Fung, adjunct professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. A sugar-laden diet may raise your risk of dying of heart disease even if you aren’t overweight. So says a major study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Whether or not you’re insulin resistant will play a role, as insulin resistance generates hyperinsulinemia. Hyperinsulinemia means that there’s more insulin at the fat cell, which means you’ll shunt more energy into those fat cells because that’s what insulin does. Insulin resistance is clearly associated with weight gain. But while many believe that insulin resistance is the result of weight gain, recent data argues against that notion, Dr. Lustig says. Instead, the data shows that insulin is what drives the weight gain.
5. Sugar promotes Insulin Resistance.
When your liver turns excess sugar into liver fat and becomes insulin resistant, that generates hyperinsulinemia, and hyperinsulinemia drives energy storage into body fat.Currently, about two-thirds of the American population is overweight. About one-quarter to one-third is diabetic or prediabetic, and another quarter of the population is hypertensive. Many also have high serum triglycerides. Insulin resistance is a component of all of these health issues. According to Dr. Lustig, the data shows that at least 50 percent of Americans have some form of insulin resistance—whether you’re overweight or not—and that is what’s driving our seemingly out-of-control disease statistics.
6. Sugar promotes metabolic syndrome
Eating too much sugar causes a barrage of symptoms known as classic metabolic syndrome. These include weight gain, abdominal obesity, decreased HDL and increased LDL, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure.
7. Sugar promotes fatty liver disease
Sugar can harm your liver. The organ uses one type of sugar, called fructose, to make fat. Too much refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup causes a fatty buildup that can lead to liver disease. Some studies show that sugar can be as damaging to the liver as alcohol, even if you’re not overweight. It’s one more reason to limit foods with added sugars, such as soda, pastries, and candy.
8. Sugar promotes gout
High uric acid levels are a risk factor for heart and kidney disease. In fact, the connection between fructose, metabolic syndrome, and your uric acid is now so clear that your uric acid level can now be used as a marker for fructose toxicity. Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines — substances that are found naturally in your body, as well as in certain foods, such as steak, organ meats and seafood. Other foods also promote higher levels of uric acid, such as alcoholic beverages, especially beer, and drinks sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose).
9. Sugar promotes Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is another deadly illness that can arise from too much sugar consumption. A growing body of research found a powerful connection between a high-fructose diet and your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, through the same pathway that causes type 2 diabetes. According to some experts, Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders may be caused by the constant burning of glucose for fuel by your brain.