Is Sugar Toxic?
Just take a moment to realize how often you consume sugar.
You add sugar to your morning cup of tea or coffee. You add it to your fruit or oatmeal to give it that “flavor.” How about the sugar that you consume without even realizing in ketchup, sodas, and candy?
Many experts say that sugar is one of the most harmful substances we can ingest. Take a look at western culture, where obesity and diabetes are on the rise. According to the American Heart Association, the limit for added sugar should be no more than six teaspoons of sugar for women and nine teaspoons for men (1) (One teaspoon is 5g). In the United States, the average person consumes more than 126 grams of sugar per day (2)!
What is sugar?
Sucrose is the scientific name for sugar. Sucrose is naturally made by plants, through photosynthesis. During the refining process, we remove the sugary sap from the plants to produce that beautiful white, crystal, sweet sugar. The sucrose molecule is made up of two parts: glucose and fructose. For this blog post, we will focus on fructose.
Glucose comes from starches like potatoes, rice, and bread. Every cell on the planet has glucose in it. It’s vital to us. Glucose is the primary source of fuel for every cell in your body. On the other hand, fructose is not needed. Fructose can only be metabolized in the liver; any excess is converted into fat, which is then stored in the liver (3). A prevalent form of fructose is high fructose corn syrup.
What does sugar do to our bodies?
We know that the average western diet brims with excess sugar and that we are overloading our bodies with it. The bad news is that our body is not made to process excessive amounts of sugar, especially in the form of fructose. Here’s what you get when you consume too much sugar:
Zero nutritional value
Added sugar is empty calories. I’m sure you’ve heard it a hundred times, but it’s worth repeating. There are no nutrients – like proteins, vitamins, and minerals – in sugar that are needed by the human body. Feeling fatigued? Maybe you’re nutrient-deficient and need more iron.
A damaged liver
Overconsumption of excess sugar or fructose produces effects much like those of excess alcohol consumption. When fructose is not used up, the liver turns it into fat in the form of cholesterol. Over a prolonged time, this leads to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (4). Studies show that individuals with this condition consume 2-3 times as much fructose as the average person (5).
Fructose doesn’t stimulate the body’s appetite-control hormone, so it fails to excite insulin, which turns off ghrelin, the “hunger hormone.” This has a domino effect that fails to stimulate the production of leptin, the “starvation hormone.”
The bottom line is that different foods have different effects on our brains, which control our hunger and the number of calories we consume (6).
Type II diabetes
Consistently high levels of blood sugar make our pancreas work harder to produce insulin. Eventually, the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand; the result is insulin resistance. Western culture loves just to take a pill and “fix things,” but insulin resistance only gets worse, and patients typically move from using tablets to insulin injections.
So stop being lazy – and make a long-lasting change by making healthier food choices!
Increased cancer risk
Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide, with 8.8 million deaths in 2015 alone (9). Cancer is an uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells in the body. Many scientists believe that consistently elevated insulin levels, due to excess sugar consumption, can contribute to cancer (10).
Eating a lot of sugar over time can cause you to gain weight gradually. Sugar isn’t indirectly tied to cancer, but there is evidence showing that overweight people have an increased risk of 13 types of cancers (11).
Other effects of fructose
- Increased levels of uric acid in the blood, which leads to gout and high blood pressure (12).
- Sugar addiction (13).
- An urge to over-consume and gain weight (14).
You get the point by now. SUGAR IS BAD. Acknowledge that sugar is your real enemy and that it isn’t necessary to your enjoyment of life. Sugar is keeping you from living a vibrant life by endangering your health.
The health world can sometimes be a confusing place. Take time to digest all this information and gradually start making healthier eating habits. Can you put a price on health and happiness?