Candy, cookies, and chocolate are great! But do you know what sugar really does to your body?
Sugar is an integral part of our daily diet, the part some of us love the most. It comes in the form of carbohydrates and is traditionally obtained from healthy sources—such as wheat, corn, starch, rice, or unhealthy sources—like ice cream, chocolate, cookies, and candies.
Although the diet plate of a traditional American is made up of approximately 50-75% of carbohydrates, it is imperative to understand that excessive and unsupervised intake of dietary sugar is hazardous for health. This is mainly because clinical studies indicate that excessive sugar intake increases the risk of several health issues:
- Impaired immune defenses of the body. According to a latest report published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, investigators concluded that high intake of sugar is directly linked to an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, especially in obese female subjects.
- Leads to muscle fatigue, and poor exercise tolerance.
- Promotes fat deposition on unconventional sites.
- Increases the risk of some serious illnesses like cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and impaired cholesterol metabolism.
According to the data reported in the peer reviewed medical journal Diabetes Care (by American Diabetic Association), investigators reported that added sugar is an integral component of approximately 75% of all diets and beverages consumed by an average American.
The report also suggested that over the past few decades, the intake of soda beverages increased approximately 5-fold, which is strongly linked to obesity epidemic and other health issues.
What is the pathophysiology of health issues caused by sugar intake?
Sugar intake is instantly followed by the release of insulin, and the amount of insulin release is determined by the nature and quantity of sugar. The insulin releases from the pancreas in an attempt to lower blood sugar concentration since high sugar levels are bad (we all know that).
Obviously, this mechanism is normal and healthy; however, imagine a person who consumes excessive quantities of simple sugars (pasta, cookies and candies) that are readily metabolized by the body.
The effects in this scenario are a little different:
- A much higher release of insulin is observed due to a much stronger stimulus (determined by glycemic index of food). The higher the glycemic index, the higher the insulin release following the intake.
- Rapid rise in energy levels due to high glucose levels in the blood (sugar-rush).
- The high insulin release rapidly assimilates and reabsorbs all the dietary glucose, ultimately dropping blood sugar levels abruptly (leading to characteristic sugar-crash)
- Likewise, this abrupt change in blood biochemistry leads to muscle fatigue, weakness, sleepiness, and hunger.
- Obviously, to get the same energy levels your brain instructs you to eat something sugary and the same vicious cycle continues.
So far it may seem bad, but not hazardous, except that you tend to eat more, crave unhealthy foods, and have unreliable energy levels. But if this behavior continues, you may develop substantial stores of fat in the body, high risk of tissue inflammation, insulin insensitivity (due to frequent release of insulin), and type 2 diabetes (or insulin resistant diabetes).
How to prevent hazardous effects of sugar?
A low-sugar diet is a more reasonable solution and preventive measure to minimize the risk of diabetes and other health issues. Sugar is present in almost every kind of food. If you eat something with less sugar content, it won't cause the aforementioned problems.
Legumes and some other carbohydrate-rich foods have a slightly greater amount of sugar, but it is balanced by the fiber in them. A balanced food can also prevent you from the harmful effects of sugar.
Fruit sugar is good sugar and is a healthy choice, although fruits have a high amount of sugar and less fiber content when compared to vegetables. Moderate amounts of fruit intake is healthy for the body because fruits supply other essential vitamins and minerals.
You can definitely maintain caution even when consuming fruit sugar, such as low glycemic fruits—berries, watermelon, and cantaloupes, which are better than high glycemic fruits like mango. Berries also help reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer.
So, fruit sugar intake is better than other non-organic dietary sources of sugars (such as processed foods).
Other healthy interventions that may prove helpful are:
- Consumption of sugar-free beverages (tea, coffee, soda)
- Utilization of optimal substitutes for sugars. These kinds of foods were meant for diabetics who can't tolerate normal sugar. But now, dieters are convinced that it can help them lose weight.
- Food items claiming "no sugar added" don't really mean that there is "no" sugar in it at all. There is always some quantity of added sugar or artificial sweeteners (sugar substitutes, sugar alcohols) for flavor. Yet, it is imperative to keep in mind that excessive consumption of such foods also leads to gastric issues (and that's why intake should be strictly monitored).
How much sugar is healthy?
According to extensive research conducted by George A. Bray and Barry M. Popkin, intake of only two 16-ounce soda beverages each day for 6 months leads to metabolic syndrome, fatty changes in the liver, and abnormalities in the insulin metabolism.
Most people want to know the recommended dose of sugar per day. Conventionally, 5 grams or less of sugar per meal is sufficient for the body. You can reduce sugar craving by adding fresh organic fruits and nuts to your diet, instead of processed and refined sugars.
About the Author: Christina Marino, DAOM, L.Ac. She is licensed by the State Acupuncture Committee with a Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Dr. Marino is also a Homeopath, Nutritionist, Functional Medicine Practitioner and an Intuitive Energy Healer. Christina's practical and philosophical approach to healing the whole person demonstrates that physical healing is inseparable from the mental, emotional and spiritual healing of an individual. Dr. Marino is owner of Alternative Health Care Concepts in Los Angeles, CA. She can be reached at (818) 505-9511. To learn more about alternative medicine please visit www.alternativehealthcareconcepts.com and Christina's Facebook.