Why Cut Down on Sugar?

Many of us think about cutting down on sugar - mostly when we consider our weight. However, there are many essential, well-researched reasons for reducing or eliminating sugar from our diets.

Sugar is loaded into soft drinks, fruit juice and pretty much all processed foods - from bologna to cheese spread, not to mention baby formula. Generally speaking the health problems arise from too much sugar, no matter the kind of sugar. New research indicates that fructose rather than glucose is the real problem. In processed foods, high-fructose corn syrup is the prime culprit, but first a few facts.

The Facts:

  • Research reports that sugary drinks changes muscle metabolism - resulting in reduced ability to burn fat, and in turn resulting in flabby muscles.1
  • Sugar suppresses the immune system, making white blood cells less effective at fighting disease.2
  • Sugar consumption increases risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks3-7
  • It is found to be even more significant than saturated fats with respect to contributing to cardiovascular disease8
  • It raises LDL and lowers HDL9
  • Sugar consumption increases the risk of Alzheimers10,11 A research group at the University of Wisconsin found that the brain may react to excess refined sugars found in food as if they were a virus or bacteria.
  • Fructose forms of sugar increase the risk of cancer, especially breast cancer23 and liver cancer.24
  • It increases the risk of macular degeneration12
  • Sugar increases risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome 13-15
  • It increases risk of tooth decay 16, 17
  • High blood sugar coupled with performing a mentally challenging task is associated with high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone which is known to impair memory.18
  • Excessive glucose is detrimental to brain functioning. It slows neural communication, increases free radical inflammatory stress on brain, interferes with synaptic communication, causes neurons to misfire and send erroneous messages.18
  • In addition there's a link between drinking diet soda and suffering a stroke.19
  • A 11+ year Swedish study of 42,000 men aged 45 to 79 found that those who drank two or more sodas or sweetened beverages daily had a 23% greater risk of heart failure.21
  • A 2016 study finds that chronic inflammation (sugar is one of the foods that causes inflammation) is a cause of, not a result of Alzheimer's22. Cutting down on sugar thus becomes even more important.

Is there any Healthy Sugar?

Our bodies use glucose for energy. Our cells metabolize 80% of the glucose we consume, and the liver metabolizes the remaining 20%. Fructose, however, is metabolized solely by your liver - putting a heavy load on it. Too much fructose constitutes a heavy metabolic burden on the liver. Not only that, fructose goes straight to fat.

Types of sugars

  • High fructose corn syrup (extensively used in processed foods) is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Countries that have the highest use of high fructose corn syrup also have the highest rates of diabetes.
  • Fructose (fruit sugar) is a simple sugar found in fruits and vegetables. In whole fruits and vegetables there are nutrients also present. Honey contains fructose, as well as also nutrients and antioxidants.
  • Glucose (dextrose) is a simple sugar and comes from grapes and corn, and is the sugar found in your blood
  • Table sugar (sucrose) is half glucose and half fructose.
  • Splenda is not a sugar, but a chlorinated artificial sweetener with many bad health effects.
  • Agave is highly processed, and is 80% fructose.
  • Honey is about 53% fructose, but raw honey has as many antioxidants as spinach -- when used in moderation.
  • Stevia is a sweet herb which is safe in its natural form.

News about Sugar and You

Conclusion: There's no "healthy sugar" -- it's all about moderation. At least the fructose in fruit (whole, not juice) and the lactose in milk provide other nutrients and so have some value. Honey, molasses, maple sugar and agave are all simple sugars with fattening calories and not a lot of nutrition. They are sweeter than table sugar, so less is enough to feed your sweet tooth.

Footnotes:

1. European Journal of Nutrition. June, 2012.
2. "Immune System Busters". Cold, Flu, and Cough Health Center. WebMD, 2012
3. C. M. Brown, et al, Sugary drinks in the pathogenesis of obesity and cardiovascular diseases, International Journal of Obesity, 2008
4. L. C. Porto, et al, Carbohydrate-enriched diet impairs cardiac performance by decreasing the utilization of fatty acid and glucose, Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease, 2011
5. M.U. Jakobsen, et al, Intake of carbohydrates compared with intake of saturated fatty acids and risk of myocardial infarction: importance of the glycemic index, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009
6. J. A. Welsh, et 1l, Consumption of Added Sugars and Indicators of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Among US Adolescents, 2011
7. P. W. Siri-Tarino, et al, Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008
8. F. B. Hu, Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat?. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010
9. Emily Sonestedt, et al, on, High disaccharide intake associates with atherogenic lipoprotein profile, British Journal of Nutrition, 2011
10. F. Berrino, F, Western diet and Alzheimer's disease, Epidemiologia E Prevenzione, 2011
11. D. Cao, et al, Intake of Sucrose-sweetened Water Induces Insulin Resistance and Exacerbates Memory Deficits and Amyloidosis in a Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer Disease, The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2007
12. Laurie Barclay, et al, Diet High in Refined Carbohydrates May Increase Risk for Age-Related Macular Degeneration. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007
13. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, Diabetes Quiz
14. American Dietetic Association, Nutrition: Fact vs. Fiction
15. Joslin Diabetes Center, Classroom Presentation on Diabetes for Elementary School Age Children
16. P. Moynihan, et al, Diet, nutrition and the prevention of dental diseases, Public Health Nutrition, 2004
17. D. T. Zero, et al, The biology, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of dental caries: scientific advances in the United States, Journal of the American Dental Association, September, 2009
18. Harmful Effects of Excess Sugar, AskDrSears
19. Hannah Gardener, et al, Diet Soft Drink Consumption is Associated with an Increased Risk of Vascular Events in the Northern Manhattan Study. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2012
20. DrMercola
21. J. Rahman, et al, The relationship between sweetened beverage consumption and risk of heart failure in men, Heart, December, 2015
22. Adrian Olmos-Alonso, et al, Pharmacological targeting of CSF1R inhibits microglial proliferation and prevents the progression of Alzheimer's-like pathology, Brain, January, 2016.
23. Y. Jiang, et al, A Sucrose-Enriched Diet Promotes Tumorigenesis in Mammary Gland in Part through the 12-Lipoxygenase Pathway, Cancer Research, January, 2016.
24. T. Ozawa, et al, Dietary fructose-induced hepatocellular carcinoma development manifested in mice lacking apoptosis inhibitor of macrophage (AIM), Genes to Cells, December, 2016