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. The health problems arise from too much sugar, no matter the kind of sugar. In processed foods, high-fructose corn syrup is the prime culprit, but first the 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.
  • 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

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.

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. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Jun 26.

2. "Immune System Busters". Cold, Flu, and Cough Health Center. WebMD. Retrieved 2012-08-16.

3. Brown, C M; Dulloo, A G; Montani, J-P (2008). "Sugary drinks in the pathogenesis of obesity and cardiovascular diseases". International Journal of Obesity 32: S28.doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.204.

4. Porto, L. C. J.; Savergnini, S. S. Q.; De Castro, C. H.; Mario, E. G.; Ferreira, A. V. M.; Santos, S. H. S.; Andrade, S. P.; Santos, R. A. S. et al. (2011). "Carbohydrate-enriched diet impairs cardiac performance by decreasing the utilization of fatty acid and glucose". Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease 5 (1): 11-22.doi:10.1177/1753944710386282. PMID 21282201.

5. Jakobsen, M. U.; Dethlefsen, C.; Joensen, A. M.; Stegger, J.; Tjonneland, A.; Schmidt, E. B.; Overvad, K. (2010). "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 91 (6): 1764-8.doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.29099. PMID 20375186.

6. Welsh, J. A.; Sharma, A.; Cunningham, S. A.; Vos, M. B. (2011). "Consumption of Added Sugars and Indicators of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Among US Adolescents".Circulation 123 (3): 249-57.doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.972166.PMID 21220734.

7. Siri-Tarino, P. W; Sun, Q.; Hu, F. B; Krauss, R. M (2010)."Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease, Patty W Siri-Tarino, Qi Sun, Frank B Hu, Ronald M Krauss".American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91 (3): 502-9.doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26285. PMC 2824150.PMID 20089734.

8. Hu, F. B. (2010). "Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat?". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91(6): 1541-2. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29622. PMC 2869506.PMID 20410095.

9. Sonestedt, Emily; Wirfalt, Elisabet; Wallstrom, Peter; Gullberg, Bo; Drake, Isabel; Hlebowicz, Joanna; Nordin Fredrikson, Gunilla; Hedblad, Bo et al. (2011). "High disaccharide intake associates with atherogenic lipoprotein profile".British Journal of Nutrition: 1.doi:10.1017/S0007114511003783.

10. Berrino, F. (2002), "Western diet and Alzheimer's disease", Epidemiologia E Prevenzione 3: 107-115

11. Cao, D.; Lu, H.; Lewis, T. L.; Li, L. (2007). "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 282 (282): 36275-36282.doi:10.1074/jbc.M703561200.

12. Barclay, Laurie; Milton, RC; Klein, R; Gensler, G; Taylor, A (2007). "Diet High in Refined Carbohydrates May Increase Risk for Age-Related Macular Degeneration". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 86 (4): 1210-1218.PMID 17921404.

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. Moynihan, P.; Petersen, P. E. (2004). "Diet, nutrition and the prevention of dental diseases". Public health nutrition 7 (1A): 201-226. PMID 14972061.

17. Zero DT, Fontana M, Martinez-Mier EA, Ferreira-Zandona A, Ando M, Gonzalez-Cabezas C, Bayne S (September 2009). "The biology, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of dental caries: scientific advances in the United States". J Am Dent Assoc 140: 25S-34S. PMID 19723928.

18. "Harmful Effects of Excess Sugar", AskDrSears.com

19. Hannah Gardener, Tatjana Rundek, Matthew Markert, Clinton B. Wright, Mitchell S. V. Elkind, Ralph L. Sacco.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. mercola.com