We all know it’s unhealthy to eat too much sugar, but now we’re starting to understand how unhealthy some sugars really are. Researchers are discovering that not all sugars are created equal. Too much glucose and other sugars can be bad, but too much sucrose or fructose can be plain TOXIC. Below you’ll discover the reasons many researchers are convinced that excess sugar consumption promotes disease and obesity. Keep in mind that these are simplified explanations, and the exact workings of these concepts are under constant scientific debate.
It’s easy to consume hundreds of excess calories in the form of fruit juice, soda, candy and other junk foods without feeling full. In the U.S., calorie consumption per capita has increased over the last 50 years and is directly correlated with an increased consumption of sugar. Fast-food and other refined foods are loaded with calories but lack essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are easy and tasty to consume, but they don’t provide the feeling of being satisfied associated with eating whole foods. As a result, people in the United States and other Westernized countries are eating more than enough calories but are still deficient in many important vitamins and minerals. Eating a whole-food (creation-based) diet promotes feelings of satiety, as well as an adequate supply of vital nutrients.
Glycation is the bonding of glucose or other sugars to proteins in the body (keep in mind that protein is the primary building block of life). Glycated bonds are generally destructive to the body, causing oxidation and damage to cells. The amount of glycated hemoglobin and other important proteins in the body increases with the level of sugar consumed. While too much glucose (the sugar found in whole foods like bread, pasta, and potatoes) can promote glycation, fructose and sucrose (the primary sugars used for sweetening), can cause 10 times the amount of glycation. Glycation is indicated in the hardening of the arteries, Alzheimer’s disease, cellular damage, and cancer.
Too much glucose in the blood stream eventually causes insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that signals cells to uptake sugar for energy use or storage. When the blood stream is constantly flooded with insulin, the body’s cells grow resistant to insulin and normal uptake of sugar is interrupted. Fat cells, however, continue to remain sensitive to insulin (even when skeletal and muscle cells grow resistant), storing glucose for later energy use – resulting in weight gain around the mid section. A constant rise in the body’s at-rest blood sugar level is known as hyperglycemia/diabetes. Hyperglycemia requires close management. If not properly controlled, high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system.
Leptin is a hormone released by the body’s fat cells and is responsible for maintaining body-weight and metabolic equilibrium. When the body has enough stored-energy, leptin signals the brain to feel full and satisfied after meals. A person with leptin resistance, however, continues to feel hungry even after eating. Leptin resistance is associated with over consumption of fructose and sucrose. These sugars are processed by the liver and transformed into triglycerides (fats) and released into the blood stream. It is thought that high triglyceride levels are responsible for blocking the brain from properly receiving leptin signals. Obese people have high levels of circulating leptin, but the leptin can’t perform its function.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
The liver processes fructose and sucrose similarly to the way it processes alcohol. As a result, these sugars can have the same effect on the liver as alcohol, causing fat-build up and damage of the liver.
Uric acid production
When the liver processes fructose/sucrose (but not glucose and other sugars), one byproduct is excessive production of Uric Acid. Excessive Uric Acid interferes with Nitrogen Oxide production. Nitrogen Oxide is responsible for regulating the body’ blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels. Thus, fructose/sucrose consumption from sweets, juice and soda can lead to hypertension, usually evidenced by a rise in systolic blood pressure.
Increased triglyceride level
A high blood triglyceride level is a well-confirmed precursor to or indication of cardiovascular disease. High triglyceride levels used to be attributed to fat consumption. Today many scientists are starting to believe that high triglyceride levels are linked to refined sugar consumption and insulin resistance. Fructose doesn’t signal insulin production, thus when corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners are consumed, they are transferred to the blood stream as triglycerides but without the insulin signals to absorb them. Healthy fats, consumed as part of a healthy diet, don’t remain in the blood but are used by the body for energy.
Effects on LDL cholesterol
Low-density-lipoproteins play an important role in the body. They are responsible for transporting lipids (fats) within the water-based blood stream. Too much LDL, however, is thought to cause atherosclerosis. Since increased fat consumption causes higher cholesterol levels (including LDL), people are warned not to consume fats. The misnomer, however, is the idea that all LDLs are the same. This simply isn’t true. There are two primary types of LDL: one is light, large, and fluffy; the other is small and dense. It is the small and dense LDLs that are responsible for penetrating beneath the endothelial cells of the blood vessels, leading to arterial plaque build-up. By contrast, light and fluffly LDLs float along in the blood stream, serving their function, without damaging the blood vessels. While the mechanisms aren’t exactly understood, high production of dense LDL is associated with high consumption of refined sugars. Low-sugar diets, high in healthy fats (not trans fats or over consumption of Omega 6s) cause the body to produce a light and fluffy, harmless form of LDL.
The above information points to the importance of reducing or eliminating consumption of refined sugar, excess fructose in the form of fruit juice or other sugary drinks, or added sugar. It should be noted that the fructose in whole fruits and vegetables is buffered by the whole-food content of fiber. Fiber inhibits fructose absorption. Glucose and healthy fats from whole foods are the body’s best energy sources. An emphasis on whole food consumption promotes healthy nutrition, good energy levels, healthy metabolism, and cardiovascular health.
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