Before I begin this first section of my series on sugar, I would like to note that I usually provide references for everything I write. The information below is based on my daytime profession and years of assembling research. It would take me too long to find all the references. However, most of the facts on physiology can be obtained from any basic cell biology book. There are also several books available that are well-researched with solid references. Here are a couple: Transcend by Terry Grossman M.D. and Ray Kurzweil and The Zone by Barry Sears.
In our medical office where I’ve practiced longevity nutrition for over ten years, the term “The White Satan” (conceived by Terry Grossman, M.D.) is used synonymously with sugar. Efforts to educate our “ever-expanding” population about the powerfully, deleterious health effects of sugar consumption have been like turning the Titanic. The information has been clear and out there for at least 12-15 years but the emergence of sugar-induced obesity and its accompanying diseases; diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, heart disease etc. has continued to increase in numbers. The average age of people affected by these diseases has been falling steadily and it is no longer uncommon for teenagers to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Several factors have contributed to this trend.
- Sugar’s highly addictive nature
- The emergence of an entire monoculture-based industry providing the public with cheap, foods and sweetened drinks packed full of high-fructose corn syrup
- The false belief that fruit and fruit juice is healthy
- Emphasis on starches and fruit on the Food Pyramid
- The non-evidence-based, low-fat revolution which led people to believe that anything that didn’t contain fat, especially saturated fat, was good for them
- Slow, weak and uninformed efforts to educate the public
Any time the level of sugar in the blood surpasses what the cells are capable of managing several problems occur.
- Inflammation – the hormone insulin is released by the pancreas into the blood to enable our cells to turn sugar into energy. We obviously need insulin to survive. However, excessive levels tend to magnify any inflammatory responses that are happening in the body. In addition, sugar itself, especially fructose, causes direct inflammation in the liver. Simply eliminating sugar from one’s diet will almost always result in improvement of inflammatory conditions like asthma, acne, and even back pain.
- Elevated triglycerides – Insulin signals the liver converts excess sugar floating around in the blood into triglycerides. Unless you possess a rare, genetic disorder, elevated blood sugar is the ONLY physiologic mechanism for producing triglycerides.
- “Feeding” of fat cells – Triglycerides floating around in the blood are the direct contributor to “feeding” fat cells. The higher the blood sugar goes, the higher the triglycerides and the faster weight gain occurs.
- Immune system dysfunction – As pointed out in Transcend, excess sugar interferes with the ability of white blood cells to utilize vitamin C to carry out a proper immune response
- Intestinal Dysbiosis – Excess sugar changes the body’s terrain, feeding and promoting overgrowth of yeast along with unbeneficial and some pathogenic bacteria. The inflammatory response that results from the immune system fighting these critters has an effect on the entire body. It can manifest as various diseases as the inflammatory chemicals make their way through the lymphatic system.
- Advanced Glycated Endproducts (AGE’s) -Glycation is a caramelizing, chemical reaction that occurs when sugars come into contact with proteins. This reaction can be demonstrated easily in a Petri dish or seen when we bake a chicken and the skin becomes brown and crispy. The same thing happens to our tissues upon exposure to sugar. Glycation causes gumming up of enzymes and tissues which render them functionless.
**Good story: When I was in college, a gross human anatomy class was lucky enough to have an elderly lady as their study subject. One of the first things the professor pointed out was the amount of glycation in her tissues. If you sliced through a piece of her lung or liver, it was never difficult to find these areas of brown, crispy, glycated tissue. Many age spots are the result of glycation.
It is important to know that these “excess” levels of sugar occur when a healthy human consumes more than 5-7 grams of sugar within a given meal. Diabetics can tolerate 0-5 grams depending on the severity of their insulin resistance. The glycemic index is a useful gauge of how quickly a food raises blood glucose levels. For example a medium, white potato releases glucose into the bloodstream very quickly and is the equivalent of eating 26 grams of sugar. The glycemic load is a measurement of the net glucose-release into the system. For example, if you eat just a bite or two of that high-glycemic potato, the blood glucose goes up just a little. I’ve noted that most of my readers are incredibly sophisticated in the thinking and I’m sure most have known about the glycemic index and glycemic load for more than a decade. However, if you somehow missed out, I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with it and take it seriously. One teaspoon of sugar is approximately 5 grams. One teaspoon of honey is 6.5 grams of sugar. A banana contains 28 grams of sugar.
Here is a link to the most dangerous foods in America http://www.rense.com/general91/20_Worst_Drinks_in_America_2010.pdf
A severe misconception that has resulted from the spotlight shining on the glycemic index is that fruit and fruit sugar is healthy and safe because it has a low glycemic index. Fruit contains a completely different sugar, fructose, which cannot be measured with a glucose meter. A study appeared way back in 1988 in the Journal of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice that showed fructose has a reaction constant 7.5 times higher than glucose as well as a much higher calculated biohazard rating. Since then, there is a 1000 fold increase in the research that confirms these findings about the dangers of fructose. This information is just reaching the fringes of the mainstream now. How sad. In the next post, we will explore this further and then go on to discuss how the emergence of fructose in the Western diet has led to a rapid devolution. Later I will present a hypothesis that fructose availability was a primary contributing factor to lifespan and longevity throughout the evolution of humans.by