Our bodies do not need any added sugars. In a healthy diet you’ll get all the sugar you need from vegetables, fruits and whole grains. To say sugar is unhealthy is like saying the electric chair is risky. Free-sugars are devoid of any protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fiber. It either displaces other more nutritious foods in our diet or is eaten over and above what we need to sustain our weight, causing weight gain. But that may only be the tip of the iceberg.
Sugar has been strongly linked to these and other health problems:
- acne and wrinkles
- binge eating
- bone loss
- cancer (particularly breast and colon cancer)
- cardiovascular disease
- high cholesterol
- kidney stones
- tooth decay
- weakened immunity
Robert Lustig (a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, School of Medicine) claims sugar is a chronic toxin and is likely the cause of dietary heart disease, hypertension and diabetes and cancer. He seems very much an absolutist in his theories yet many in his field regard him with reverence. He has a 90 min video (it doesn’t seem so long because he is a good speaker) listed below:
Perhaps the most malignant sugar is fructose. Fructose and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is metabolized primarily by the liver, while sucrose (table sugar) and starches are primarily metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming fructose means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch. High amounts of fructose over tax your liver and make you store more fat which in turn induces insulin resistance. But this doesn’t mean it’s cool to eat free–sugar either! Table sugar is sucrose made with part fructose and part glucose. The average American consumes about 45 lbs of table sugar and 4 gallons of fructose yearly. Additionally, new research shows fructose having a negative effect on our brains. According to a current UCLA study “fructose might somehow block insulin’s effect on brain cells, and specifically how it signals neurons to store and release the sugar that is needed for the brain to function efficiently – and for us to think crisply and clearly”.
Sources of Fructose:
- Agave (some brands are 97% fructose)
- Fruits (usually not a bad choice due its fiber and vitamins)
- Table Sugar (half fructose and half glucose)
- Anything with HFCS
- Products with cane sugar
If you’re obese, diabetic or have metabolic syndrome you are more likely to get cancer than if you’re not. All of these health problems have a causal relationship with high sugar intake. Most researchers will agree that there is a link between the western diet/lifestyle and cancer. The president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, states “the cells of many human cancers come to depend on insulin to provide the fuel (blood sugar) and materials they need to grow and multiply. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor (and related growth factors) also provide the signal, in effect, to do it. The more insulin, the better they do.” For the most part your insulin is raised by eating sugar and when your these hormones are high your body is is primed to store fat.
|You’ve come a long way baby!|
We make many food choices throughout our day, act on what you know about sugar’s devastating health effects and limit your consumption. Are free-sugars so bad? Probably, but the evidence is inconclusive. However, there are too many negative correlations associated with high free-sugar intakes for me to ignore. For now I’ll be limiting my overall sugar intake. I know this poses no health risk and perhaps will make me healthier.
1. Taubes, Gary. New York Times. “Is Sugar Toxic?”, April 13, 2011.
2. Gittleman, Ann. Get The Sugar Out, Random House; 1996.
3. Lustig, Robert; Schmidt, Laura; Brindis, Claire; Nature, “Public Health: The Toxic Truth About Sugar”; vol 482 27-29; Feb. 2, 2012.