Sugars found in fruits and dairy products are healthy sugars. Yes, they cause a more immediate rise in blood sugar than complex carbs do, but this can be a good thing when you need immediate fuel for a workout or other activity. Plus, the glucose spike can be tempered with the fiber in the fruit skin or the protein in the milk. These sugars are not harmful to glucose levels in most cases.
They are not at all like white sugar, brown sugar, and other processed sweeteners. Yes, regular table sugar has a lower GI rating than white rice, but that does not mean sugar is good for you. No, no, no, no. Here are some things you should know about sugar:
Sugar Stresses the Liver
Almost all “added sugars” (including table sugar, even organic cane sugar) contain substantial amounts of fructose. Fructose goes straight to the liver to be processed. If it’s fructose from a piece of fruit, it is metabolized slowly because, as I said, it contains fiber from the fruit skin and fruit flesh (so it’s not harmful). But, if it is fructose that has been extracted from the fiber source, and then added to other foods as a sweetener, then it is metabolized very quickly… just like alcohol, actually.
The other problem is, the liver is limited in how much fructose it can metabolize at one time. Excess fructose (anything more than the storing limit), is then metabolized into fat, which is stored in the liver. This can lead to what is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), fat build-up in the liver, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), liver inflammation, and scarring. This is a serious condition as approximately one-quarter of those with NASH develop liver cirrhosis, which can require a liver transplant. (9)
According to sugarscience.org, “Since 1980, the incidence of NAFLD and NASH has doubled along with the rise of fructose consumption. Approximately 6 million individuals in the United States are estimated to have progressed to NASH and some 600,000 to NASH-related cirrhosis… Most people with NASH also have Type II diabetes.” (10)
2. Sugar Increases Cholesterol and Triglycerides
According to Dr. Lustig from sugarscience.org, the liver can safely metabolize only about six teaspoons of added sugar per day. The excess that is metabolized into fat is then released into the bloodstream. This is what causes high triglycerides, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. (11)
What’s more, a study of more than 40,000 people published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that those with the highest sugar intake had a 400% increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes! And just one 20-ounce soda can increase your risk of a heart attack by about 30%. (12)
3. Sugar is Addictive
To make matters worse, sugar can create an addictive response in the brain (13) (14). When you eat sugar, you receive a dopamine signal and experience pleasure, which causes you to consume more sugar. The problem is, with prolonged exposure, the signal gets weaker. So, you have to consume more sugar to get the same pleasurable effect — this can lead to sugar tolerance. If you eliminate sugar, then, you can experience withdrawal. Tolerance and withdrawal are the two main components of addiction.
What’s more, animal studies have shown that intense sweetness can surpass even a cocaine reward in the brain. (12) According to Doctor Mark Hyman, sugar is eight times as addictive as cocaine. Sugar has been found to activate not just one, but many areas of the nucleus accumbens (the brain region that controls addiction). (15)
4. Too Much Sugar Can Lead to Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Sugar and vitamin C use the same transporters to reach cells. So basically, more sugar in the bloodstream can equate to decreased vitamin C absorption. Decreased vitamin C absorption can lead to weakened immunity, premature aging (vitamin C is needed for collagen synthesis), inflammation, and impaired neurotransmitter synthesis.
Sugar also increases enzymes that destroy vitamin D and decreases enzymes needed to make vitamin D. So, excess sugar can lead to vitamin D deficiency too.
Sugar raises blood sugar levels, thereby raising insulin levels, and raised insulin causes the body to eliminate magnesium (which the body needs for more than 300 biochemical processes). So, excess sugar can also lead to magnesium deficiency.
Sugar also hinders chromium absorption, which can lead to a chromium deficiency (and chromium is an essential trace mineral, meaning the body NEEDS chromium in trace amounts in order to operate properly).
What’s more, because sugar can lead to vitamin D and vitamin C deficiencies (which are both needed for calcium absorption), excess sugar also can also lead to calcium deficiency.
As you can see, sugar can have a huge impact on multiple areas of the body, not just on blood sugar. That’s why one of the single, most beneficial things you can do for your weight and your overall health is to give up sugar. I absolutely cannot stress this enough.
But please, DO NOT just turn to any ol’ sugar-free sweetener either. Those have their risks also. I will talk about that in my next blog.