What affect does sugar have on our body?

SugarThere is both a quick and practical answer to this question and then a longer more scientific answer.  I will start with the quick and practical answer and follow with a more scientific answer and you decide how far you wish to read!  Let’s start with the affects sugar has on your appearance and what you feel.

Weight Gain – Eating a lot of sugar and sugar laden foods will make you gain weight.

Cavities – When you eat sugar, a sticky combination of carbohydrates and protein forms on your teeth and traps bacteria. The bacteria use fructose to create lactic acid, which wears away tooth enamel. Besides brushing and flossing regularly, eating less sugar, especially between meals, can help prevent cavities.

Damage to Skin – Dermatologist Dr. Fredric Brandt, author of “10 Minutes/10 Years,” claims that sugar contributes to the breakdown of two skin proteins, elastin and collagen, and that simply cutting out the sweets can make you look younger.

The Crash – Reactive hypoglycemia is the “crash” — sleepiness, hunger, anxiety and other symptoms — that some people experience one to three hours after eating a meal. Avoiding sugary foods, especially on an empty stomach, can help stave off these dips in blood sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Now the more technical explanation of what sugar does to your body.

Research – I started researching this on the internet and came upon a great article “Is Sugar Toxic?” written by Gary Taubes for The New York Times, on April 13, 2011.  His article referenced a 1 ½ hour lecture that Robert Lustig gave called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” on May 26, 2009.  Taubes describes Lustig’s lecture as pointing out the meaning of “sugar” as both sucrose – beet cane sugar, whether white or brown – and high-fructose corn syrup.  High fructose corn syrup replaced sugar in sodas and other products in the 1980’s.  Taubes noted that it was portrayed by the food industry as a healthful alternative to sugar and that is how the public perceived it.

High Fructose Corn Syrup – Taubes states “The two sweeteners are effectively identical in their biological effects.” I don’t want to get too technical in this blog post, but I want to focus on what these ‘’sugars” do to our bodies.  When we eat carbohydrates, such as a potato or bread, it breaks down into glucose.  The way our body metabolizes the glucose from eating carbohydrates and the way it metabolizes the same amount of calories of sugar which breaks down into half glucose and half fructose is different.  The fructose component of sugar and high fructose corn syrup is metabolized primarily by the liver.  The glucose from starches is metabolized by every cell in the body.  It is more work for your liver when you consume sugar versus a carbohydrate. Drinking soda or fruit juices with high fructose corn syrup that have a high concentration of this fructose will hit the liver fast and can induce insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is considered the biggest problem in obesity and diabetes.

Insulin – Your body produces insulin to keep your blood sugar levels controlled after you eat a meal (especially when carbohydrates are eaten).  When your cells are insulin resistant, your pancreas responds by producing more insulin.  Eventually the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand and your blood sugar will rise and you can develop diabetes and/or heart disease.

Cancer – The article also talks about how the accumulation of fat in the liver can cause insulin resistance.  It goes on to talk about how research done by Craig Thompson, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, showed that pre-cancerous cells would never acquire the mutations that turn them into malignant tumors if they weren’t being driven by insulin to take up more and more blood sugar and metabolize it.  You will want to read the article to get the full opinion.  I just wanted to touch on the subject.

My husband and I just finished a month of reducing the sugar in our diet.  Along with some weight loss (more for him than me), we experienced not having the “sugar crash” and were able to think more clearly.  After three weeks you no longer crave it.  It was not easy because our daughter Jessica loves to bake and every week was baking something tempting.  But we held out and made it through the month and yesterday my husband had a company meeting where cookies, muffins and other sweet treats were served. He said he had no desire to eat them.  Try it yourself for a month and see what happens.

Holly Kouvo is a certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Specialist, speaker and writer who specializes in helping people lose hundreds of pounds. Learn more at www.FittingFitnessIn.com.

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