The truth about sugar and its effect on health
Posted by mandyf on October 27, 2012
By the year 2000, the average American was ingesting about 145 pounds of sugar each year without realizing their intake was so high or how consuming so much sugar could impact their overall health. When you consider that since around 1900 the average individual consumption of sugar is up by nearly 2800% this is an issue that does merit examination as it is considered one of the most drastic and significant changes in the diet of Americans over the past century. Some of the ways sugar can effect the health of an individual are well known, while others are a little less publicized.
As a small background to the issue of sugar in our diet, sugar has always been been a staple of the diets of most Americans born in the last 100 years. In prior centuries however, sugar was not as common and had been considered both a treat and just one of many sweetening alternatives along with honey and extracts from fruit which have been noted as used for this purpose for at least some 5,000 years. Sugar itself is a sucrose which is the combination of one fructose and one glucose molecule. The body can directly use glucose, and glucose is the only sugar that can be said of. Fructose on the other hand is converted into glycogen and stored in the liver for use by the body at a later time. This is best demonstrated when the liver detects a drop in the blood sugar level and converts glycogen into glucose to return balance to the blood sugar level.
Examining how this all impacts health is a fairly easy journey to take. For starters the average human should have about 80 calories of glucose, which is equivalent to about three teaspoons, in the bloodstream with an additional 300 calories stored as glycogen in the liver. The body holds about another 100,000 calories on standby stored in body fat which can be converted to glucose as needed. The interchangeability of of converting fats to sugars and vice versa is what keeps the body running without crashes and unsafe spikes. Too much stored sugars and the body begins packing on excess weight which leads to a myriad of potential health issues.
Consider the impact of ingesting just a single 100 calorie soda with four teaspoons of sugar on the body. Immediately two to three teaspoons of that sugar go directly to the bloodstream creating what we call a sugar rush because it doubles the normal blood sugar level. The pancreas responds by by releasing insulin to absorb the excess sugar and convert it to glycogen in the liver. The problem is the
liver is likely at capacity already so the transfer is then re-routed to storage in fat which can lead to obesity because the there will be more stored glycogen than the body has demand or need for.
On a continual basis, sugar intakes following the above pattern can lead to Insulin Resistance Syndrome (IRS) and diabetes. It begins taking the body the production of more and more insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check. As such the pancreas continues produces insulin leading to too much blood sugar being converted which causes hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. As a side note some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia are anxiety, cravings for sweets, tiredness, and anxiety. Eventually the pancreas will stop producing insulin which which results in Type II Diabetes. When you then team this with the fact that by this time an individual is also likely dealing with obesity, heart disease usually follows because of course the heart has been forced to work harder which can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
Then the impact of sugar on other areas of the body like the mouth have to be examined. Sugar is cited as the main cause of dental decay and gum disease. No matter how good a job a person does brushing their teeth and using fluoride, a large intake of sugar can lead to these problems and is usually only slowed down by practicing good oral hygiene. Of course the mouth is not the only area of the body which can be damaged by too much sugar in a diet on a regular basis.
Research has shown, although not to any absolute full agreement among all parties concerned yet, that some cancer cells thrive on glucose, and that some cancer therapies are improved by starving cancer cells of glucose. It is further known that the brain runs on a bit over 300 calories a day. When hypoglycemia occurs, the brain fails to operate at its peak causing brain cells, nerves and muscles to fatigue. This can lead to irritability, nervousness, being faint, and its worst paranoia, neurotic behavior, and a bad temper.
There is no denying that sugar is essential to life, without it a person would die in minutes. There is also no denying that as a whole Americans are consuming sugar at an unhealthy rate and that this over consumption will lead to significant health problems both long and short term for many people. In the final analysis there is a need to watch how much sugar is taken by a person because the long term scenario for a person with a continued high sugar diet can lead to a ripple effect which may lead to a shorter and more difficult lifespan which could easily be avoided.
The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Weight Loss, Health and Aging. Diane Schwarzbein/Nancy Devile ISBN 1-5587468-0-3