Sugar: An Introduction

Imagine: A world without sugar. Without chocolate. Without candy. Without most processed foods or cookies or cakes or pies or pastries. Imagine a world without frosting. Frosting, people.

Frosting.

THIS is a world that, for 26 years, I have feared. One that gives me nightmares – leaves me up at night, anxious. It is an image that makes me afraid to fall asleep for fear that all the sugar plants will, overnight, become targeted by some rogue anti-sugar virus and chocolate will become scarce – expensive – fought over – MURDERED over. Blood will flow through the chocolate supply and …

Well, perhaps I am being a little dramatic.

But honestly, I am a sugar fiend. I can’t remember my last day without some sort of white, refined, processed sugar (Most days it shows up in the form of ice cream and/or chocolate). When I was pregnant, I ate, on average, 7 scoops of ice cream EACH DAY. A gallon and a half of ice cream a week. That is one of those party tubs, if you’re having trouble figuring out how much a gallon and a half is.

And now, let me trouble you with this gem of a find:
143 Reasons Why Sugar is Ruining Your Health.

143 reasons? Seriously? I know sugar CAN’T be good for you, but 143 reasons? Let me tell you a few of the facts that researcher Nancy Appleton Ph.D., author of “Suicide by Sugar,” claims are true about sugar. SUGAR does these things:

* Suppresses the Immune System
* Damages Cell Tissue
* Reduces High-Density Lipoproteins
* Causes Hypoglycemia
* Causes Premature Aging
* Causes Heart Disease
* Causes Hemorrhoids
* Causes Appendicitis
* Causes Periodontal Disease (pre-gum disease)
* Increases Cholesterol
* Impairs DNA Structures
* Causes Emphysema
* Damages the Pancreas
* Causes Depression

Etc. Etc. Etc. That was only 14 out of 143. Check out the article. Now, do I believe it? And more importantly, do YOU?

I found another interesting article on the New York Times website by Gary Taubes. In it, Taubes describes not only the history of the debate on sugar’s healthfulness, but also a condition called Metabolic Syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome, in which your body “ignores” insulin, is argued by many to be the reason why people become obese and get diabetes.

Having metabolic syndrome is another way of saying that the cells in your body are actively ignoring the action of the hormone insulin — a condition known technically as being insulin-resistant. Because insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome still get remarkably little attention in the press (certainly compared with cholesterol), let me explain the basics.

You secrete insulin in response to the foods you eat — particularly the carbohydrates — to keep blood sugar in control after a meal. When your cells are resistant to insulin, your body (your pancreas, to be precise) responds to rising blood sugar by pumping out more and more insulin. Eventually the pancreas can no longer keep up with the demand or it gives in to what diabetologists call “pancreatic exhaustion.” Now your blood sugar will rise out of control, and you’ve got diabetes.

Not everyone with insulin resistance becomes diabetic; some continue to secrete enough insulin to overcome their cells’ resistance to the hormone. But having chronically elevated insulin levels has harmful effects of its own — heart disease, for one. A result is higher triglyceride levels and blood pressure, lower levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good cholesterol”), further worsening the insulin resistance — this is metabolic syndrome.

By the early 2000s, researchers studying fructose (read: sugar) metabolism had established certain findings unambiguously and had well-established biochemical explanations for what was happening. Feed animals enough pure fructose or enough sugar, and their livers convert the fructose into fat — the saturated fatty acid, palmitate, to be precise, that supposedly gives us heart disease when we eat it, by raising LDL cholesterol. The fat accumulates in the liver, and insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome follow.

Michael Pagliassotti, a Colorado State University biochemist who did many of the relevant animal studies in the late 1990s, says these changes can happen in as little as a week if the animals are fed sugar or fructose in huge amounts — 60 or 70 percent of the calories in their diets. They can take several months if the animals are fed something closer to what humans (in America) actually consume — around 20 percent of the calories in their diet. Stop feeding them the sugar, in either case, and the fatty liver promptly goes away, and with it the insulin resistance.

Similar effects can be shown in humans, although the researchers doing this work typically did the studies with only fructose — as Luc Tappy did in Switzerland or Peter Havel and Kimber Stanhope did at the University of California, Davis — and pure fructose is not the same thing as sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. When Tappy fed his human subjects the equivalent of the fructose in 8 to 10 cans of Coke or Pepsi a day — a “pretty high dose,” he says —– their livers would start to become insulin-resistant, and their triglycerides would go up in just a few days. With lower doses, Tappy says, just as in the animal research, the same effects would appear, but it would take longer, a month or more.

Found on Google Images from discoverchinesemedicine.blogspot.com

All this to say: wow. With old and new research stacking against the healthfulness of sugar, its amazing (see Banished Word List) draw-dropping that I keep thinking about the cookie on my counter. What I mean to say is that it is flabbergasting that anyone still eats the stuff at all. But man, how it is ingrained in our culture. I probably ate 90 gallons of sugar this Christmas season and will probably be swimming in it on Valentine’s Day (*wink*) and Easter. And all the while, it has slowly been destroying my liver, my kidneys, feeding cancer cells, giving me hypoglycemia, Metabolic Disorders, diabetes, etc.

Can I put a sad face here?

In honor of this interesting information, the next week or so of this blog will be dedicated to sugar. High Fructose Corn Syrup (we all know its bad) and refined, white sugar. And fruit?? Carbohydrates?? What in the world!?

Check back in throughout the week to see what we dig up! And, since it is a new year (HAPPY 2012!), get ready to throw up out  the left over Christmas cookies. Or just eat them in moderation as you see fit….

Until next time…

One response to “Sugar: An Introduction

  1. Pingback: The Sugar/Cancer Connection « The Uncooked Life·

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