5 Minute Read - Sugar

5-min Reads – Sugar

Health and Fitness Topics Explored with Kyle in 1,500 Words or Less

On average, Americans weight 25 pounds more than Americans did 25 years ago.  We have an epidemic of obese 6-month olds around the world.  Americans are eating more now than we did 25 years ago.  In the 70’s, the government told Americans to reduce their fat consumption.  Americans did, but what happened?  Obesity has gone up tremendously, cardiovascular health has declined tremendously, and cases of metabolic syndrome have increased TREMENDOUSLY!  Americans had to replace the fat in our diets with something and we replaced it with high carbohydrate processed foods, with added sugar and no fiber.  As more sugar was added to our food, we ate even more.  While I am mentioning fat, it turns out saturated fat may not actually be bad.  It is consuming saturated fat with sugar that can make saturated fat “bad fat.”  We were blaming the wrong thing!

If I had to change one single thing in peoples’ diets that, in my opinion, would have the biggest positive impact on heath, performance, happiness, and pain, it would to stop consuming “foods” with added sugar, fake sugar, and natural sugar without fiber.  I’m not going to lie, it was hard to kick sugar.  I battled with weekly cheat meals, but ultimately, once I removed it altogether, it got really easy to not eat it anymore. In my no-sugar, less inflamed life, I am happier, perform better, and my joints and mobility have improved.  

Sugar is added to bread, protein bars, drinks, sauces, dressings, vegetables, bacon, trail mix…you name it, they’ve added it to it!  Sugar provides companies and restaurants many benefits that positively affect their profits, so it’s no surprise that sugar is EVERYWHERE!  

  • Sugar is cheap.  

  • Sugar is added to a lot of foods and drinks as a preservative to extend their shelf life.  

  • The sweetness of sugar provides a dopamine spike in our brain which acts as a temporary reward system.  

  • Sugar can makes things taste better .

  • Consuming sugar can block the hormones that tell us we are full, which makes us eat more of the sugar containing foods.  

The bottom line is that adding sugar is profitable to companies and restaurants, so as long as we keep eating it, they are going to keep selling it.  Once you start paying attention to everything that has sugar, you will get as mad as I am at the industries that provide us our “food” and have a better understanding of why it is so hard for so many to eat healthy.  

So now that we know why it’s extremely common in food, is sugar bad?  Well, not really. It is the amount of sugar that is consumed and the way that it is consumed that wreaks havoc on our bodies.  

The negative effects of consuming too much sugar are vast and not limited to:

  • Increased Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

  • Increased Risk of Heart Disease

  • Increased Risk of Obesity

  • Increased Risk of Depression

  • Increased Risk of Acne

  • Increased Risk of Diabetes

  • Increased Risk of Cancer 

  • Increased Risk of Skin and Cellular Aging

  • Increased Risk of Fatty Liver Disease

  • Increased Risk of Kidney Disease

  • Negatively Impacts Dental Health

  • Increased Inflammation

  • Lack of Energy

Natural sugar is extracted from sugar cane.  If you were to eat real sugar cane, you would have to really be going after that stuff to get too much sugar.  Companies process the sugar cane and extract sugar allowing consumer to easily overdose and spike their blood sugar outside healthy ranges.  The same happens with high-fructose corn syrup and with fruit that is juiced or blended.  

Blood sugar spikes cause our body to release the hormone insulin.  Insulin is the key that unlocks cells and signals them to store sugar for energy use later.  Over time, individuals who have many and high insulin spikes due to high blood sugar, can develop hyperglycemia which cause cells to be resistant to insulin.  The more insulin sensitive your body is, the more effective it is in utilizing carbohydrates for energy and the less insulin needs to be released into your blood stream to signal cells.  With too much insulin, the hormone leptin is blocked.  Leptin comes from your fat cells and signals your brain you are full.  When there is something wrong with the biochemical feedback loop that controls how much we eat, we overeat and are still hungry…at the time.  Sugar’s effects on our hormones cause chaos in our bodies.

Companies will use many different ingredients to add sugar to their foods and drinks that can be hard to detect on nutrition labels.  With at least 56 aliases, sugar can not only be hidden on nutritional labels, but can be broken up in many places on the ingredients list making it appear lower on the list and not seem like it is a primary ingredient.  Brown Rice Syrup, Barley Malt, Demerara, Florida Crystals, Juice Concentrates, Organic Evaporative Cane Juice, HFCS (High-fructose Corn Syrup) are all examples that have the same effect on your body as sugar.   Things ending in “-ose”  are likely sugary as well: Maltose, Lactose, Sucrose, Fructose .

What foods, likely, do not have added sugar?  Real foods: Meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.  But fruits and starchy vegetables are high in sugars right?  Yes, so we need to limit how much we eat and how we eat them.  A fist size portion a couple of times a day is fine as they are high in micronutrients and fiber.  We need to be careful of juicing and blending foods as the fiber connections are either removed or broken.  This causes the absorption of sugar into your blood stream to happen very fast spiking blood sugar levels.  But, it also keeps the food from reaching your bacteria that live in your lower intestine.  Our gut microbiome plays a crucial role in our health and the bacteria that live inside us are extremely important to keep happy and healthy.  When there is not enough fiber in peoples’ diets, the bacteria can actually migrate into upper areas of the intestines to get closer to the stomach.  When this happens, your bacteria can actually feed on your intestinal walls creating cracks in your gut/body barrier.  These can cause all sorts reactions to foods that mirror allergic reactions, even to healthy foods you are not allergic to.  A glass of orange juice, because the fiber connections have been removed and broken, can cause just as many negative effects as a candy bar.  Once the connections have been removed or broken, you cannot simply add fiber back in and get the job done.

Sugar can have a negative impact on exercise motivation.  Studies have shown that one’s behavior can be secondary to one’s biochemistry.  Research took a group of obese kids and gave them an insulin blocker.  The kids then chose to start exercising.  Sugar is to Kids as Alcohol is to Adults.  Too much sugar is very much like too much alcohol.  It is not dangerous because of calories and weight gain, it’s what sugar does and how it’s metabolized in the body that makes it dangerous.  Sugar is metabolized in liver and turns into fat.  Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and chronic metabolic disease, typically seen in alcoholics, is now found children due to their high sugar diets.  This is terribly depressing that children are dealing with diseases preventable by better diets.  

You can find a study that will tell you whatever you want to hear.  You need to look at what the majority of science points to.  It is 7.36 times more likely that a study funded by a company will draw conclusions favorable to that company.  A review of studies researching if sugar-sweetened drinks cause weight gain found 6 studies sponsored by the beverage industry and 12 independent studies.  Of the 6 sponsored by the beverage industry, 5 concluded that consuming sugar-sweetened drinks did not promote weight gain.  Of the 12 independent studies, 10 concluded the opposite; that sugar-sweetened drinks did promote weight gain.  There is inherent bias in food industry sponsored research and we need to look at studies together in context, not individually.

What can you do?

  • Understand this is not a Calorie In vs Calorie Out thing.  Too much sugar is toxic and is associated with extremely negative health risks.

  • Before you eat or buy, read nutrition labels and remember that real food typically does not come with a nutrition label, processed, man-made, edible food-like substances do.

  • Throw away anything in your house with added sugar or fake sugar.

  • Eating sugar once in a while or for a “Cheat Meal” will just make you continue to crave it. Stop eating it altogether and not eating it will become easy.

  • Next time you eat a lot of sugar, pay attention to how you feel during, 1 hour later, 4 hours later, the next day, and the day after.  I stopped eating sugar because I finally realized that the day after a sugar binge, I was depressed, moody, unmotivated to work, or to work out.  Ice cream and cookies for 15 minutes of fun was not worth throwing the whole next day away to me, so I don’t eat that crap anymore.