It’s the week after Halloween and I can’t think of a better time to bring up the subject of sugar again. Not that it isn’t around us all the time. I recently pulled together some facts around sugar for a talk and I thought I’d share some of it with you. One thing to remember as well is how political sugar is- the federal government subsidizes corn and soy, but not fresh veggies. A lot of that corn gets made into high fructose corn syrup, and that has to go somewhere! For more on this, check out Marion Nestle’s new book, Soda Politics.
Another factor to highlight is that modern sugar has only been with us for about 400 years, and even 100 years ago the average American consumption was only about 10 pounds a year. That has ballooned to estimates of around 150 pounds per year per person. Our bodies are simply not equipped to function properly with this kind of input, and a tremendous amount of damage is being done. If you want one thing that can really help move your health in a positive direction, it’s eliminating sugars from your diet.
I’ve always wanted to make a ‘sugar board’ to illustrate the amount of sugar in some common food items. My first try has some structural problems, but you can get the idea. A good rule of thumb when out shopping (other than just buying foods in as whole a form as possible) is that 4 grams of sugar equals one teaspoon of sugar. It is astounding to use this information to see just how much sugar is in some of our commonly consumed foods. A single serving size Tillamook flavored yogurt- 7 teaspoons. That’s almost half the container! A jar of Classico tomato sauce, 11 teaspoons in the 24 ounce jar. A single serving can of Pepsi, 10 teaspoons. A package of Krave beef jerky, 6 teaspoons. A Clif bar, 5 teaspoons. Vitamin water? Not so healthy, at 8 teaspoons per bottle.
Here’s a few more ‘fun size’ facts for you:
-As stated above, the average American consumes close to 150 lbs of sugar per year, most of it as high fructose corn syrup. This translates to 22 teaspoons per day. Kids can consume up to 34 teaspoons per day. Nearly 1 in 4 teens is pre-diabetic.
-A can of soda/day increases a kid’s chance of being obese by 60% & a woman’s chance of type 2 diabetes by 80%.
-Some of the conditions encouraged by excess sugar consumption: insulin resistance, diabetes, cancer, dementia, depression, acne, infertility, heart disease. Sweet, huh?
-Sugar triggers a high release of insulin; when insulin is turned on, fat burning is turned off. Probably one of the more motivating factors for removal of sugars from the diet.
-Excess sugar consumption, due to its effect on metabolism, can cause you to be at a higher risk for cancer. Excess insulin and increased inflammation are both results of sugar consumption and are both risk factors for cancer.
-Sugar is highly addictive due to its effect on causing release of dopamine in the brain. Yes, you really do get a sugar high.
-It is sugar, not fat, that increases cardiac risk via the harmful effects of fructose on metabolism. Sugar can raise levels of triglycerides, oxidized LDL, glucose levels, and abdominal fat.
-Sugar can encourage gut permeability, which can lead to brain barrier permeability. Alzheimer’s is now sometimes called ‘Type 3’ diabetes due to its relationship with chronic elevated blood glucose levels. The good news here is that you can really foster brain health by eliminating sugars.
-Sugar can foster gut pathogens such as candida, other fungi, and incorrect bacterial balance by overfeeding these gut ‘bad guys’.
-Fructose is only processed in the liver…this type of sugar puts an additional burden on our already overburdened livers. Especially avoid highly processed sugars like high fructose corn syrup!! Overloading the liver with fructose can result in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (even in children and teens) and also elevated blood triglycerides.
-Chronic spikes in blood glucose due to sugar consumption can imbalance hormones as the adrenals become overtaxed when blood sugar crashes; hormone precursors are shunted to manufacture more cortisol rather than the sex hormones. This is known as the pregnenolone steal, more on this in a later post.
-Hypoglycemic patterns caused by over-consumption of sugar can result in moodiness, unstable temperament, symptoms of “hangryness”
-Sugar depletes our magnesium, among other nutrients. (our body uses 26 molecules of magnesium to metabolize 1 molecule of sugar)
-Sugar suppresses our immune system. Just what you want in the winter months! As little as 1 teaspoon of sugar can suppress immune function for up to 12 hours.
For more reading on this subject (and more motivation to kick the sweet stuff) here are some other articles to check out. If you want help getting this insidious item out of your diet and reaping the health benefits, get in touch and let’s get to work!