A Sweet Little Nightmare for Your Health

Ah sugar!  What it means:  a celebration, a treat, a reward! What it also may mean: reduced immune system, memory loss, heart disease and obesity.  Yes friends, sugar in its many forms keeps showing up as a bad boy for our health.  Can you kick it altogether?  Maybe not, but can you be mindful of it and understand it, manage your intake better?  Maybe so.   

Sugars that occur naturally in food such as fruit and milk, says http://www.eatwell.gov.uk are not the problem  but rather  foods that contain added sugar are the ones to avoid. What’s really tricky is that added sugar is found in so many foods: soft drinks, fruit juice and energy drinks, breakfast cereals, sweets, jelly, jam and ice cream to name a few.  

There is a body of evidence suggesting that eating too much sugar suppresses immune system cells responsible for attacking bacteria. Even consuming just 75 to 100 grams of a sugar solution (about the same as in two 12-ounce sodas) reduces the ability of white blood cells to overpower and destroy bacteria. This effect is seen for at least a few hours after consuming a sugary drink according to http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/10-immune-system-busters-boosters.

Dr Jim Sears, co-host of The Doctors TV show and a contributor to the AskDrSears parenting website, also supports the notion that a big dose of sugar can suppress your immune system and make you more vulnerable to colds, flu and other infections, as reported by USA TODAY http://www.usatoday.com/LIFE/usaedition/2009-10-05-bline05_ST_U.htm.

To complicate matters, sugar also comes in many forms, including:  sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, hydrolyzed starch and invert sugar, and corn syrup. And frankly, according to many well respected health sources that I researched, no form is all that great for our bodies.

However, fructose in large quantities appears to be especially problematic.  There are several research studies that show it to be metabolized differently than other sugars including a 10-week study,  cited on Science Daily in April 2009, wherein  Peter Havel and colleagues, at the University of California at Davis, provided evidence that human consumption of fructose-sweetened but not glucose-sweetened beverages can adversely affect both sensitivity to the hormone insulin and how the body handles fats, creating medical conditions that increase susceptibility to heart attack and stroke.

During Havel’s 10 week study, overweight and obese individuals in two test groups consumed glucose- or fructose-sweetened beverages that provided 25% of their energy requirements. Both groups gained about the same amount of weight, but only those individuals consuming fructose-sweetened beverages exhibited an increase in intra-abdominal fat and also became less sensitive to the hormone insulin which controls glucose levels in the blood. Read more: Too Much Sugar Is Bad, But Which Sugar Is Worse: Fructose Or Glucose?.

 In August of 2009, Science Daily cited a study where rats displayed impaired spatial memory when they ate a daily diet with 60% of calories came from fructose compared to rats fed a control diet.  The rats on fructose had a harder time remembering where a platform in a pool had been compared to the rats that weren’t fed fructose. Read about it in detail here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090420182151.htm.

According to that article, fructose, unlike the sugar glucose, is processed almost solely by the liver, and produces an excessive amount of triglycerides. Triglycerides are fat that gets into the bloodstream and can interfere with insulin signaling in the brain, which plays a major role in brain cell survival and the ability for the brain to change based on new experiences.

A New York Times article by Jane E. Brody published in February 2009 says that while the current recommendation is a maximum intake of eight teaspoons of sugars of any kind in a day, essentially one 12-ounce can of regular soda or a 20-ounce bottle of VitaminWater delivers eight or nine teaspoons of sugar. That means you are at or over the limit before you’ve eaten a single cookie or container of fruit-flavored yogurt!  The result is an average daily intake of more than 20 teaspoons of sweet calories rather than eight! http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C01EFDE1731F933A25751C0A96F9C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=2#

Yikes!  So what’s a person to do?  Well here are a couple of ideas that I have found helpful with sugar reduction:

1) Avoid beverages with added sugar in its many forms.  Replace those beverages with water, unsweetened teas and herbal infusions. Dilute fruit juice with sparkling or still water to reduce sugar intake.

2) Pay attention to food labels.  Think twice about how many sweets you are consuming. By all means, savor and enjoy what you decide to eat, but keep a watch on how much sugar you are eating in total.  Whenever possible, stop before you eat – and take a moment to consider replacing a sugary snack with nuts, fresh fruits, veggies or whole grains.

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Date: Tuesday, 29. December 2009 2:17
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    I completely adore this post! definitely going to need to remember to add this to my bookmarks.

  2. 2

    […] cannot handle as much sugar as we consume in modern American society.  if you look at my post A Sweet Little Nightmare… on December 29 2009, you will find more research and can see that there is a long list of foods […]

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