Sugar – Part I
Most of us have some idea that sugar, at least too much sugar, may not be so good for us. Our government, our health and medical institutions have long blamed dietary fat, especially saturated fat, and cholesterol as villains in every disease we know of. Wrongly.
Recently the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at seventy two different studies and found that there is no evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease. In fact, there is some evidence that a lack of saturated fat is damaging. So no more skinless chicken breasts and you can toss out those tubs of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. Butter and lard are back!
The heart disease industry is even beginning to admit that sugar is the primary cause of cardiovascular disease (strokes and heart attacks). A recent article from the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, says that adding sugar to the diet increases cardiovascular disease risk. Researchers concluded that those in the highest fifth of sugar consumption had twice the risk of those in the lower fifth.
The Cancer Industry doesn't care what causes cancer, there is way more money in treating disease than preventing it. Same with diabetes, too much money to make, even though diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease can all be prevented. But don't look to our government or medical authorities for advice on how to prevent these major killers. Their advice to avoid dietary cholesterol and saturated fat and eat 11 servings of grains daily led to epidemics in obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
And don't count on drugs to save you. While there are medications that lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, they don't lower mortality. The funeral rate is about the same whether you take these drugs or not. Chemotherapy often kills the patient before the cancer does.
Drugs taken as prescribed kill over 100,000 people annually. Deaths caused by supplements in the year 2012 (latest stats available) are zero. That's right no deaths caused by supplements. Add in the deaths from medical mistakes and our medical system is the leading cause of death. (Null 2003)
The responsibility for our health is up to us. Finding the information to guide us is also our responsibility. Any media outlet that advertises drugs or food products is not a good source of information for dietary or supplement information. Dr. Jonathan Wright's newsletter Nutrition and Healing and Dr. Julian Whitaker's Health & Healing newsletters as well as mercola.com are doctors who practice functional medicine.
What does sugar do in our body? It makes everything sticky, just like it does to your fingers. Red blood cells and platelets tend to clump. Blood becomes thicker, making it harder to deliver nutrients to cells and to remove wastes.
Sugar is the favorite fuel for pathogens. Virus, bacteria and yeast thrive on sugar. Low grade, silent infections are common with sugar in the diet. These low grade infections can affect the teeth, gums, sinus, digestive tract and urinary tract.
Sugar, in all its forms, including honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, coconut sugar, high fructose corn syrup and cereal grains, depletes vitamins, minerals, hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters from our bodies, in time creating serious nutrient deficiencies, which contribute to many degenerative health conditions.
Sugar also combines with proteins causing glycation, or sugar damage. These eventually show up on the skin as AGES-advanced glycation end products. By the time these spots show up on your skin, they have already been glycating your organs and blood vessels, a major factor in nearly all disease.
Collagen is a major body protein in our skin, joints, bones blood vessels and organs. When collagen becomes glycated, it speeds the aging of the skin, damages blood vessels, causes bone loss and joint pain.
Sugar also causes our cells to take up serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes us feel calm and happy. This is partly why sugar is a comfort food, it makes us temporarily feel better. But when we awake the next day, our serotonin is depleted, and we will be looking for more sugar to try to bring it back. This is one reason why sugar is addicting.
Sugar is a drug. It triggers the release of our body's natural opiates, followed by a depletion of these opiates, leading to addiction. Most people discover that cravings for sugar decrease the longer you are off sugar.
Hormonal Effects of Sugar
A major health issue in this country is called Metabolic Syndrome – not a disease in itself but leads to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clotting disorders, cancer of colon, breast and prostate, and lesser known; gout, nearsightedness, sleep apnea, iron overload disease, acid reflux, acne, and polycystic ovary syndrome. These diseases and conditions are caused by insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia – too much insulin.
Humans evolved in a carbohydrate-poor world. The hormone insulin helped amplify the effects of the few carbs that were seasonally available. Insulin is a major hormone without which we can’t live. It is nature’s way of helping us through long winters and times of famine. In spring, summer and fall seasons, nature provides an abundance of food to enable us to get through a long cold winter with little food available. Insulin enables all mammals to build reserves of fat and muscle to survive winter. Think of a bear – ravenously feeding in late summer and fall. Insulin is an anabolic hormone – it helps store nutrients. But nature never intended insulin to be elevated all the time. In modern countries with food nearly always available, we don’t need large stores of nutrients, but because we have abundant starches and sugars these keep the pancreas overworking and the resulting high levels of insulin contribute to a condition known as Insulin Resistance.
Insulin resistance means that receptors for insulin on the cell wall down-regulate. They decrease in number and effectiveness. In our entire blood supply there is only one teaspoon of sugar. If blood sugar elevates we are more prone to infection, aging and cancer. A sharp spike in blood sugar levels, hyperglycemia, can put us into a diabetic coma – then death. If blood sugar falls, hypoglycemia, we feel hungry, irritable, tired and can’t think straight. If blood sugar continues to fall, we’ll pass out and die. When we eat sugar, or starches that quickly turn to sugar, the body can’t allow sugar to build up in the bloodstream, so insulin carries glucose, offering it to all the cells, if there is still glucose left over, if space is available it is changed to glycogen for storage in the liver. If there is still more sugar, insulin changes it to triglycerides. Triglycerides can be used as fuel, and if high on a blood test, can indicate increased cardiovascular risk. If there is still more sugar left it is converted to body fat. Because sugar is so toxic to the body, it will always try to dispose of sugar by using it or changing it to something else. Over time, insulin receptors on the cell wall decrease in number, and if there are not the proper fats in our diet, the lipid, or fatty membrane that is the cells skin and interface, the cell degrades so that insulin and other receptors for nutrients, hormones, neurotransmitters also down regulate. What this means is that improper diet has caused your cell membranes to malfunction leading to any number of health problems such as, thyroid and adrenal depletion, fatigue, difficulty losing weight, and more seriously inflammatory conditions that cause diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
So now, insulin has an even harder time disposing of sugar, but the body keeps responding the same way to elevated blood sugar, make more insulin. So the pancreas works harder and harder to make this expensive hormone. If there is a lack of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients it becomes lo-grade insulin and eventually, if the pancreas is unable to keep going, insulin production falters and blood sugar goes out of control. This is diabetes.
But other consequences besides diabetes happen. As insulin levels rise, we begin to excrete magnesium, leading to muscle spasms and heart disrhythmia. Inflammation also increases, and other hormones and eicosanoids (short acting hormones) destabilize. So this can mean, premenstrual syndromes, infertility, difficult menopause and post menopause, digestive problems, difficulty recovering from illness or injury, sleep disorders, mood disorders and chronic pain syndromes. There is only one cause of insulin resistance – sugar and sugar alone.