Sugar: Have You Been Consuming Too Much?

It seems that between November 1st and January 2, many people get engulfed in holiday celebrations. Food is an important part of celebrations. Seasonal holidays are related to many special recipes. Many we just don’t have all year long. Many contain way too much sugar and saturated fat!  A steady supply not only creates weight gain, but can lead to many diseases.  The average American consumes around 21 teaspoons of sugar per day during the year and probably more during November and December. You are not the only individual who sunk into the sink hole made of sugar and ingredients that holds it all together.

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that Americans basically consume their weight in sugar in a year’s time. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar in the diet to no more than 100 calories a day for most women and 150 calories for men. That is six teaspoon of sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoon for men. And yet another report said the top consumers of refined sugar (based on annual pounds per capita, 2011) are Brazil at 122, Russia 88, Mexico 76, Egypt 70, European Union 70. While we all need to be aware of what we consume, less sugar is critical to the overall health in those who have special illnesses.Today the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually. Just over 22 teaspoons a day. It soon becomes an addictive drug. If sugar is injected into the blood stream it stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain that responds to heroin and cocaine. All tasty foods do this to some extent. But sugar has a sharply pronounced effect. In that sense it is literally an addictive drug.

Added sugar is defined as a caloric sweetener used in processed or prepared foods. Beyond increasing calories, added sugar has no nutritional value. Sugars added to processed foods enhance flavor and texture, otherwise why would we love it? They also act as a preservative to extend shelf life. Even honey, maple syrup, and molasses have very little in the way of vitamins and minerals. Yet honey is suppose to be a “natural sweetener.”  Once inside the body, sugar in any form knows how to process it into either storage or energy used for exercise. All sugar contains very few vitamins and minerals. In excess it becomes toxic.

Fructose is found in all kinds of foods. This is a major contributing factor to health. The glucose in sugar is metabolized throughout the body, but fructose is processed mainly in the liver into fats, which can build up there and also enter the blood. The resulting risks, obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.

The most damaging sugar is high-fructose corn syrup which is made cheap by government corn subsidies, It was first added to processed food in the 1970s. It is cheaper and usually sweeter than sucrose, sugar made from cane or beets. Everyone would be better off eating none of this.

High-fructose corn syrup has been confirmed as a promoter of liver disease and gout. Fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol). this is why it is the major cause of liver damage. Fatty liver, as it is termed, affects 70 million people.  The rapidly absorbed glucose triggers big spikes in insulin (our body’s major fat storage hormone). It is used in all American (non-diet) soft drinks, many commercially baked goods, as well as processed foods.  Soft drinks contain 64 to 65 percent fructose. The more this is consumed, the more there is a increase in metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and so much more.

High doses of free fructose have been proven to literally punch holes in the intestinal lining allowing nasty byproducts of toxic gut bacteria and partially digested food proteins to enter your blood stream and trigger the inflammation that we know is at the root of almost all diseases. It also accelerates aging.

Naturally occurring fructose in fruit, however, is part of a complex of nutrients and fiber that doesn’t exhibit the same biological effects as the free high fructose doses found in “corn-sugar.”

Unlike glucose, fructose is a primarily broken down in the liver, where it can become a feeding mechanism for new fat synthesis.  Which contributes to fatty-liver disease. Fructose is a sure promoter of gout. Gout develops when the blood becomes saturated with uric acid, a breakdown product of purines, which are a constituent of many foods, especially red and organ meats. When uric acid precipitates out into the joints and crystallizes, it causes intense pain. This condition contributes to the inflammatory processes. More on inflammation in future newsletters.

Naturally occurring fructose in fruit, however, is part of a complex of nutrients and fiber that doesn’t exhibit the same biological effects as the free high fructose doses found in “corn-sugar” (HFCS). Eat the whole fruit not the juice.

As an alternative many people like stevia. Many don’t. Many of us can sense an bitter aftertaste.  Myself included. It is sugar free and contains no calories. It is made from the leaves of the stevia plant.  It doesn’t raise blood sugar and it is natural. Being bioactive, it could have some anti-inflammatory compounds and can also help you cut calories. Some reports say that overusing stevia could cause you to develop more of a taste for sweets.

My personal favorite is Monk Fruit. For me it doesn’t taste sweet but certainly is effective in tea and coffee.  Monk fruit contains compounds that, when extracted, are 300-400 times the sweetness of cane sugar but with no calories and has no effect on blood sugar. This fruit has been used as a sweetener for centuries, and after many years being only available overseas, it is becoming easier to find in health food store and online supplement stores. Monk fruit is available in a granulated powdered form.

Along with its sweetening powers, monk fruit has long been regarded as the “longevity fruit.” thanks to its high antioxidant levels. Throughout history, it was also used medicinally as an expectorant (cough remedy), and for help with other respiratory ailments.

It was also utilized for constipation, as a treatment for diabetes, and as a way to clear heat from the body caused by both internal and external sources. Monk fruit is being studied and more of its magical benefits are emerging.

In future newsletters, I’ll write more about other alternative sweeteners. I think trying monk fruit is the best among all of them.