In the last few hundred years, sugar consumption has sky-rocketed from a mere 2 kg/year in the 18th century up to the whooping amount of 90 kg/years in the dawn of the 21th century. The figures are certainly disturbing, but true nevertheless. How is this possible?
The explanation is quite simple. If you go to a grocery store and look at food labels, you’ll see that most of them contain sugar. From canned products to bread, meat, pastry products (including salty ones), all these foods contain various quantities of sugar. I didn’t even mention sweets, cakes or chocolate! Moreover, sugar plays an important role in the fizzy and energy drinks industry and in the so-called “natural” juice industry.
In conclusion, sugar is (almost) everywhere, so it is quite easy to consume it excessively without even noticing. Attention and good eating habits play a key role here and can certainly help reduce the sugar intake.
Next, I will cover the most important facts regarding sugar and why it is so bad for health.
What is Sugar?
What is generically called sugar is actually a class of carbohydrates. From a chemical perspective, there are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates are also of two types: monosaccharides (one molecule) and disaccharide (two monosaccharides – two molecules).
Glucose (also known as dextrose) – found in refined sugar, various vegetables and fruits
Fructose – found mostly in fruits
Galactose – less sweet, mainly found in dairy products
Refined sugar – composed of glucose and fructose
Lactose – glucose and galactose
Maltose – two molecules of glucose
Starches – found in vegetables and grains
The human body uses each type of carbohydrate differently. Monosaccharides are the quickest to assimilate, while complex carbohydrates take longest to be assimilated.
Chemically speaking, sugar is one molecule glucose and one molecule fructose. That’s all, no other elements are to be found in it (except various residue from processing).
This is the type of sugar which doesn’t need any more transformation in order to be used by the body to generate energy. In small quantities, it is not very harmful.
The main problem of glucose is the quick absorption rate. Since glucose raises the blood sugar level very fast, the body reacts by triggering insulin secretion in order to counteract it. This is very stressful for the pancreas and over time it leads to health issues such as pancreatic insufficiency and diabetes.
Fructose is the main sugar found in fruits. It has been scientifically proved that refined fructose is the most unhealthy type of sugar.
Wait a moment, you’ll say. How can it be unhealthy if it is in fruits?
Here is the explanation: fruits contain vitamins, minerals, fibers and enzymes which work together to reduce the impact of fructose on the body. On the other hand, sugar fructose is depleted of these substances, so the body uses its own reserves of energy and minerals to process and assimilate it.
Unlike glucose, fructose cannot be used directly so it needs to be converted into glucose. This is accomplished by the liver, which in turn releases uric acid as a byproduct. Excess uric acid is harmful and causes various health conditions from kidney stones to gout and diabetes.
Fructose can cause many other problems. It is responsible for insulin resistance, it nourishes parasites and harmful germs, it affects the colon and raises the blood triglyceride level.
Read on for more disturbing facts
I already covered some of the problem but there’s more to it. In fact, a renowned American endocrinologist, Dr. Robert Lustig, an expert on childhood obesity, considers sugar as bad as alcohol and tobacco. In his opinion sugar is a dangerous poison that needs to be regulated by new laws. Quoting from a recent issue of the journal Nature:
“The UN Secretary General declared that a non-communicable disease — that is, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease — is a bigger threat to the entire world, developed and developing, than an infectious disease.”
In Dr. Lustig’s studies, sugar is the main culprit for the explosion in obesity, diabetes and other medical problems.
Let’s see a few more facts about sugar:
Sugar is acid-forming
Human bodies are designed to be slightly alkaline. When an acid-forming food is consumed, the body uses its own minerals to counteract this. Unfortunately the typical diet consisting in meat, dairy products, fruits and a lot of sugar is highly acidic, and the internal buffer substances cannot handle that much. Even a slight body acidity comes with a significant loss of energy, predisposing to health problems and an accelerated aging process.
Sugar is addictive
Scientific tests have proved that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. The greater the sugar intake, the faster it will be metabolized, thus straining the body.
Sugar alters brain processes
Sugar affects brain chemistry. It raises stress levels, causes fatigue and irritation, nervousness and anxiety. Children are the most sensitive: their growth processes are influenced, they develop behavior problems, predispositions towards violence, health disorders such as ADHD and bone problems.
Sugar causes fat deposits
Unused fructose is converted by the liver and stored as fat. Fat is like a toxin storage tank where the body expels harmful substances. Over time, this leads to acidity, toxicity and significant weight gain, even obesity.
Sugar accelerates the aging process
Vitamin C and sugar use the same mechanisms to enter the cells. It has been discovered that the larger the sugar intake, the lesser the quantity of absorbed vitamin C. Or, vitamin C is one of the main factors in delaying the aging process.
Sugar alters the immune system
Due to its effects on the intestinal flora, sugar kills good bacteria while feeding parasites, yeasts and fungi. It also reduces the efficiency of the white cells, leaving the body defenseless in front of infections. Many people reported that by simply cutting down on sugar, their resistance to colds increased significantly.
Sugar can cause diabetes and cancer
I have already mentioned how blood sugar spikes occur, boosting abnormal insulin secretion. In cancer, sugar, which is acidic for the body disturbs its balance. Once the body becomes acidic, the cell oxygenation level drops, which feeds the cancer cells. These environment conditions (acidic and less oxygen) are perfect for their growth, therefore they’ll thrive.
The list goes on and on, too long to cover everything. Sugar also causes food allergies, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, acne, arteriosclerosis, eye problems, liver problems, constipation, headaches and depression.
If you really want to dig out more information, read this book: Suicide by Sugarwhich explains how the sweet white stuff represents one of our biggest dietary hazards.
If now you’re convinced how harmful sugar is for your body, it is high time to explore some substitutes.
In fact, this is the only healthy one. Unlike other substitutes, stevia is really sweet and passes virtually unchanged through the body without any adverse effects whatsoever.
All the other replacements contain various quantities of simple carbohydrates.
From better to worse, here are the most common:
Honey – contains healthy nutrients but a high quantity of monosaccharides.
Maple syrup – contains a large amount of simple carbohydrates, as well as useful minerals and vitamins.
Agava syrup – contains fructose and therefore is the subject of fierce debates regarding its health benefits. It is a good coffee sweetener, since it preserves its flavor.
Molasses – contains glucose, fructose and a low quantity of fat but no protein or fibers.
Brown sugar – although it has some other minerals, it is basically the same as white sugar.
Artificial sweeteners – highly acidic, mostly chemical replacements. Just avoid them.
Now you have all the information on how refined sugar affects the human body in numberless ways, much like a silent killer. The wisest decision is to avoid sugar at all costs.
Your favorite sources of sugar should always be natural, vegetables and fruits, yet starchy vegetables are the healthiest. Most people run away from carbohydrates because they don’t know exactly what they are. There is also the myth of weight gain. In contrast to monosaccharides, starches take a relatively long time to be assimilated, which results in energy for the whole day. This is the kind of energy your body needs, so this is how you should feed it.
Read more on how to live a healthy life in my new book, Alkaline Diet Exposed: The Natural Way to Get Healthy and Lose Weight Fast available on Amazon Kindle. Click here to download the book (opens in a new page).