Sugar is everywhere! With increasing incidents of chronic disease, it’s probably time we got to grips with the role of sugar in our every day diet.
Did you know that sugar causes cravings and is addictive?
The craving cycle looks like this:
- You eat sugar – you enjoy the experience and taste.
- Blood sugar levels spike – in the body, blood sugar levels spike a signal is sent to the pancreas to secrete insulin.
- Blood sugar levels fall rapidly – high insulin levels stimulate the rapid uptake of glucose from the blood.
- Cravings and hunger – if blood sugar drops a little too low, it stimulates appetite and makes the body crave another sugar ‘high’. The cycle starts again.
Sugar feeds our pleasure and reward centres in the brain and a chemical called DOPAMINE is released. This is known as the ‘feel good’ hormone and makes us feel great.
As this happens time and time again, our body needs more of the stimulus to feel good. This results in a biological addiction in the same way as cocaine. A small amount of sugar creates a desire for more and quitting causes withdrawal symptoms².
How does sugar affect my body?
As we have previously mentioned, sucrose is made up of glucose and fructose. The body produces glucose and there is a physiological need for it. However, this is not the case for fructose – there is no need for it in the body. Most of the glucose ingested is utilised by the body for energy and is often ‘burned’ immediately after consumption with a small amount being stored as glycogen. Fructose is converted into glycerol promoting fat formation if consumed in excess.
Sugar can have harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to all sorts of diseases. Here are just a few:
|Effects of sugar||The details|
|Sugar does not make you feel full and contributes to obesity.||The way sugar affects hormones and the brain is a recipe for fat gain. Sugar can lead to leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that tells you when you’ve had enough food. We often ignore this brain signal and for some people, leptin does not work. This leaves you with no signal that you have eaten enough (satiety) and leads to over consumption of food and consequently, obesity.|
Foods rich in fibre, fat and protein all have been associated with increased fullness. Sugar will give you the calories, but not the feeling that you’ve had enough. Many studies have examined the link between sugar consumption and obesity and found a strong statistical association¹.
Want to lose weight? Cut back on the sugar.
|Sugar can cause insulin resistance leading to metabolic disorders and diabetes.|
|Insulin is a very important hormone in the body. It allows glucose (blood sugar) to enter cells from the bloodstream and tells the cells to start burning glucose instead of fat. Having too much glucose in the blood can lead to the cells becoming insulin resistant. This is a driver of many diseases including metabolic issues, obesity, cardiovascular disease and in particular type II diabetes².|
|Sugar causes inflammation.||When insulin levels ‘spike’, there is a burst of inflammation through the body which produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin resulting in wrinkles and the pro-inflammatory nature of sugar exacerbates pimples and acne³.|
|Sugar leads to dental plaque.||Sugar plus bacteria make dental plaque. This produces an acid leading to dental caries.|
|Sugar can damage your heart.|
|The molecule glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) found in sugar and starches can change the muscle protein of the heart and affect the pumping mechanism of the heart. These changes could eventually lead to heart failure².|
The Diabetic Society in Singapore states that 1 out of 9 people aged 18 to 69 has diabetes. That’s about 11.3% of the population, more than 400,000 people! More than 10% of adults are now classed as clinically obese. These figures are terrifying considering we know so little about what we are eating and drinking on a daily basis.
What is the solution? Stay tuned for next week’s article on how to shake off sugar.
Contributed by Dr Surinder Arora, Integrative Dentist and Health Coach.
1 Bray et al, Consumption of high fructose corn syrup may play a role in the epidemic of obesity Am J Clin Nutr April 2004 vol. 79(4) 537-543
3 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ‘Low to moderate sugar-sweetened beverage consumption impairs glucose and lipid metabolism and promotes inflammation in healthy young men: a randomized controlled tria’ vol 94 no.2 479-485
Photo Credits: Farminguk, Doug Cook RD, Easy Blinds