We live today in a society where sugar is commonly accepted and eaten in large quantities. Larger in fact, than ever before in the history of the human race. But what effect is this having on us—our weight and our health? Unfortunately a gravely negative effect on all parts of our physical, mental and emotional well-being, yet so few of us take a stand to do anything about it. In this essay, I will share with you why any sugar consumption must be taken seriously if we wish to increase, rather than decrease the quality of our health, and life.
According to a USDA document which outlines Dietary Trends from 1970-2005, sugar consumption increased by 19% since 1970, coming in at about 140 pounds of sugar per person, per year or 30 teaspoons of sugar per day! And what else is both interesting and scary, corn syrup consumption increased 387% in that time frame!
It would be one thing, if the problem was fruit sugars or natural sugar cane, but that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the white or brown sugar and high fructose corn syrup type of sugars, that are commonly added to almost EVERY single processed food. And what makes this story worse is that sugar, just like most of our food today, is processed. There is nothing natural about white sugar, although most refer to it as a “natural sweetener” to offset the difference between it, and the “artificial sweeteners“.
I personally refer to these categories as follows: “chemical sweeteners“, referring to the typical white/brown sugar and “toxic sweeteners“, referring to the Aspartame, Sucralose, etc. I think it is time we call them for what they really are, and not kid ourselves any longer about their chemical makeup. But anyway, back to the sugar point.
People today are eating a substance that is wreaking havoc on every part of their health, and what is worse we call those foods with the highest concentrations of sugar – treats. If we change that word slightly, to read “threat“, that I can agree with, as sugar is a threat to every aspect of good health, but it is in no way a treat.
Thus today, we are going straight into the core and getting the real, raw truth about what sugar really does in and to our body, and why if we are serious about good health and longevity, we want to avoid this substance like the plague.
What is Sugar?
The sugar I am going to refer to here, is specifically the white sugar that comes as granules or cubes, as well as brown sugar and all the various mixes of glucose, fructose and sucrose, including high fructose corn syrup.
So what is it? Here is the simplest definition I can give you:
Sugar is a drug that has no nutritional value and is an addictive chemical.
Hence, no wonder that today we have a nation that is addicted to sugar! In fact many experts have come forth, comparing sugar to cocaine, when it comes to its effects on our brain.
While some of us know this or are starting to realize it, many more do not. In fact, most people in the population have no idea just how harmful sugar is on our health.
Eating sugar, is not just about putting yourself at a higher risk for diabetes type 2 or weight gain. Sugar affects every single system in your body, and none in a positive way.
Sugar Effects on the BRAIN
One of the most debilitating health problems in our modern, Western world today is depression. According to the World Health Organization, depression is not only sharply on the rise, with suicides alone having risen 60% in the last 45 years, but it is currently the 4th leading contributor to the global burden of disease. And according to a report from CNN, antidepressants are the most prescribed drugs in the US, with their numbers tripling over the last couple of decades.
So what does this have to do with sugar?
Our natural feel-good brain chemical is the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Our bodies naturally make this in balanced amounts.
Sugar raises the serotonin level in our brain. Hence, we can understand why we “feel good” eating sweets. Through this mechanism, sugars cause the body to have a chemical high mentally, which results in a lift in mood.
However, the huge problem with this, is that over time the body cuts back serotonin production, which results in slight to serious depression. Just by not having a “sugary” substance, one can experience mood swings, unhappiness, irritability and other negative symptoms.
Basically put, sugar throws off your natural serotonin balance, and to add to this the brain is now addicted to getting the serotonin high artificially.
Sugar Effects on the TEETH
We have always been told that sugar causes cavities. However to get the full story, we have to understand that while sugar itself can be slightly corrosive, depending on its concentration and material it comes in contact with, what causes most cavities are bacteria. So where sugar comes into the equation, is that cavity causing bacteria feed on sugar. Hence, the more sugar we eat, the more bacteria we have, to do all sorts of damage to our teeth.
Thus, it has long been known that sugar is the leading cause of dental deterioration, cavities in teeth, bleeding gums, and loss of teeth.
Sugar Effects on the PANCREAS
Although we are told that high sugar diets increase our risk for diabetes type 2, we are not really given the exact mechanism of what is really happening.
Diabetes type 2 is caused by a slew of symptoms, the main ones being the body’s inability to properly use or produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by our pancreas, that our body uses to regulate that amount of sugar in our blood. Too high concentrations of sugar in our blood can kill us, just as too low concentrations of sugar.
Sugar causes our pancreas to overwork in its production of insulin, leading to insulin resistance and other problems, which manifest as the known diabetes type 2.
Sugar Effects on our BONES
When sugar is digested it has an acidic effect on our body. In the understanding of the acid-alkaline balance of the body, an acidic body is prone to various diseases, and our bodies do everything they can to make sure the blood, via which sugar is carried, does not get too acidic, going out of its slightly alkaline range.
To do this, the body needs an alkaline substance to neutralize the effects of the acidic sugar. Calcium is an alkaline mineral, highly abundant in our bones. And so, calcium is used to neutralize the acidic effects of sugar. This results in bones becoming weak, porous and eventually osteoporotic due to the withdrawn calcium. This being a much bigger reason of why we have the osteoporosis rates we do, instead of it being a lack of dairy or calcium. Instead of taking more calcium, whether through dairy or supplements, which can lead to so many other health problems, we need to reduce our sugar intake.
Sugar Effects on our HEART
When most people think of what causes heart disease, fat is normally the answer that follows. However, we have to awaken to the fact that sugar leads to heart disease as well, and today there is a HUGE link between diabetes and heart disease. Diabetics are at a higher risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Sugar causes artery damage, inflammation of the arteries and hence weaker arteries. This is due to the biochemistry of what it does as it travels through the blood stream in large, especially poorly regulated amounts, if our pancreas is stressed and having a hard time with the correct production and use of insulin.
This makes one more susceptible to clogged arteries, hypertension (high blood pressure), weak arteries, strokes and heart attacks.
Sugar Effects on DEFICIENCIES
Many people do not think twice when digesting sugary substances, that in doing so, they can be stripping valuable nutrients from their body.
The digestion of sugar requires many vitamins, minerals and enzymes to be stripped from healthy cells. Over time this is taxing on our system, and especially to those who are already eating poor diets based on empty calorie, nutrient deficient, processed foods. This is also not something that can be fixed by taking a synthetic multivitamin, but requires a good, natural, wholesome, nutrient rich diet.
Sugar Effects on OBESITY
Glucose is our body’s number one fuel or energy source, and generally speaking all sugar breaks down into glucose. For most of us, there is a huge discrepancy between how much fuel is needed and how much we provide. Thus, being resourceful, our body never throws away energy, that could be potentially used in the future, and so on average 40% of sugar ingested is stored as fat.
Whenever there is an excess in energy, whether from sugar calories, or protein calories or fat calories, they all get converted to and stored in fat cells. Hence, it is no surprise that high sugar diets, lead to weight problems and obesity.
In fact, if we take those 30 teaspoons the average North American eats daily on average, that accounts to over 400 calories daily just in sugar alone!
And we can fool ourselves all we want, and use the “treat” word as an excuse to ingest sugar foods regularly, but in the end, when the weight comes on, there is no fooling ourselves about that.
Sugar Effects on the IMMUNE SYSTEM
What always boggles my mind, are parents who want their children to be healthy and complain when their kids get sick, and yet they have no issues giving their kids regular sodas, cookies, candies, sugary cereals and you name it. And let us not even get into the whole premise of Halloween or Easter in our society.
Eating sugar makes your immune system slow down to a crawl. In fact, sugar has been found to almost paralyze the white blood cells responsible for engulfing harmful invaders like viruses and bacteria for up to around 5 hours and reduces their ability to work properly by up to 40%. The effects of sugar and the immune system appear to have been first studied by Dr. Linus Pauling in the early-mid 1900’s. Today, you can read more about this from natural health experts like Dr. Marcel Hernandez or allopathic health experts like Dr. William Sears.
To add to this, over time, the stress hormone cortisol becomes elevated and causes increases to various infections as well as general organ malfunction, including heart disease.
Most people think sugar is just dangerous if you fear gaining weight, and some even boast about how much sugar they eat, without gaining any weight.
However, with sugar being in most foods today as one of the top five ingredients, it is time we wake up to the bitter truth about sugar, how it harms our body and plays a leading role in almost every disease and health condition out there.
Its harmful effects go way beyond just weight problems. And the worst part is that, it is no longer safe to just avoid “sweets”, as sugar is added to pretty much every processed food, from bread to ketchup!
If you think the list and explanations above are way more than you bargained for when it came to eating sugar, I hate to break it to you but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Sugar causes damage to literally every system or organ in our body, including ones not even mentioned like the liver and kidneys. It is also linked to learning disorders in kids, ADD/ADHD and sugar is directly related to cancer. The higher the sugar consumption, the greater the risk of cancers.
For many, this news comes as a shock, to the point that they are tempted to brush it aside, disbelieve it and pretend they never heard it. After all, our society is saturated in sugar and every major holiday makes sure we get lots of it, so how could this be? Why wouldn’t our doctors and nutritionists and governments protect us from this? For those of you who know the back end of the system, I am sure I do not have to explain.
My personal inspiration to go sugar free took place after my own journey in optimal nutrition, finally made me face the facts about sugar. Following up with Dr. Olson’s book Sugarettes, was the final tipping point. That was exactly 2 years ago. Remember, this does not mean things like fruits and dates, or even some raw honey. I know I can safely consume these as part of my diet, enjoy the delicious sweet taste and health benefits of them.
And what was the effect of this for me? Along with all other aspects of my optimal nutrition, eliminating sugar has made me feel even more amazing, but the biggest area I noticed a huge change in, were cravings. Detoxing from sugar, meant no more cravings of any kind where sweets were concerned. I was no longer a slave to anything “sweet” – true freedom at last!
So in the end, as with everything else, what you do with this information is as always up to you. Will a little hurt you? Probably not, but we no longer have a little when it comes to sugar today, as it is in literally every processed food in large quantities. Thus, I know that I personally would never advise someone to eat any amounts of sugar or give it to them in any foods, especially those I most love and care for. And as crazy as it may sound to some people, like Dr. Olson, I too believe that there will come a time in society, where we will look at sugar, like most today look at cigarettes.