a sweet crystalline substance obtained from various plants, especially sugar cane and sugar beet, consisting essentially of sucrose, and used as a sweetener in food and drink:
2. any of the class of soluble, crystalline, typically sweet-tasting carbohydrates found in living tissues and exemplified by glucose and sucrose.
Chances are, you already know what sugar is and that eating too much of it isn’t good for you. However, you may not be aware of what sugar does in the body and how it contributes to chronic illness and disease. You may also not be aware of all the HIDDEN sugars you consume every day. Did you know that studies have linked excessive sugar intake found in the Standard American Diet (SAD) to the following issues and conditions:
· Elevated B/P
· Chronic inflammation
· Weight gain
· Increased abdominal girth (Visceral fat- accumulation around the belly area.)
· Fatty liver disease
· Feeds cancers, Candida overgrowth, yeast/mold, bad bacteria, and certain toxins
· Tooth decay
· Increased risk of heart disease and MI
· INCREASED RISK OF CVA
· Skin irritations (acne, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis)
· Mood disorders
· Sexual dysfunction
· Many, many more
We are familiar with the well-known sources of sugar. (Such as those listed above) But, did you know that things like Breads, Sauces, Milk, Yogurt, CHEESE, Vitamins, chewing gum, and even some “Health foods” often contain high amounts of sugar, sugar alcohols, or artificial sweeteners? Complicating things even further, many manufacturers make it difficult to spot these ingredients on a nutritional label by hiding it behind a tricky name. Its almost as if they don’t want you to know…… I wonder why that is?
Consuming processed sugar gives your brain a surge of a “feel good” chemical called Dopamine, it also releases endorphins (Endorphins activate the body's opiate receptors.) Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is the key component of the “reward circuit” of the brain and is associated with addictive behavior. When a certain behavior causes an excess release of dopamine, you feel a form of “high”. This reaction makes you inclined to repeat the behavior so you can re-experience the feeling. If you repeat this behavior more and more, you become “addicted” to the effects of sugar consumption.
This “programmed” excessive sugar intake (addiction) can lead to negative results such as weight gain, headaches, hormone imbalances, etc. Each time you consume processed sugar, you are reinforcing those neuropathways, reinforcing hardwiring of the brain to crave MORE sugar. Over time, you build up a tolerance to it just like you do with any other drug. Meaning to need MORE sugar to get the same results. Studies indicate sugar can be even more addictive than cocaine.
Your brain becomes “programmed and/or conditioned” to want more and more sugar to get this dopamine/endorphin response AND food manufacturers know it! There is even terminology for this specific result. It is called the “bliss point”. The bliss point was created by and American market researcher Howard Moskowitz. He described it as the sensory point where you like the food the most. There is a bliss point for salt, sugar, and fats. What this does, nutritionists say, is create this expectation in us that everything should be sweet. Which feeds the addiction and the cycle strengthens.
So let us discuss some of the effects of sugar on your body….
The Brain - High blood glucose levels can affect the brain by causing it to atrophy and shrink over time. It can impair cognitive function and deficits in memory and attention. Also, it can lead to small-vessel disease, which constricts blood flow in the brain, resulting in cognitive difficulties and may lead to the development of vascular dementia.
The Liver – Excessive processed sugar can impair the liver. When sugar is broken down in the liver it is transformed into glucose, unfortunately we take in far more sugar than the body needs. This excess sugar isn’t needed for energy, (glucose) so the liver converts it into fat in the form of triglycerides meaning plaques begin to form on the walls of the arteries or in the liver itself. Increased fat build-up in the liver can lead to inflammation and scarring. It also impedes the liver’s overall functions.
Your weight – Its not news that the more sugar you consume, the more you will weigh. Research shows that people who drink sugary beverages weigh more. Excess consumption of processed sugar (Including artificial sweeteners) can inflame “fat cells” causing an increase in chemicals that contribute to weight GAIN. Much of this weight is “visceral fat”. It settles around the abdomen creating the “beer belly or apply belly” effect. Studies on DIET pop also show an INCREASE IN WEIGHT. (In 2017 several companies were SUED for labeling their sodas and drinks as DIET – because it has been proven that some artificial sweeteners cause weight gain.)
Your Heart/Circulation – Consuming sugary food causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels. The extra insulin can result in the walls of the arteries becoming thickened and inflamed. This can put extra stress on your heart and damage it over time.
The body - Inflammation: If you are prone to joint pain, you may note that increased sugar consumption has been shown to worsen joint pain. Processed sugar stimulates pro-inflammatory markers which can lead to chronic systemic inflammation that contributes to many health conditions. It can suppress the immune system, it can also attach to proteins and slowly break down the elasticity found in body tissue leading to increased wrinkles, and visible signs of aging.
This information is not all doom and gloom! You can have sugar in moderation. The goal is simply to bring about awareness of the dangers of excess sugar consumption. The average man should consume 36 grams (9 tsp) or LESS of sugar daily. The average woman less than 24 grams. (6 tsp) Unfortunately the average daily intake for most Americans is 100-150 grams (or more) of sugar EVERY DAY! ( ½-1 cup)
It is important to remember that the best options are ALWAYS NATURAL sweeteners: HONEY AND MAPLE SYRUP are both preferable over cane sugar.
I will be holding a 2-part talk on sugar at the shop this week and next.
Stop by TEA OF LIFE APOTHECARY on Thursday August 24th at 5pm to listen in on ‘Sugar Part One’ and try a sample of the tea of the day.