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A dangerous misconception is that if someone is not overweight, he or she is unencumbered by health complications. This idea disregards a health factor that’s actually more important than a person’s waist size — diet.
The Sugar Industry Scandal
Because what is occurring within the body is much less discernable than that which is happening on its exterior, it’s easy to downplay the effects of diet. Within the past couple of years, however, nutritionists have specifically pinned sugar to be the culprit of many chronic diseases that make up some of the leading causes of death in the United States.
When the sugar industry’s scandal was revealed in JAMA Internal Medicine last year, the detrimental effects of sugar consumption became more of an understood topic. A team of researchers from the University of California discovered that the sugar industry had paid Harvard to downplay the link between sugar and coronary heart disease researched in the 1950’s — the number one cause of death in America! Abiding by the agreement, Harvard decided to discuss a correlation between saturated fats on heart disease. Whether this collaboration realized the future impact of this decision on the health of the American people is unknown.
Sugar is a carbohydrate that, like other carbohydrates, is essential for providing the body with fuel. If it ends in “ose,” it’s a sugar (e.g., glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose).
When you consume sugar, your body can react in two different ways. It can:
- Burn the sugar for energy
- Or, convert the sugar to fat and store it in your fat cells
Whether we do one of the above more than the other is most likely on account of genetics. Think metabolism.
The pancreas is able to detect the sugar levels in our bodies and blood stream and will release a hormone called insulin, which regulates them. Insulin stores the glucose in the liver and muscles as glycogen and in fat cells. But, when we eat too much sugar, too much insulin is released, which causes blood sugar levels to drop tremendously (also called hypoglycemia, a.k.a. a sugar crash).
The more this happens, the easier it is for the body to skip using sugar as energy and, instead, store it as fat.
The Fruit Debate
Fruit contains a lot of fructose, making it also detrimental to your health if consumed in large portions. However, it’s not the same as consuming other sources of sugar because it also has a lot of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. These other substances keep fruit from causing a blood sugar spike comparable to other nutrient-void sugar sources.
So, if you’re deciding between fruit, soft drinks, processed foods, and candy, choose fruit!
The Link Between Sugar and Disease
In 2014, researchers were able to demonstrate that people who consumed a higher percentage of calories from added sugar had a much higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Specifically, people who got up to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk than people consuming only 8 percent of calories from added sugar. And, for every 150 calories of sugar a person consumes daily, his or her risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes increases 1.1 percent
The link between sugar and chronic diseases such as heart disease (affecting 16 million Americans) and diabetes (affecting 25.8 million Americans) has long been studied. Emerging research looks at how the overconsumption of sugar increases the likelihood of experiencing cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and aging. While it is premature to confidently state that sugar endorses these health problems, studies thus far have found positive correlations.
Suggestions for Sugar Intake
The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories (about 6 teaspoons) of added sugar and that men consume no more than 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons) of added sugar daily. Your average 12-ounce can of soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar, which puts women already well above the American Heart Association’s recommendation upon drinking the whole can.
It is likely that men and women (especially the young population) are misinformed and unaware about the consequences of sugar consumption as well as how much and what kind of sugar is safe to eat. Follow these guidelines when navigating the grocery store:
- Buy foods labeled “no added sugar” or “unsweetened”
- Avoid artificial sweeteners or things with artificial sugar (e.g., Diet Coke)
- Know words that are referring to sugar → high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, molasses, words ending in “ose,” brown rice syrup, honey, and maple syrup
- Go for the “good” natural sugars (fruit and veggies)
A healthy diet is an essential part of any holistic wellness plan. If you would like more information about our wellness offerings, get in touch today .