By Kim Robson:
We’ve all heard that sugar is bad for us. Refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup in particular are the worst for our bodies. Honey and agave should be used in moderation, but they do not produce the same toxic effects as white sugar and corn syrup. Why? What is going on in our bodies that makes these substances so awful? Don’t sugar cane and corn come from nature? Animals eat sugar in the wild, don’t they?
Of course they do. But finding a source of concentrated sugar in nature is like finding a cave studded with enormous diamonds – possible but very unlikely. When animals find some honey or fermenting fruit, they gorge on it because they may never see such a calorie boon again. The reason we love and crave sugar goes back to our primitive evolutionary roots. Mammals are not designed to handle large amounts of sugar on a daily or regular basis, though. We no longer need, for survival, to eat anything and everything edible that comes our way. We can make choices.
Refined sugar has been linked to heart disease, obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is just as bad, and it’s found in all sorts of innocuous items like bread and tomato sauce. A five-year study at University of California, San Francisco found a connection between HFCS and a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, regular sugar intake produced a marked increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors within just two weeks. Limiting sugar also has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer.
Aren’t a hundred calories a hundred calories, whether they come from a vegetable or a candy bar? According to Dr. Robert Lustig of UCSF and creator of “Sugar – The Bitter Truth,” they are not at all the same. It actually takes more energy for your body to process sugar than it gets in calories. It’s negative energy. We all know that diabetics don’t make enough insulin; that’s why they can’t handle much sugar. But did you know that insulin can be a bad thing, especially when we eat too much sugar, forcing our bodies to make lots of insulin to compensate? Insulin bonds to specially-designed receptors on tumors. The insulin then picks up glucose in the bloodstream, and the tumor uses the energy to grow bigger. The liver becomes overloaded from the extra work, and produces fat. The fat ends up in the bloodstream, where it causes all sorts of problems.
Americans consume an estimated 1/3 of a pound of sugar, per person, every day. We all worry about reducing fat in our diets. The real danger comes from sugar, not fat. The right fats are vital to good health. They help us digest our food more efficiently, make our hair, skin, and nails healthier, lower LDL cholesterol, and provide essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Sugar does nothing for us. So why do we crave it so much?
Refined sugar can be as addictive as cocaine. On ingestion, your body releases dopamine, which produces a euphoric effect just like drugs. The body builds up a tolerance for sugar, forcing you to eat more and more to feel the same “high.” Karly Randolph Pitman, author of Overcoming Sugar Addiction, has some great tips for breaking the habit. Consider yourself in detox because your body will be screaming at you constantly for its sugar fix.
Fight the temptation to rely on artificial sweeteners. You should be reducing or eliminating sugar because it’s toxic, not because of the calories. Artificial sweeteners (including stevia) actually increase your craving for sugar. The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio conducted a study which found that obesity risk increased a whopping 41% for each daily can of diet soda consumed. Exercise also helps clear all that poison out of your cells. The first week is the hardest. With every day that goes by without sugar, the easier it gets. Your body will be SO thankful!