The dangers of sugar are alarming. Did you know that it is eight times as addictive as cocaine? The average American consumes 22 teaspoons each day, which is over 150 pounds a year, and some sources state even closer to 180 pounds. What are the hidden dangers of sugar? And how do you kick the habit for good? The answers will surprise you.
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In 1800, the average person consumed the same amount of sugar in one year as we currently eat in one month. This amount of consumption has resulted in nearly 70 percent of Americans becoming overweight. Kids are worse. They consume about 34 teaspoons of sugar a day. Forty percent of our youth are overweight, and one quarter is either diabetic or pre-diabetic.
When I set out to write this article, I had no idea it would be this comprehensive. I thought that I would hit on some important points, give a few pieces of advice, and that’s it. Little did I know how much information is out there which is critical to all of us achieving optimal health. I also thought that I knew more than I did. The information I learned blew me away! This article has a lot of information and it is quite lengthy. I broke it down into easy to swallow bites and kept the scientific lingo as simple as possible. Read it word for word, or skip to the sections that interest you most. I’m glad you are here, and I hope that you take away some key pieces of information to help you become a happier and healthier you!
What is Sugar?
A Huffington Post article called it a drug and poison. A New York Times article called it toxic. But what is sugar and why is it so bad for you?
Sugar (table sugar) is a molecule comprised of 12 atoms of carbon, 22 atoms of hydrogen, and 11 atoms of oxygen (C12H22O11).
Sugar is the result of factory processing which involves bleaching and crystallization. It is actually broken down into two simple sugars – glucose and fructose. Glucose is naturally occurring in our bodies, and every living being uses glucose for energy. Fructose, on the other hand, is not produced (in any significant amount) by humans and is not needed in our diet. When you eat a piece of fruit, the fructose from the fruit will turn into glycogen and be stored in the liver until we need it. But if you eat a large amount of processed sugar, the fructose will overload the liver (your liver is now full of glycogen), and the liver will force the fructose to turn into fat. This fat will go to your stomach, your thighs, and all over your body.
What is Insulin?
Insulin is a very important hormone in the body. Insulin allows for glucose to enter your cells for the cells to burn the glucose instead of fat. If too much glucose is in the blood, it can become toxic, resulting in disease. In a typical Western SAD (Standard American Diet) Diet, due to the overload, insulin does not work properly, and cells become “resistant” to it. When this happens, our pancreas makes more insulin, resulting in chronically elevated blood sugar levels. As insulin resistance becomes worse, the pancreas can’t produce enough to keep your blood sugar levels down. This is how Type II Diabetes happens – when your blood sugar levels skyrocket.
Fructose elevates uric acid. Elevated uric acid decreases nitric oxide and raises angiotensis. This process raises your blood pressure and can damage your kidneys and lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation leads to numerous diseases.
In summary, SUGAR:
- Leads to insulin resistance. Those who are obese and/or diabetic are at greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer.
- Creates havoc with your metabolism. Fructose does not stimulate insulin and leptin, which help you to suppress hunger and make you feel full, which results in eating more and developing more insulin resistance. It’s a never-ending cycle.
- Leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity.
- Contains many calories and ZERO nutrients.
- Is bad for your teeth.
But wait. There’s more!
In addition to the various processes listed above, increased consumption can lead to and/or cause the following diseases:
- Kidney Disease
- Fatty Liver (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease)
- Cardiovascular Disease and Heart Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
The Cancer Connection
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. According to Lewis Cantley, director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, as much as 80 percent of all cancers are “driven by either mutations or environmental factors that work to enhance or mimic the effect of insulin on the incipient tumor cells.”
Studies have shown that people who eat a lot of sugar are at a much higher risk of getting cancer. This consumption drives inflammation and insulin resistance and increases the risk for obesity and diabetes, which combined with other factors, may contribute to cancer. Being overweight may contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, gallbladder cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, multiple myeloma, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer.
In 1931, German cancer researcher Dr. Otto Warburg was given the Nobel Prize for discovering that cancer cells can only thrive in the presence of enough sugar. Despite current research to verify this, it is unknown why current medicine does not embrace this, but with big corporations and big pharma in the pocket of big government, it is not surprising.
Think of this as a great example. When a cancer patient goes in for a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, the patient is injected with a radioactive dye containing dextrose, which is a form of sugar. The cancer cells eat the sugar, and then when the patient is scanned, the cancer cells light up like a Christmas tree. It is plain and simple that sugar is the fuel for cancer cells to thrive.
In 1958, Congress passed the Food Additives Amendment to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act which requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve food additives, including artificial sweeteners, before they can be sold in the United States. Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the FDA. Here are a few you should be aware of.
I’ll get to Aspartame in a minute. But if you have concerns about Aspartame and are excited when you see labels marked “Aspartame Free!” be warned, it is replaced with another lesser known but just as dangerous artificial sweetener called Acesulfame potassium. It’s also known as Acesulfame-K, ACE-K, ACK, Sweet One®, Sunett®, and E950 (in Eurpoe). Look for one of these ingredients in your “aspartame free” product and I bet you will see it!
ACE-K was approved by the FDA in 1988, so it’s been around for quite some time, but it has undergone the least amount of scientific scrutiny. It’s a potassium salt containing methylene chloride, which is a known carcinogen. Reported side effects include nausea, headaches, mood problems, impairment of the liver and kidneys, eyesight problems and possible links to cancer.
Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners – it is about 200 times sweeter than sugar, so much less of it can be used for the same amount of sweetness. It is sold under the brand names NutraSweet® and Equal® and is made by joining together the amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and methanol. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are found naturally in many foods.
The FDA sets regulated amounts for artificial sweeteners, and for aspartame, the maximum amount the average adult should consume on a daily basis is the equivalent of 19 cans of diet soda. Like everything else, the research is mixed with regards to health issues related to aspartame.
The FDA sets regulated amounts for artificial sweeteners, and for aspartame, the maximum amount the average adult should consume on a daily basis is the equivalent of 19 cans of diet soda. Like everything else, the research is mixed with regards to health issues related to aspartame. That being said, aspartame is responsible for 75 percent of complaints to the FDA for food additives. Documented side effects may include vision loss, seizures, brain tumors, cancer, mild rashes, and possible links to fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, lupus, ADHD, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue, and depression.
I would rather drink toilet water than consume aspartame.
Sucralose (marketed under the brand name Splenda) is not actually “made from sugar” as it claims. It is a chlorinated artificial sweetener which is similar to aspartame, and chemically similar to DDT. Sucralose is the best-selling artificial sweetener around the world, sold in products in 90 different countries. A study of sucralose published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental health reveals concerns such as toxicity, DNA damage, and carcinogenic potential. Additional research shows a growing list of health concerns.
Products with Artificial Sweeteners
This is a small sample of some products which contain one or more artificial chemical sweeteners. Please note that ingredient labels may change and you are always encouraged to read your labels before purchasing any product.
All Diet Sodas
Bryers Carb Smart Ice Cream
Children’s Advil Chewable Tablets
Dannon Lite and Fit Yogurt
Heinz Reduced Ketchup
Hershey’s Syrup Lite
Nestle Hot Chocolate
Ricola Cough Drops
Skinny Cow Fudge Bars
Some Crystal Lite Products
Sugar-Free Jello and Pudding
Yoplait Light Yogurt
What’s worse than sugar’s link to cancer? Artificial sweeteners. Remember back in the 1970s when studies on laboratory rats linked saccharin to cancer? Because of this, Congress mandated warning labels, “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.”
Sayer Ji and Dr. Mercola are two of my favorite Health Warriors, and their words are perfection, “FDA approval is NOT a guarantee of safety. – Sayer Ji” and “Avoid ALL artificial sweeteners like the plague. – Dr. Mercola” My thoughts – consume artificial sweeteners at your own risk.
Oh Honey, Honey
While the respected health experts almost unanimously agree that sugar and artificial sweeteners are bad for you, they actually disagree on the health benefits or detriments of more natural sugar alternatives. Yes, sugar alternatives contain high amounts of fructose, but many also contain important nutrients. It’s impossible to think that any of us can live in a world completely devoid of sugar, so here we will explore some of the “healthier” alternatives, along with what to watch out for.
While agave is marketed as “natural,” it is actually processed and 80-90 percent fructose. The health experts pin agave at either the top of the healthy alternative list or the bottom of the bad for you list. For me personally, I chose not to consume agave.
Honey is my family’s number one go-to sugar alternative. It is recommended to purchase organic and raw (and ideally local) honey. The bad news about honey is that it’s around 50 percent fructose; the good news is that it is full of antioxidants.
Maple syrup is our number two sugar alternative. It contains riboflavin, a small amount of calcium and zinc, and 24 different antioxidants. Try and look for pure organic syrup, and grade B is actually better than grade A.
Molasses is what’s left over during the process of refining of sugar cane into white sugar. Molasses provides a significant amount of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6. Blackstrap molasses is even better. Blackstrap molasses contains essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin B6, calcium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium. Molasses may help to relieve PMS symptoms, stabilize blood sugar levels, improve bone health, treat symptoms of ADHD and boost skin health. Research has shown that children with ADHD are also deficient in zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron, which help to support brain function, and makes blackstrap molassas a great alternative to refined sugar.
Up until writing this article, I had never even heard of monk fruit. But after researching it, this is the next sugar alternative that we will be trying. It comes in a sugar-like substance. Monk fruit has antioxidants and blood-sugar balancing benefits. It’s 300-400 times the sweetness of cane sugar, but without the calories and no effect on blood sugar.
Stevia is a no-calorie, all-natural sweetener that comes from the leaf of a flowering plant.
In 1991, the FDA labeled stevia as an “unsafe food additive,” allowing stevia products to only be sold as dietary supplements rather than sweeteners. However, studies show that stevia offers anti-inflammatory and immune boosting health benefits.
Stevia may taste bitter the first time you try it. The flip side is the overly sweet taste for others. There are many people who prefer stevia drops compared to the powder form, but less is always more when using stevia. Always purchase 100% pure and organic stevia. Be sure your labels do NOT include dextrose, lactose, maltodextrin, GMOs or any other chemical agents.
After researching for this article, I purchased stevia for the first time. For me personally, the jury is still out, but I’m giving it a chance.
Please note – stevia may cause an allergic reaction. If you’re allergic to any plant from the Asteraceae family such as daisies, ragweed, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers, DO NOT use stevia.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol or polyol. Sugar alcohols are not as sweet as sugar and contain fewer calories. Research has shown that xylitol can optimize blood glucose, glucose tolerance, and insulin levels.
Sugar alcohols come with their own down-sides such as bloating, gas and diarrhea, but the “side effects” from consuming pure xylitol is minimal.
How to Beat the Addiction for Good
Always consult with a health professional prior to any nutrition changes. Any information on this website is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.
The consumption of sugar releases dopamine in the reward center of your brain. When you consume sugary junk food, your brain releases massive amounts of dopamine, which can perpetuate the addiction.
Allow me to be your least favorite person today. If this is you, and you know you are addicted, moderation is probably not going to work for you. Just a little bit turns into a little bit more. Special occasions turn into daily treats. The only way to kick the addiction for good is to stop. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not after your birthday. Not after the holidays. Now. Today. Right now.
It is recommended that you keep fructose consumption below 25 grams a day, and this is from ALL sources. If it comes in a bag, box, or can, avoid it. Eliminate fruit juices, sodas (including diet), and all processed foods. Typically, if it comes from the ground, a tree or plant, or is naturally grown in nature, you are fine to consume it.
Would an alcoholic be ok with “just one drink?” Would a drug addict be ok with “just one line”? If you have tried to quit sugar before and failed, it is because moderation is NOT your friend. You have to want to make a commitment to yourself and your health. If you don’t commit, and you don’t make that mental change, you are going to end up right back where you were. I know this is easier said than done. Trust me, I get it. It’s a simple process but will probably be one of the most difficult challenges you will face. But there is no magic pill or piece of advice to help you through it. It’s a lifestyle you need to be committed to and just do it. Plain and simple.
Ideally, it will take close to a month for your body to normalize, but the sugar cravings should greatly reduce by about the tenth day.
Tips to Help
Eat good fats and lots of protein to balance your blood sugar and insulin. Protein shakes, avocados, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and organic eggs and animal meat and wild caught salmon (if you are not vegan) will give you the sensation of satiety.
For the processed foods that you do end up purchasing, be sure to carefully read the labels for sugar content and artificial sweeteners.
Use the all-natural alternatives in moderation as you make the transition, and then minimize those as well.
Always be prepared. Never leave home without a snack. Never put yourself in a situation where you aren’t in control of your food. I stash extra food at work and in my purse.
Get plenty of sleep. When you are “hangry”, you will grab the first thing you see and eat it without even thinking.
Get plenty of exercise. When your body feels good, it will crave healthy, nutritious foods.
Keep a journal and write down your thoughts before reaching for that treat.
Side Effects From Your Sugar Detox
Eliminating sugar from your diet will cause you to feel worse before you feel better, especially if you are a sugaraholic. Commonly known as a Herxheimer Reaction, your body will react to this kind of detox. You may feel tired, have headaches, and even flu-like symptoms for ten days or up to two weeks. When I detoxed, I actually had candida and ended up with a yeast rash all over my body as it purged itself. Not pretty at all. But I felt a million times better on the other side, and have never looked back.
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