You add it to your morning cup of coffee or tea. You bake it into pastries, cakes, and cookies. You even sprinkle it all over your breakfast cereal or your oatmeal.
But that’s not all. It’s also hidden in many of our favorite “treats” that people consume on a daily basis, such as sodas, fruit juices, candies, ice cream, almost all processed foods, and even condiments like ketchup.
But how exactly does sugar work in our body, how much sugar is acceptable and what are the side effects of eating too much sugar on people’s health?
Today, an average American consumes about 32 teaspoons (126 grams) of sugar per day or 134 pounds per year, based on the latest research released in February 2015.
What’s even more disturbing is that people are consuming excessive sugar in the form of fructose or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This highly processed form of sugar is cheaper yet 20 percent sweeter than regular table sugar, which is why many food and beverage manufacturers decided to use it for their products, as it would allow them to save money in the long run.
The bad news is that the human body is not made to consume excessive amounts of sugar, especially in the form of fructose. In fact, your body metabolizes fructose differently than sugar. Fructose is actually a hepatotoxin (toxic to the liver) and is metabolized directly into fat – factors that can cause a whole host of problems that can have far-reaching effects on your health.
Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology in the University of California and a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism, says that your body can safely metabolize at least six teaspoons of added sugar per day. But since most Americans are consuming over three times that amount, the majority of the excess sugar becomes metabolized into body fat – leading to all the debilitating chronic metabolic diseases many people are struggling with.
Here are some of the effects that consuming too much sugar has on your health:
One of the most severe effects of eating too much sugar is its potential to wreak havoc on your liver, leading to a condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Yes, the same disease that you can get from excessive alcohol intake can also be caused by excessive sugar (fructose) intake. Dr. Lustig explained the three similarities between alcohol and fructose:
But if you think that’s the only way eating too much sugar wreaks havoc on your body, you’re dead wrong. Research from some of America’s most respected institutions now confirms that sugar is a primary dietary factor that drives obesity and chronic disease development.
One study found that fructose is readily used by cancer cells to increase their proliferation – it “feeds” the cancer cells, promoting cell division and speeding their growth, which allow the cancer to spread faster.
Alzheimer’s disease is another deadly illness that can arise from too much sugar consumption. A growing body of research found a powerful connection between a high-fructose diet and your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, through the same pathway that causes type 2 diabetes. According to some experts, Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders may be caused by the constant burning of glucose for fuel by your brain.
Other diseases that are linked to metabolic syndrome and may potentially arise because of too much sugar consumption include:
Sugar, in its natural form, is not inherently bad, as long as it’s consumed in moderation. This means avoiding all sources of fructose, particularly processed foods and beverages like soda. According to SugarScience.org, 74 percent of processed foods contain added sugar stealthily hidden under more than 60 different names. Ideally, you should spend 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent or less on processed foods.
I also advise you to severely limit your consumption of refined carbohydrates (waffles, cereals, bagels, etc.) and grains, as they actually break down to sugar in your body, which increases your insulin levels and causes insulin resistance.
As a general recommendation, I advise you to keep your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day, including that from whole fruit. Keep in mind that although fruits are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, they also naturally contain fructose, and if consumed in high amounts may actually worsen your insulin sensitivity and raise your uric acid levels.
Remember that artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose are also a no-no, as they actually come with a whole new set of health problems that are much worse than what sugar or corn syrup can bring.
We continue to see emerging evidence in the literature (research) that obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes are driving factors not only for chronic conditions like Peripheral Neuropathy, but also for a slew of other chronic diseases, including cancer. It’s important to realize that you don’t have to give up sugar completely but you must reduce it substantially in your diet. Research has shown that no one should be consuming more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, and this includes fruit sugar, as well.
In order to get healthy and fight off chronic illness, here are some additional dietary tips to remember:
Sugar is highly addictive and affects depency centers in the brain but it can also have an emotional component, as well. In order to squelch sugar cravings, it’s important to detox. Here at our clinic we utilize a 21 day Jump Start program. This is a great program for detoxing your body from unwanted chemicals and sugar addiction and for decreasing inflammation.
The temptation to eat or indulge in sugary foods will always be there, especially with the abundance of processed foods and fast foods everywhere. However, most sugar cravings arise because of an emotional challenge. If this is what causes you to crave sugar, the best solution I could recommend is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This technique is a simple and effective strategy to help control your emotional food cravings.
For more information, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
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