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5 Awful truths about sugar and what sugar does to you

By: Zaki Vithen Times Read: 218
5 Awful truths about sugar and what sugar does to you

5 Awful truths about sugar and what sugar does to you

Something happened last night that had me worried. We got a comment on our Twitter account to a post on sugar from a group that are against a proposed sugar tax in the UK to cut sugar consumption as health reasons. This in itself does not worry me of course. Our post was simply on how much sugar there is in soft drinks such as coke and how easily we over consume sugar daily and the effect that sugar has on the brain and learning. It was not a political post and I had in no way proposed a solution to the sugar consumption that unfortunately is getting out of and in many countries around the world - It was the reply that scared me.

First of all, I completely respect people standing up to something that they feel is unfair and work to make things right. It’s was makes free speech in democracy such a great thing.

If we stick to facts I can respect that this group would rather not see the UK pass a sugar tax as they do not wish a "nanny state" as they call it. If their argument was people should make their own choices but should instead be educated in the risks of sugar I can respect it as it does not seek to hide or distort the truth as they unfortunately did in their reply to our post.

When it comes to sugar and the business we can draw some unfortunate similarities to the tobacco industry but that thought for another post.

This blog post is about the fact that on average we over consume sugar, the risks it has to our brain and our health. All from credible studies.

1. Effects of Sugar on your Brain and Learning

When people consume a lot of sugar and then attempt challenging tasks, like math problems, the brain’s hypothalamus allows the body to release a lot of cortisol. Known as the stress hormone, this substance impedes memory. When children’s bodies are flooded with cortisol at school, they struggle to pay attention to their lessons and find it difficult to sit quietly. When their attention is elsewhere, they find it difficult to retain information they’re taught.

In the short term, sugar consumption will only impair memory temporarily. If children reduce their consumption, they should find that they can reach their actual academic potential. However, studies suggest that overindulging in sugar early may have a long-lasting effect.

Researchers from the University of Southern California fed adult and adolescent rats beverages with sugar levels comparable to that found in ordinary sodas. After a month, the adults showed normal brain function. However, the adolescent rats showed reduced memory and learning capacity. In addition to declined memory levels, these rats also had inflamed hippocampi. This part of the brain is crucial for forming memories and organizing and storing memories.

If sugar can impact young rats in this way, what’s it doing to yourself or your child?

2. Sugar effects your health

A sugar-laden diet may raise your risk of dying of heart disease even if you aren’t overweight. This is according to a major study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Added sugars make up at least 10% of the calories the average American eats in a day, but about one in 10 people get a whopping one-quarter or more of their calories from added sugar.

Over the course of the 15-year study on added sugar and heart disease, participants who took in 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets included less than 10% added sugar. Overall, the odds of dying from heart disease rose in tandem with the percentage of sugar in the diet—and that was true regardless of a person’s age, sex, physical activity level, and body-mass index (a measure of weight).

When fructose get turned into fat in the liver, it is shipped out as VLDL cholesterol particles. However, not all of the fat gets out, some of it can lodge in the liver. This can lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), a growing problem in Western countries that is strongly associated with metabolic diseases.

Insulin is a very important hormone in the body. It allows glucose (blood sugar) to enter cells from the bloodstream and tells the cells to start burning glucose instead of fat. Having too much glucose in the blood is highly toxic and one of the reasons for complications of diabetes, like blindness. One feature of the metabolic dysfunction that is caused by the Western diet, is that insulin stops working as it should. The cells become “resistant” to it. This is also known as insulin resistance, which is believed to be a leading driver of many diseases… including metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease and especially type II diabetes. Many studies show that sugar consumption is associated with insulin resistance, especially when it is consumed in large amounts.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and is characterized by uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells. Insulin is one of the key hormones in regulating this sort of growth. For this reason, many scientists believe that having constantly elevated insulin levels (a consequence of sugar consumption) can contribute to cancer. In addition, the metabolic problems associated with sugar consumption are a known driver of inflammation, another potential cause of cancer. Multiple studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar are at a much higher risk of getting cancer.

Sugar also effects skin health and increases symptoms such as acne and oily skin.

3. Sugar and obesity

There are two ways that sugar can sabotage your body and cause fat storage. Excess glucose is the first problem, and it involves a very simple concept. Anytime you have filled your body with more fuel than it actually needs (and this is very easy to do when eating foods with high sugar content), your liver’s sugar storage capacity is exceeded. When the liver is maximally full, the excess sugar is converted by the liver into fatty acids (that’s right – fat!) and returned to the bloodstream, where is taken throughout your body and stored (that’s right – as fat!) wherever you tend to store adipose fat cells, including, but not limited to, the popular regions of the stomach, hips, butt, and breasts.

As an unfortunate bonus, once these regions are full of adipose tissue, the fatty acids begin to spill over into your organs, like the heart, liver, and kidneys. This reduces organ ability, raises blood pressure, decreases metabolism, and weakens the immune system.

Excess insulin is the second problem. Insulin is a major hormone in the body, and is released in high levels anytime you ingest what would be considered a “simple” carbohydrate. Two actions occur when the insulin levels are spiked. First, the body’s fat burning process is shut down so that the sugar that has just been ingested can be immediately used for energy. Then, insulin takes all that sugar and puts it into your muscles. Well, not quite! Actually, most of us, except those random Iron man triathletes and 8000- calories-per-day exercisers, walk around with fairly full energy stores in the muscles. As soon as the muscles energy stores are full, the excess sugars are converted to fat and, just like the fatty acids released from the liver, stored as adipose tissue on our waistline.

After the blood sugar has been reduced by going into the muscles or being converted to fat in the liver, the feedback mechanism that tells the body to stop producing insulin is slightly delayed, so blood sugar levels fall even lower, below normal measurements. This causes an immediate increase in appetite, which is usually remedied by eating more food and the production of a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol triggers the release of stored sugar from the liver to bring blood sugar levels back up, which, combined with the meal you eat from your appetite increase, begins the entire “fat storage, metabolic decrease” process over again.

4. Sugar effects your brain like cocaine

Researchers believe that sweet receptors in the human brain evolved at a time when our diets didn’t contain all that much sugar. When we picked berries and fruits along to supplement the daily catch. They have yet to adapt to our modern levels of sugar consumption. As a result, those receptors get overloaded by the sugars we consume and make the brain release abnormal amounts of release of dopamine and endorphin's – happy chemicals.

You may have noticed this yourself in kids that have consumed snacks and drink high in sugar. Kids get almost hyper until they drop and get cranky, tired and may even cry a lot. Same goes with adults. We have sugar highs and sugar lows. Our brain makes us feel good while consuming sugars and crave when we don’t. In fact, consuming sugar shows up in the same area as when people take cocaine.

Research published in the Public Library of Science highlights a strange lab rat experiment involving sugar and cocaine. The rats were given cocaine until they became dependent on it. Then, researchers provided them a choice – the rats could continue to have the cocaine or they could switch to sugar. 94% of the rats chose to make the switch. Even when they had to work hard to access the sugar, the rats were more interested in it than they were in the cocaine.

The food industry however are very smart. They know that’s how the brain works and so they cram their products to the brim with refined sugar for the sake of profit. They started in the 70’s to add sugar in foods. In the 80’s and 90’s when we got scared of fats they took out the fats and added sugar as without fat food tastes blend. Fat makes you full but adding sugar can make you eat that bit more increasing sales.

5. 80% of foods and drinks you find in US supermarkets have added sugar

Much of this sugar is hidden in foods that you purchase at your local supermarket. Sugar is the driving force behind the trillions of dollars that North American food manufacturers generate annually. They couldn’t do it without their “sweet” and addicting friend.

The food industry is sneaky, very sneaky. Don’t see sugar listed as an ingredient on the label. Well, the food manufacturers have it covered — sugar actually has over 50 different names, meaning the food industry can easily pull one over on us by listing each of these ingredients separately. If ever you needed to be educated about something, this is it.

Most of the sugar you probably consume is without you even knowing it. If you eat packaged, bottled or canned foods with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you cannot pronounce, chances are, you are eating extra sugar.

End Comment

However, the question still remains. The WHO strongly recommend governments take action now and cut sugar intake but how should we do this? Should our governments create taxes to curb the consumption of sugars and become a “nanny state” by doing so as with tobacco or should they educate people on the risks and leave it to them to make up their minds on what to eat and drink? Feel free to leave your comment below. Please do keep it clean and respectful.

In good health,

Zaki Vithen
vipra | natural choices


Read full report from WHO urging countries to tackle sugar consumption by clicking here and will open a new window.

UK Government on sugar reduction and the costs of obesity by clicking here and will open a new window. 

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