There is a superabundance of information available today regarding sugar consumption and the effect it has on
the body. Most of this recirculated information comes from understandings the medical community discovered
years ago and then developed standards and dietary recommendations based on those findings. Generally, their
focus is on food made with added sugars; eg. processed foods like soft drinks, desserts, dairy products like
yogurt and ice cream.
Based on this general consensus, the American Heart Association puts a daily cap of added sugar consumption
in the average of 30 grams per day. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) concurs and has placed
the added sugar category at the small tip of the food pyramid with the advice to “use sparingly”. Most would
agree that this seems reasonable, as we have surely heard the words “empty calories” thrown around, which
simply means that a lot of food or drink with added sugar contains little nutritional value but packs a lot
of calories. These types of foods were only meant to be occasional treats.
However, likely due to the surgence of a noticeable national obesity problem and along with that a plethora of
health problems like Type 2 diabetes and heart problems, a new view on sugar began just a couple of decades
ago right about the time Dr. Robert Atkins became a household name with his low carb diet advice, and many
more have jumped on the low sugar bandwagon since then. But there is a new line of thinking with these diet
revolutionaries; they’re not just repeating the same old “added sugar is bad for you” mantra, they’re arguing
that ALL sugar – natural like those found in fruits and vegetables, starches (carbohydrates), as well as
refined sugar – should be severely limited.
The reasoning behind this new outlook is that our bodies process all sugars the same, whether it is from
sucrose (refined sugar), glucose (from fruits and vegetables), lactose (natural sugar from milk products),
and starches (from carbohydrates). When consumed, all of these sugars are broken down into glucose in your
bloodstream to be used for energy. Energy that you do not need at the time gets stored as fat.
Let’s repeat that. Energy that you do not need at the time gets stored as fat. This is important to
understand, because it is what leads to obesity and Type 2 diabetes. When you eat sugar from any source,
natural or refined, while in your bloodstream that sugar converts into glucose. Your pancreas then produces
the hormone insulin which either moves that glucose into your cells to create energy, or moves it to your fat
cells to store for later. This is your body’s natural metabolizing process, and it is designed to work with
moderate food consumption. When you overburden your system with too much sugar, your pancreas works overtime
releasing more insulin than normal because it is always detecting an overabundance of glucose in your
bloodstream. This overproduction of insulin leads to something called “insulin resistance”, and eventually
your cells become resistant to insulin. In other words, the insulin you produce becomes less effective and
doesn’t allow the glucose into your cells to create energy (metabolize), but it does still move any excess
glucose to fat cells. It is easy to see how someone eating too much sugar who is developing insulin
resistance would gain weight (especially “visceral” fat, around the middle), and begin to lose energy.
Insulin resistance is the first step to developing Type 2 Diabetes. Left untreated, the cells in the pancreas
become weary from producing so much excess insulin that they cease production. So now you have glucose
streaming through your blood and not enough insulin hormone to do anything about it. This leads to a variety
of problems from hormone imbalances to atherosclerosis and heart disease among others. Symptoms of high blood
sugar can affect your vision, make you feel thirsty and actually lead to dehydration, drowsy, feeling flushed
and hot, and pretty crappy all the way around. Doctors can treat this through medication such as Metformin which helps to lower the glucose levels in your blood, or in severe cases insulin injections may be needed.
The good news is that insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes can be reversed in many cases, and sometimes by
just change in diet alone. This is where the medical factions discern, but we will break this down in another