Although sugar is indispensable for maintenance and structural support, recent studies have revealed that it is highly pervasive, and is capable of eliciting poisonous effects on our health.
Generally, sugars are polyhydroxy aldehydes/ketones belonging to glycans/ groups. They occur naturally in all foods, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, and dairy. Their main role is to provide energy currency – ATP to the body. However, the body digests these foods slowly, thus supplying only a steady amount of energy. As a result of the energy demand of humans, sugar gained a worthy position as an essential macronutrient and got endorsed by health authorities to be added to processed foods. Added sugars such as those used during processing and cooking are considered ‘bad’ while those found naturally are referred to as ‘good’ sugars.
The actual problem is the ever-increasing consumption of ‘bad sugar’. There was a study in America that shows that an average American consumed up to 66 pounds of added sugar each year. Sugar has a subtle way of tricking the body into turning off its appetite-control system, hence leading to excessive consumption. Food manufacturers exploit this sugar addiction by producing even more sugar-laden foods such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cakes, and most processed foods. According to the National Cancer Institute, adult men take in an average of 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day. That is equivalent to a whopping 384 calories! Who will take the blame here – sugar, food manufacturers, or the consumers?
The Dose Makes the Poison
Sugar becomes a poison when consumed excessively, the same way too much of anything is bad. Here is how excessive sugar becomes a poison:
Complex sugar is broken down into two simple sugars called glucose and fructose in the digestive tract. The body produces glucose and not fructose naturally since there is no physiological need for it. Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver, which is usually not a problem if it is eaten in moderate amounts. It will be turned into glycogen and stored in the liver until it is needed. However, if the liver is overloaded with glycogen, then consuming more fructose will turn it into fat. This kind of fat is undoubtedly detrimental to health.
The Poisonous Impacts of Sugar
1. Cardiovascular Diseases
Sugar is considered poisonous because it can result in death. A study in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal revealed that people who got 17% to 21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared with those who consumed 8% of their calories as added sugar. The higher the intake of added sugar, the higher the risk for heart disease.
When sugar is consumed in large amounts, the liver cells become laden with triglycerides fats. Insulin stops working as it should as the body cells become resistant to it. This insulin resistance leads to a number of metabolic disorders and ultimately type II Diabetes. Also, excess sugar consumption leads to weight gain (obesity), which is a risk factor for Diabetes. People who regularly drink sugar-sweetened beverages have up to an 83% higher risk of developing Type II diabetes.
3. Risk Factor for Cancer Development
There have been increasing shreds of evidence pointing to links between sugar consumption and an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.
4. Intestinal Imbalance
Sugar can trigger inflammation and can increase intestinal permeability because sugar feeds on yeast and bad bacteria. This leads to digestive imbalances and disturbances in the microbiome (gut health) and has been linked to leaky gut syndrome. A compromised gut is surely a danger to the immune system.
Curbing the Poison
A trusted way of curbing the poison so it can go easy on us all is cutting it back!
• Ditch the Diet Coke. About half of the added sugar comes from beverages and soft drinks. Science revealed that 60% of the calories in beverages come from added sugar. Replace soda with clean water. You will survive without that coke, I promise.
• Be wary of processed foods. Sugar assumes different appellations in foods, such as brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, malt sugar,, syrup sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose). Look for any of these names in your packaged food labels. Avoid them or cut back on the amount or frequency of such foods.
• Eat fiber. Eating an adequate amount of fiber every day can help your body’s metabolism combat the effects of sugar.
• Stay active. Exercise has a good way of slowing down the absorption of sugar.
Sugar is a bittersweet poison. Beware. The effects of this poison can surely be remedied through knowledge, awareness, making small dietary changes, and eliminating sugar from our diets as much as possible. Remember that prevention is always better than treatment!