One of the major culprits behind the increase in health problems troubling Americans today is sugar. Certainly, there’s ample scientific evidence that sugar contributes to, or may even be the main cause of, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. But sugar also adds to the risk of obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis, hypertension, irritable bowel, gallstones, tooth decay, gum disease, premature wrinkling, chronic fatigue, mood swings and depression…just to name a few!
Refined or “added” sugar, which I wrote about last week, has virtually no nutritional value. It’s devoid of minerals, vitamins, fats, fiber, proteins or enzymes…added sugar is just empty calories. When we consume these refined carbohydrates, our bodies must still metabolize or process them, just like it does other foods we eat. Because there’s no nutritional value to sugar, in order to burn it off or metabolize it, our bodies must tap into our reservoirs of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
When we consume more sugar than our bodies have reserves to handle, an over-acid condition results from the build-up of these residues and our blood becomes toxic, thick and sticky. In addition, wastes accumulate in our brain and nervous system and cells begin to die rapidly, leaving our immune system compromised and ripe for bacteria to take hold. Over time, if this imbalance is not corrected, chronic disease will ensue, leaving our entire bodies challenged, possibly permanently.
Think of the human body like you think of your car. Would you put jet fuel into the gas tank of your car and expect it to run properly and last? Of course not! Cars are not made to run on the super-high octane fuel that jets require. Very quickly, your car’s engine would burn up running on jet fuel. Our bodies work the same way. When we eat sugar-laden foods, our bodies ZOOM into overdrive. Unlike the slow and steady rise in our blood sugar when our body’s digestive system metabolizes low-glycemic foods like an apple, for instance, sugar (the fuel) enters our systems instantaneously. This stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin to drop blood-sugar levels. These rapid fluctuations of blood-sugar levels are not healthy because of the stress they place on the body. Chronic stress leads to inflammation. Inflammation leads to disease. Disease often causes premature death.
Okay, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Let’s get back to insulin. When insulin levels rise in an effort to get blood sugar back in balance, there’s a lot more going on in the body. A rise in insulin causes a drop in levels of growth hormone, which in turn suppresses the immune system, which in turn increases risk for disease. Insulin also triggers the body to store fat, which, over time causes weight gain. Triglycerides (fatty substances created by the liver when fructose is metabolized) and bad cholesterol (LDL) levels climb, adding to the risk of heart disease.
And that thick, sticky blood I mentioned earlier? Think of that traveling through your veins, trudging along to deliver oxygen to your cells. Like water carrying debris through a pipe, if the pipe is also narrowed by gunk built up over time, it doesn’t take much to completely stop the flow of the water! However, a clog in a major artery or vein can be fatal.
Consuming too much sugar also causes an increase in tryptophan, an essential amino acid, followed by an increase in serotonin and then melatonin, which promote sleep. Thus, causing a feeling of physical fatigue, drowsiness or clouded mental faculties.
By now, you can see the human body is a single, complex and extremely integrated machine. Though it is also an amazingly durable, forgiving and resilient one, it is not invincible. If we don’t want to dramatically shorten our lives or cause significant hardship to ourselves and loved ones from the consequences of chronic illness, it’s imperative we change our eating habits and reduce our sugar intake.