Diabetes is on the rise in this country, but there is another disease that is affecting out children, as well as, adults: Metabolic Syndrome/ Insulin Resistance. These Syndromes and diseases are all due to one culprit, sugar. Yet I have found that the American culture does not understand sugar. They think it comes from just cakes, or pastries, or little sweet things. They do not realize the good fruits and vegetables they eat are sugar based, as well. Over consumption of any of these foods, good or bad, can cause detrimental effects. The purpose of this blog is to teach you about the different sugars, where they come from, how the body processes them, and what they can do to our system.
Let’s first began with sugar and our intake.
The average female should only consume 25g or 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. The average male should only consume 35g or 9 teaspoons a day. The Average American consumes 124g or 31 teaspoons of sugar a day. Typically, I do this presentation with children and I like to take a bag of sugar and fill up a skinny jar with this amount of each to show a concrete visual image. Then I show them what their sugar consumption should be:
When I ask children where they consume all this sugar, usually it’s a sweet dessert and soda, but they don’t recognize the hidden sugars in food. I like to give some average diets that I have seen in the community.
I have seen a 4-5 year old consume this at an event:
8 oz Grape Powerade and 1 oz bag of Lays potato chips (roughly 15 chips)
That does not seem so bad. I am sure someone out there has said they give that to their child in the car. So, I want to breakdown the food label for you and explain how sugar is hidden in your everyday diet.
8oz Grape Powerade: has 14g of sugar = 3.5 tsp
1oz bas Lays potato chips has 1g of sugar & 15g of carbs which is = to 3 tsp sugar
Powerade + Small bag of chips = 6.5 tsp of sugar or 26 grams. The recommended DAILY amount for a child of this age is 3tsps or 12 grams. This one small “snack” is two days’ worth of sugar. This does not even include what you feed them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Now can you see why 50% of children in America are Diabetic, prediabetic, or in an Insulin Resistant state?
Two more examples are for Preteens and Teens consumption.
Starbucks iced latte 16oz = 11g of sugar/2.75tsp
Blueberry muffin = 30g sugar/7.5 tsp
Total: 41g sugar/10.25 tsp
A teen is only supposed to have for the DAY: 20g sugar/ 5 tsp. This one morning meal has completed two days’ worth of sugar if not even a little more.
1 slice cheese pizza = 26g carbs totaling to 6.5tsp of sugar
Can of coke 12 oz = 39g sugar/ 9.75 tsp
Total for lunch = 65g of sugar/ 16.25 tsp of sugar
Breakfast + Lunch = 26.5 tsp of sugar or 106 grams.
This teens breakfast and lunch together total 106 grams of sugar and the DAILY AVERAGE should be 20 grams. This is 5 times the amount they should have and this is just two meals. Where is this sugar going to go in the body?
Let me explain the different types of sugar and how it is used by the body first.
Different Types of Sugar:
There are three main classifications of sugar:
- Monosaccharide’s: simple chain and can easily breakdown in the body
- Galactose: Part of milk
- Disaccharides: two chains that breaks down easily but still needs energy
- Sucrose: carrots, cane, beets
- Maltose: grains
- Lactose: milk
- Polysaccharides: many chains and takes more energy by the body to breakdown.
- Cellulose: Vegetables
Let us start out with the sugars that breakdown quickly and convert to energy for the body immediately. These sugars cause the most damage to the body when over consumed. These are your Monosaccharides and some Disaccharides consumed in large quantities. I will bring up the two most common seen in packaged and processed foods, which give taste and help preserve.
Fructose comes mainly from fruit. It turns into glycogen and is stored in the liver till we need it for energy. If we don’t use it for energy it turns into FAT. Fructose either stays in the liver and can result into “FATTY LIVER” or it can stay in the bloodstream leading to VLDL Cholesterol. Fructose can prevent the brain from having a FULL FEELING, in the end, leading to sugar addiction.
Glucose is naturally occurring sugar in the body. It is needed for the body to have energy. It is found in almost all living organisms. It is mainly derived from fruit and plant juice. It affects the “insulin affect” in the body. Too much glucose in the bloodstream is toxic. The purpose of glucose is to provide energy for the cells, to do this, the pancreas produces insulin, which in turns tells glucose to the leave the bloodstream and enter the cells for energy. The brain is one of the major organs that relies on glucose for energy and food.
Too much sugar will cause INSULIN RESISTANCE (here the insulin receptors will shut off). Too much sugar will lead to:
- Metabolic diseases
- Toxic Syndrome
Galactose is what we call a brain sugar. It comes from dairy, sugar beets, gums, and mucilage’s. It is a sugar that has nutrition needed for energy in the body. It has a lactose and glucose component and therefore must be processed by the liver first to convert its energy. This is the sugar that you will find in yogurts and beets. Though these have a high sugar content, it is because of this monosaccharide sugar, yet this sugar has food energy meaning it is used by the body for processes such as making human breast milk and converting to glycolipids and glycoproteins. For this reason, we do not consider this as an unhealthy sugar even though it is found in the monosaccharide section of our chart.
How can these sugars lead to INSULIN RESISTANCE and METABOLIC SYNDROME?
First, let’s talk about Insulin. Where is it found and what is its job? The pancreas produces insulin. Remember, the pancreas is a unique organ in the human body. Not only is it an organ for vital uses and function for overall body, but it is also an endocrine gland, therefore it affects your hormones in the body as well. We really want to protect our pancreas and treat it with loving care, because it controls our overall body function and hormone function. For this article we are going to focus on the pancreas as an organ but I want you to keep in mind its job as a hormone manipulator, therefore you will learn why Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome leads to hormonal diseases such as PCOS, endometriosis, and estrogen dominance.
Insulin tells the cells too use this sugar you just consumed, for energy. When you eat food, the body immediately converts the sugar and sends it to the pancreas, the pancreas then decides if it needs to be converted or stored in the liver or sent out into the blood for use of the cells as a form of energy. When it decides to send it to the cells, it begins to produce a hormone called Insulin. Insulin is like a bus that travels in your bloodstream, picks up your sugar, and then drops it off at the cells that needs energy.
How do we get INSULIN RESISTANCE? If we consume too much sugar, more than the body is designed to handle then the pancreas will shut down, insulin will stop being produced, and the cells never get the energy from the sugar, it only floats around in our blood system trying to find a new home in organs, fat, vascular walls and leads to a severe inflammatory condition.
What patients don’t understand is you can be tested for Diabetes and it comes out negative, but you can still be Insulin Resistant. Diabetes is the product of Insulin Resistance. Many of the diseases, cancers, strokes, hormonal disorders, autoimmune disorders are all due to Insulin Resistance taking place in the body. We have been brainwashed to associate sugar with Diabetes and not all these other conditions. This is why new vocabulary is coming out in todays medicine with the terminology of: “INSULIN RESISTANCE” AND “METABOLIC SYNDROME”. This is what is happening to everyday American men, women, and worst of all, CHILDREN. Look at your child’s diet and see how this affects their hormones, behavior, learning, and chronic illnesses (sinus infections, strep, acne, coughs, allergies, visual problem, etc….) and all this stems from the overconsumption of these sugars.
Lets now talk about how it causes these illnesses and disorders in detail.
Sugar and Inflammation:
When sugar increases, sugar moves into the bloodstream. The pancreas picks it up and insulin is now produced. The insulins job is to pick up the sugar and bring it to the cells for energy, again think of a bus picking up passengers and dropping them off at a location. Yet there are too many passengers and not enough space on the bus. So, this sugar/passengers waits in the bloodstream to be picked up, yet no one ever comes. Now this is not normal for sugar to loiter around, so they began to travel on their own looking for a place to stay. This rouge sugar begins to deposit in organ tissue, muscle tissue, and brain. Now there is a protective chemical call Cytokines that begin to be produced.
Cytokines are white blood cells called to attack a foreign object. Cytokine is Inflammation. They travel through the bloodstream attacking sugar deposits in organ tissues, muscles, brain, and blood. The cytokines are trying to clean up the area and move these unwanted chemicals from the body. The more you have unwanted chemicals and foreign objects the more cytokines are produced, the more inflammation increases in the body, leading to inflammatory disorders and autoimmune disorders.
If the sugar continues to accumulate and the WBC (cytokines cannot attack all the sugar, then the sugar begins to clump and stick to the lining of the blood vessels. Here is where the vessel wall becomes damaged with scratches and cuts in the lining. Cholesterol is a repairing molecule. It is designed to repair damaged tissues, at this point the blood vessel wall is being damaged by the sugar molecules and cholesterol will begin to be produced to “duct tape” or repair this damages wall. Yet more sugar keeps coming along and cholesterol continues to release to produce this layer of “duct tape” repair, leading to plaquing of the arterial walls from LDL.
Now we have an increase of inflammation in the body, and increase of plaquing in our arteries, the blood system is inundated with sugar so other nutrients cannot be absorbed and we begin to see a decline in our natural immune system leading to chronic illnesses, sickness, sinus infections, allergies, ear infections, skin conditions, bronchitis, pneumonia, strep, etc….
Because 70% of our immune system is in our digestive system, we require the proper nutrients to help support this digestive system. When we consume too much sugar it weakens this system. Thirty minutes after digestion of sugars it decreases our white blood cell production by 40%. Remember, white blood cells are what kills the bad guys and foreign objects in the body. A particular white blood cell called neutrophil (which eats bad bacteria) are weakened for up to 5 hours after consumption of this sugar. When this happens, it can stimulate yeast production and growth in the digestive system, which reduces vitamin and mineral absorption, therefore starving our body of the nutrients it needs to survive and furthering weakening our immune system.
It is amazing how the overconsumption of sugars/saccharides affect our whole body, yet we want to contribute it to obesity only. But let me explain to you why being obese or fat is not beautiful. I never want to critique someone’s body shape, but body shape and being overweight are two different things. When we consume too many saccharides (sugar), if it can’t go into a cell then it will go into fat cells to be stored for later use. Yet these cells are designed to hold only so much energy. If this glucose that is being stored is too much or has been there too long, it begins to produce ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species). This is where inflammation begins. Cytokines increases inside this fat tissue, low levels of chronic inflammation start, and chronic levels of inflammation effects Insulin. Now sugar and obesity becomes a vicious cycle. Therefore, keeping our body weight at a normal BMI is important. This excess fat we store also stores hormones and toxins we are exposed to, leading to an increase of ROS. If we can reduce the storage vessels for these dangerous chemicals, we can increase our overall health and reduce our syndromes and diseases. So, be aware of your consumption of sugar and work to get this excess fat off your belly and thighs and arms, so we can reduce the inflammation in the body.
Where do we begin?
I realized when I talk to my patients about sugar and saccharides, they really want to have a list of foods that they can or cannot eat. That is too big of a list and you don’t want to carry that around in the grocery store, therefore I devised a cheat sheet process. If it is white avoid or consume small amounts. So, lets think of things that are white:
Bread, rice, potatoes, popcorn, pasta, crackers, white American cheese, white chocolate.
Yet, cauliflower is white, it that bad? So, this is a second part that I add to the cheat sheet.
If the product dissolves easily in water, it is a simple carb and has a higher sugar count.
Pour water on a piece of white bread or popcorn and watch it breakdown quickly, pour water on cauliflower and see how it just sits there. If it breaks down immediately, this is a simple sugar and that is exactly what happens in your body, so it circulates your blood much quicker. OK, now this theory does need to be put to the test with Disaccharides and Polysaccharides (vegetables, starches, grains).
If you add to these items in water, which takes longer to breakdown? Popcorn, pasta, and brussels sprouts. The popcorn will dissolve immediately making is a simple sugar, the pasta will soften after a while and the brussels sprout will take a very long time to soften, so the brussels sprout has less. Try this with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Just place in a glass of water and monitor the length of time it takes to get soft; this will let you know how quick it breaks down in your body for instant sugar. We want the foods that take longer, and the body has to use energy to make energy. One item people forget about is peas and carrots. Look how quickly they get soft and mushy after cooking. These have much more sugar in them than an asparagus or cauliflower.
Another trick is the color. Typically, the brighter the color of the food the more sugar it has: Carrots, Pineapples, and red potatoes. The sugar makes these foods have this nice bright color and sweet taste. When I am quickly shopping for my fruits and vegetables and trying to stay within this guideline, I try to find the darker and more deep green produce vs the brighter. A red apple is much better for you than a bright granny smith apple. Apples in general are good for you, but too many with a high sugar breakdown can lead to insulin resistance.
If you still need a list, there are many out there on google and I typically recommend you search for a low glycemic index chart. I also recommend staying away from anything boxed, canned, or bagged. These items are typically preserved with simple sugars and chemicals so they can stay on the shelf for a very long time. Fresh is better and the typical rule of thumb is shop only on the outer aisles and never in the center.
Lastly, I know we have been trained that fruit is full of antioxidants and good for you, and this is true, but we overconsume fruits. I heard Steve Jobs juiced everyday and ended up dying with pancreatic cancer. Juicing is fine but if you are including an average of 6 pieces of fruit in your juicing, without the fiber to slow absorption, you might as well be drinking a bunch of picky sticks. I am anti-fruit juices unless required for specific reasons. Children should never drink orange or apple juice due to the high concentrations of sugar. An 8oz of fruit juices is about 6 large oranges. Go to your kitchen and start squeezing your own orange juice and see how many oranges it takes. I bet if I asked you to get the same amount you would not be able to make it past three, if even that. First, the fiber in the plant help slow absorption of sugar and makes you feel fuller. Second your brain has time to process this food and signal to the body you have enough sugar to feed your cells and you don’t need anymore before it begins to circulate and store in you blood and fat.
Eating is so important and eating nutrient dense food is even more important. We want to encourage good superfoods such as beets. Beets do have a lot of sugar, but they are foods that support the liver, gallbladder, helps with digestion of fats and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, it eliminates excess cholesterol and better fiber actually decreases glucose uptake from the intestines. So, even though beets are a disaccharide and contains a good deal of sugar, its pulp counteracts it with so many nutritious benefits. These are the foods we want our patients to focus on and less of the crackers, potato chips and processed foods that put additional sugars in them to preserve them.
In the end, my job is to teach you why OVERCONSUMPTION of sugar is not good for the body, how the body uses it, where we get these sugars from and what symptoms they can cause. Your job is to take ownership of your health and finally commit to eating healthy for life and not for just a short period of time.
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