How Sugar is Affecting our Health
I remember reading a book by David Gillespie called ‘Sweet Poison’ which totally changed my view on eating processed sugar. This book was written by a 40kg overweight, sleep deprived father of four that had run out of diet options to lose weight. One day he decided to eliminate sugar out of his diet completely and the changes not just physically but mentally to the way he felt was radical. David started to investigate the link between our soaring obesity rates and the worrying diseases that were emerging in the 21st century. He found links between the introduction of processed sugar in the 1940’s and the increase of heart disease and diabetes.
A background of poor health is what also drove Sarah Wilson to quit sugar and start a successful company and movement in the process with her ‘IQuitsugar.com’ online program and books. The I quit sugar movement proved to fill a gap in the market with over 1.5million people in over 113 countries joining her online program to learn the tools to successfully ditch sugar for good. The results from her devotees are astonishing, with some displaying increases in fertility, decreased symptoms of chronic and auto-immune diseases whilst for others it has assisted with the management of diabetes and helped many others lose that stubborn belly fat for good.
So knowing all of this this let’s look at specifically how sugar affects our overall health.
Sugar is stored as excess fat around the mid section:
According to the Heart Foundation (heartfoundation.org.au) more than 64% of Australians are overweight or obese and more than 1 in 4 children. These are worrying statistics as being overweight lends itself to the likelihood of having chronic diseases such as cardio thoracic diseases and diabetes.
There are 2 types of belly fat the first one is called subcutaneous fat that is fat located just under the skin. Subcutaneous fat is often referred to as ‘ love handles’, ‘saddlebags’ or ‘back fat’. Whilst carrying excess weight around the mid section is not ideal with changes to your diet and moving more it is possible to reduce this area.
The second more concerning fat is called visceral fat which is generally indicated by a ‘pot belly’ or an apple shape. This type of fat is of concern as it is much deeper under the skin and surrounds the vital organs. Visceral fat can cause changes to our hormonal profiles and has links to both cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Sugar may promote cancerous cells and recurrence:
In 1924 there was a German Scientist named Otto Warburg who discovered that cancerous cells need a lot more sugar to grow and divide than normal cells this became known as the ‘Warburg Effect’. Cancerous cells metabolise sugar differently to normal cells and there has been a lot of research as of late to discover new treatments for this process.
Let it be known however that eating sugar directly does not cause cancer however, there is an indirect link between cancer risk and sugar. We know this because having a diet high in sugar lends itself to being overweight or obese. According to the Cancer Research UK, being overweight or obese increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer. In fact, after smoking, obesity is the second most preventable form of cancer in the UK.
There have been some further research groups which looked at the recurrence rates of women with breast cancer. A ‘PREDIMED’ study followed 300 breast cancer survivors for 3 years, 199 eating a ‘normal’ healthy diet as advised by dieticians and 108 eating a Mediterranean style diet comprising of 4 serves of vegetables, 3 serves of fruit, 1 serve of whole grains and plenty of olive oil, fish and seafood 3-4 times a week and a little red meat.
11 patients experienced a recurrence whilst on the normal diet whilst no one on the Mediterranean diet underwent a relapse. The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating whole foods including vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish and olive oil whilst being low in red and processed meat and alcohol is kept to a minimum. Whilst only a small study it is promising.
Sugar can damage your heart:
It has been noted that sugar can cause contribute to cardiovascular diseases, however, a 2013 article in the Journal of American Heart Association displayed strong evidence that sugar can actually affect the pumping mechanism of your heart and could increase the risk of heart failure. The findings specifically pinpointed a molecule from sugar called glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) that was responsible for changes in the muscle protein of the heart. These changes could eventually lead to heart failure.
High sugar diets can age you:
I used to remember my mum telling my in my youth that drinking lots of alcohol will age you. I used to think this was her one of her many attempts of trying to keep me away from it. Now I understand that the sugar content in alcohol and many processed foods ages our cells and causes many of them to die prematurely. Excess processed sugar can cause dark circles around your eyes, wrinkles, dehydrate your skin and can fast track the ageing process.
Basically, sugar bonds with proteins in your body in a process called glycation. They also harden collagen and elastin, and prevent your body from making more. All these effects mean your skin looses elasticity, lines and wrinkles start to set in, and signs of visible ageing become more apparent.
Beware Sugar is hidden in most things that we eat:
Whilst many of us strive to avoid eating processed sugar like chocolates, lollies, cakes and pastries sugar is also in a lot of everyday foods that we consume. For example dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, cream, butter, ice cream and cheese all contain ‘lactose’ which is a sugar found in dairy products. Whilst this is a more natural occurring sugar than say the sugar found in biscuits it still is made up of the same composition of fructose and glucose.
So basically, whether it’s in a piece of fruit, a fizzy drink or a pastry, sugar is made up of the same two components: fructose and glucose. The molecule structure and composition of sugar molecules is the same no matter where they come from. Let’s not get confused that the sugar found in cake has the same effect on the body as say the sugar found in fruit (which it doesn’t). For one thing, fruit offers good stuff like vitamins, antioxidants and water whilst cakes, lollies and biscuit offer zero nutritional benefits.
When it comes to choosing what to eat the old adage ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘everything in moderation’ couldn’t ring truer. It’s important to ‘eat the rainbow’ when it comes to a healthy mix of fruits and vegetables so we get all of our essential vitamins and minerals plus the all important fibre requirements to aid digestion. Sweet processed treats and alcohol should be limited to special occasions or on the weekends. In the health and wellness world we educate our clients to understand that 70% of how you look is what you are eating and drinking and the other 30% consists of what you are ‘doing’ .
If you are looking to detox off processed sugar start by making some small changes every week. It could be something as simple as cutting back your alcohol consumption from Monday to Friday or not eating dessert every time you go out for dinner. Over time you will notice your sugar cravings have all but disappeared and you wont even think twice about eating it nor miss it. The benefits of the weight you lose, how much more energy you have and the clarity of your thoughts will be motivation enough to cut back or ditch the sugar for good!