Ask the Specialty Pharmacy Expert – Neda Asli
Let’s talk about sugar and how it is harmful for our body
Most often, when we talk about sugar, we are referring to a mixture of glucose and fructose; both simple sugars that are contained in various amounts in different foods. The primary difference between them is how your body metabolizes them. Sugar exists in many forms other than white powdered beet sugar we pick up at the grocery store. Sugar in all of its forms (including corn syrup, honey, and maple syrup) affects the body in a powerful way and we are consuming it more now than ever before. There are the obvious sugary culprits such as cake, candy, cookies and ice cream, however, sugar is also hidden in much of what we consume every day. Sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup can be found in barbecue sauces, breads, crackers, frozen dinners, hot dogs, ketchup, salad dressings, etc.
I often hear the argument that sugar is ok in moderation and that eliminating any “food group” is dangerous. Certainly, avoiding an actual macronutrient category completely (carbohydrate, protein or fat) would be problematic, but sugar in itself is not a food group. Though sugar in some form is naturally present in many foods, by itself it contains no nutrients, no protein, no healthy fat and no enzymes. It is empty and quickly digested calories that pull minerals from the body during digestion. It creates a hormone cascade when consumed that starts a positive feedback loop in the body to encourage more consumption.
About 80 years ago, North Americans consumed an average of 5 pounds of sugar per year. Now, on average, we are consuming 150-200 pounds per year. I am not surprised to read that worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and that more than 35 percent of adults across the United States are categorized as obese. Worldwide we are consuming about 500 extra calories a day from sugar. That is just about what you would need to consume if you wanted to gain a pound a week.
Here are some alarming reasons why you should avoid added sugar.
#1. Sugar and alcohol have similar toxic liver effects on the body and overloading the liver with fructose can cause Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
#2. Sugar can cause Insulin Resistance a stepping stone towards Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes.
#3. Due to its effects on hormones and the brain, sugar has unique fat promoting effects.
#4. Because it causes massive dopamine release in the brain, sugar is highly addictive.
#5. Sugar can damage your heart.
I realize that in today’s world, it can be tough to completely avoid sugar since it is so readily available. As hard as it can be sometimes, we should try to stick to whole, real foods as much as possible and avoid any processed foods. This means cooking at home most of the time and making a conscious effort to avoid products with refined added sugars. After a short while this will become a way of living that will benefit your health greatly and bring a positive change in your everyday life.