In this episode, I’m going to share with you the most dangerous kind of sugar.
Sugar is the new smoking.
Sugar is everywhere.
Many say it is responsible for the obesity epidemic. Others want to segregate the different types of sugar and blame one type, such as High Fructose Corn Syrup over another source like “pure cane sugar,” for the problem.
Yet research keeps showing that sugar is, at least partially, responsible for the onset of Type II diabetes mellitus, non-alcoholic liver disease, obesity, CVD, neuropathy, and more.
Can this sweet substance really be killing us slowly (and painfully)?
Can something that takes away pain when given to babies and is found naturally in fruit and other foods, a food that takes away bitterness, and makes eating fun, really be the scourge or our health current condition?
A Very Brief History
Humans have been processing sugar for about 8,000 years. Humans found it very valuable and have been using it as a commodity since that time. It used to be worth more than gold, but now is dirt cheap.
About 80% of our sugar comes from a grass plant that looks a lot like corn or bamboo. It is grown in the tropics and requires a great deal of energy to harvest and process. Only about 10% of the plant can be turned to sugar. The process to make pure white sugar takes about 56 steps. Take a look at this video How Sugar is Made to see what it takes to go from cane to white crystals. Also take note of now may fewer steps it takes to make “raw sugar”.
The rest of the world’s sugar comes from a beet which is processed in a similar manner as the cane, but in fewer steps and since it is not as fibrous, requires less energy. Plus, there is a higher sugar content in the sugar beet.
Sugar, and the acceptance of sugar as valuable ingredients in our food supply, began in the mid 70s when a charismatic Doctor named Ancel Keys using a flimsy research study and funding from a large industry to shift our beliefs.
Ancel Keys vs John Yudkin
In 1972 Dr. John Yudkin published a book called “Pure, White, and Deadly: Problem of Sugar” in which he explained that sugar is, at least, partially responsible for CVD, diabetes, and obesity.
He was met with harsh criticism from the sugar industry who helped Ancel Keys defame Yudkin. Keys was promoting the notion that fat causes the health problems of obesity, CVD, and diabetes.
The sugar industry sided with Keys and hired a public relations company to further their interests. This PR company that worked on campaign for the sugar industry was successful is squashing Yudkin’s ideas and they even won an award for their persuasive skills in the sugar is better for you campaign.
The Low Fat Experiment
This was the birth of the nation-wide “low fat experiment”. Now that fat was the villain, game on for any food or beverage that did not contain fat, or that could be made without fat. This covers sugar in all varieties, starches, fruits, juices and vegetables and lean proteins.
Forty years later, we are fatter than ever with more health problems then ever.
Many people are still not aware that this experiment failed miserably and still believe, or want to believe, that fat makes a person fat and that sugar, since it is so delicious, and natural, can’t be bad for them.
Sugar is the New Smoking
This problem with sugar is so deep and complicated that I would say that sugar is the new smoking. The way the sugar industry is denying the roll of sugar in the obesity epidemic, heart disease, and diabetes, looks like the tobacco industry in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Two recent documentaries about sugar, “Sugar Coated” and “That Sugar Film”, directly compare the behavior of the sugar industry now with that of the tobacco industry in the 80s and 90s.
Remember when the heads of tobacco denied that nicotine is a harmful and addictive substance? The company leaders swore, under oath, to a grand jury that tobacco is not addictive. Yet, then had to accept that it is. They were trying to keep their industry afloat.
Now, the sugar industry is doing the same thing.
The sugar industry wants to protect itself? That is natural (and so is sugar. And so is tobacco, for that matter). We live in a capitalistic society and many, many, many businesses make their money by selling foods and beverages that contain added sugar. I’m not going to give examples because about 80% of the food in an American grocery store contains added sugar.
Like cigarettes, sugar is addictive. Sugar lights up the same areas of the brain that nicotine, heroin, cocaine, and other addicting drugs do.
There is a lot of information about the harmful effects of sugar. Three documentaries that I found to be really well done are:
Is sugar a poison, an epidemic, or a gift from the gods?
The Devil’s Gift
If you believe in good and evil, God and the devil, then it is easy to recognize sugar as being a gift from Satan. Sugar lures us in with its sweet flavor and harmless appearance. Sugar is used to make food “fun” and increase flavor. Sugar is used to neutralize bitter taste, and what would the colorful candy industry be without it? Sugar is given to children, for crying out loud. But, is sugar innocent? No. And it is damaging to our bodies. Slowly but surely, sugar takes hold of our lives and degrades our health.
All Calories are not Created Equal
To easily demonstrate that Calories from different foods are different I’d like you to imagine, 100 Cals of chicken breast, 100 Cal of table sugar, 100 Cals of spinach, 100 Cals of chocolate, and 100 Cals of orange juice. Which will satisfy you the longest and keep you from wanting to eat again in 10 minutes? The chicken and/or the spinach will keep you from feeling hungry much longer, will fuel your body for longer and will not give you a sugar crash.
The problem in western society, at least, is that most people tend to eat foods and beverages that contain sugar. Sugar is very had to avoid unless you are making all of your meals from scratch, and even then you might use a can of tomatoes, a salad dressing or sauce. Those three things will most likely contain added sugar.
Sure, but not that much, right? A) I think you’ll be surprised, and B) it all adds up. So, how much is too much?
The US government has not set any standards on the use of sugar, except to say ‘don’t consume too much.’ But how much is too much?
Without these official limitations, many people, subconsciously anyway, feel that there is no limit.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults eat no more than 12 teaspoons or 48g of “free” sugar a day. Free sugar is defined as: “sugars added to foods by the manufacturer, cook, or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices, and fruit concentrates.” What “Free sugar” is not. It is not the sugar found in whole fruit, vegetables, or milk. The sugar in a banana, for example, is not “free” because it is bound to the fiber and the other components of the banana.
There was an update in 2015. The WHO upgraded that recommendation to further say that half that amount of sugar would be a healthier decision. This brings the healthy acceptable amount of sugar to 6 teaspoons, or 24g of sugar a day.
Despite common attitude, ingesting high amounts of sugar is more dangerous to children than it is adults. Sugar is behind the childhood obesity epidemic and leads to other life shortening and debilitating diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, poor self-esteem, learning disabilities, emotional stability, and poor quality of life.
Processed Foods – Added Sugar
Sugar is found in most foods that are processed. It is pretty obvious that sugar has been added to desert-type foods such as cookies, cakes, and ice cream. But where most people don’t expect it is in savory foods and condiments. Most processed foods, including cans, frozen and fast foods, have added sugar.
Read the ingredients before you buy a food. Sugar goes by many names, such as anything ending in “ose” or a syrup.
- Agave nectar*
- Barbados sugar*
- Barley malt
- Beet sugar*
- Blackstrap molasses*
- Brown rice syrup*
- Brown sugar*
- Buttered syrup*
- Cane juice crystals*
- Cane sugar*
- Carob syrup*
- Castor sugar*
- Confectioner’s sugar*
- Corn syrup
- Corn syrup solids
- Crystalline fructose*
- Date sugar*
- Demerara sugar*
- Diastatic malt
- Ethyl maltol
- Evaporated cane juice*
- Florida crystals*
- Fruit juice*
- Fruit juice concentrate*
- Glucose solids
- Golden sugar*
- Golden syrup*
- Grape sugar*
- High-fructose corn syrup*
- Icing sugar*
- Invert sugar*
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup*
- Muscovado sugar*
- Organic raw sugar*
- Raw sugar*
- Refiner’s syrup*
- Rice syrup
- Sorghum syrup*
- Turbinado sugar*
- Yellow sugar*
Fruit juices are considered by many still to be healthy. However, they are considered a processed food and they contain a very high amounts of sugar. True, it is natural, but not many people would eat five oranges at one time. Even if they did, the amount of fiber in those oranges would fill them up and slow the absorption of the sugar into the blood stream which greatly diminishes the harm.
Most people would not eat as many of a fruit as they would drink in a juice, at any one time. I am a huge fruit lover and one beautiful morning on the Central Coast of California while sitting under an orange tree in a beautiful garden backyard, I ate a dozen oranges. It was a great way to start the day. This took two to three hours and was a wonderful experience. If I drank the juice of those oranges, I would have not felt so great.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Based on what you just heard, what do you think is the most dangerous kind of sugar?
Most people I talk to are certain the HFCS is the cause of obesity and other ailments. These people often opt for “cane sugar”, honey, or agave as a healthy alternative.
Cane sugar is no more “natural” than HFCS, maple syrup, or agave. Honey, is in its natural form. There is no processing required before we eat honey. BUT, that does not make it healthy, or even less harmful.
As I discussed in episode 89, part 1 of this sugar series, there are many types of sugars and they have different names based on their molecular structure. However, they all break down into glucose eventually. So, the two you need to know about for this discussion is glucose and fructose.
Glucose is found naturally in pretty much all sugars. Glucose makes up the majority of corn syrup, half of sucrose (table sugar), and lesser amounts in many of the other sugars you may know. Glucose has very little sweetness to it. This is where fructose comes in.
Fructose is the sugar found naturally in fruit and added sugars. It is also much sweeter tasting than glucose. This is why is it used in processed foods – because they can use less, while increasing the sweetness.
HFCS, as the name implies, is corn syrup that contains a higher amount of fructose than regular corn syrup. In fact, the ratio is nearly the same as sucrose (table sugar). HFCS has 55% fructose instead of the 50% that sucrose has. HFCS dissolves more easily in water and does not crystalize in an acidic environment. This is why it is a superior sweetener for soda and other processed foods. It also helps a food, like bread, brown and retards spoilage. Oh, did I mention it is cheap, cheap, cheap? HFCS costs about 1/3 that of cane sugar.
Politics. In the mid 70s, there’s that era again, the US government placed a tariff on sugar cane. This, plus the US Farm Bill subsidizing corn production, corn syrup, and its brother HFCS are irresistible sweeteners for the food and beverage industry.
HFCS, however is not as safe for our bodies as the corn grower’s association and the food and beverage industry would like us to think. Though, the ratio of fructose to glucose is nearly the same in HFCS and sucrose the two molecules are not bound together in HFCS, like they are in sucrose. This may be causing problems for humans.
Glucose vs Fructose
When a carbohydrate is ingested it is broken down to a single molecule, galactose, fructose or, glucose. When glucose is absorbed, it enters the bloodstream and travels around the body looking for any cells that are open. If a cell is open, it takes in glucose to produce energy, ATP. This takes place in all cells of the body.
Cells open when insulin is present. Insulin is present when blood glucose levels approach their upper limit.
When fructose and galactose are absorbed, they are halted by the liver to be metabolized. Focusing on fructose, this monosaccharide is broken down into glucose and triglycerides. Studies have found that when fructose is metabolized:
- The release of Ghrelin or insulin are not triggered. Ghrelin tells you have eaten enough and the level of insulin allows blood sugar levels to rise.
- Causes blood LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels to increase.
- Causes blood lactate levels increase.
The above is based on natural fructose such as found in fruit or sugar from cane, beet, honey, or maple syrup. The fructose and glucose are bonded together when they are natural and the GI system has to cleave their bonds before they can pass through the gut wall.
Fun Fact: Glucose turns to fructose in the prostate to feed sperm cells.
When HFCS is consumed, the two sugars are not attached to each other and they are absorbed faster.
I am not a band wagoner and I was not quick to jump on the blame train about HFCS being responsible for all of the nation’s ills, however, there are many causes for suspicion about the health effects of HFCS. Impurities have been found, such as mercury and other unknown substances that are not regularly tested for.
When a person consumes mass quantities of fructose, in any form it overloads the ability of the liver to process it properly AND if there is already adequate amounts of glucose in the blood stream, more glucose will not be released by the liver. This causes the liver to turn that sugar into fat.
There are also indicators that sugar is responsible for inflammation and neuropathy.
The reason HFCS is being blamed for causing health problems is because it is found in so many foods and drinks. But, don’t be fooled, “sugar” from cane or fruit or beet or bee contains fructose.
This debate will continue until enough quality research has been done to eliminate doubt either way. However, my biggest gripe about HFCS is that the US government subsidizes the over growth of corn, which then is used to make HFCS and the fattening of America. Our government is encouraging us to grow ill, weak, and dependent.
I’m not on the HFCS-hating band wagon, but as time goes by, more and more evidence points in the direction of it being harmful. One thing that does stand out to me is that I have never known anybody to use HFCS at home when they made cookies.
Now, let’s summarize.
- We are consuming more sugar, than ever before.
- Most of this sugar comes from HFCS.
- High fructose corn syrup is always found in very poor-quality foods.
Get off Sugar
Break Your The Habit Now
What is The Most Dangerous Kind of Sugar?
By the sound of it, you might think I’m going to say HFCS or Fructose. Not quite. My answer is:
Liquid sugar absorbs faster than any other form of sugar into the blood stream and much more can enter your blood in a very short period of time then when it comes in solid form.
This is doubly dangerous when fructose is part of the mix – and it almost always is.
It is even more dangerous when HFCS if the type of sugar.
When fructose is consumed in large amounts it damages to the liver. The easiest way to consume mass quantities of fructose is to drink it. Fruit juice, soda, lemonade, and pretty much any sweet liquid will have high amounts of fructose.
What You Can Do About It
- Wean yourself away from sweet drinks. Yes, even those hiding alcohol.
- Drink water. Add lemon, lime, or other flavors that are not sweet to give you some flavor – if you need it.
- If you must drink soda or fruit juice, dilute it with water and keep increasing this dilution until you only need a teaspoon in your water.
- Avoid artificially sweetened beverages. The jury is still out regarding health effects of these non-nutritive sweeteners, but they further encourage your need to taste sweet when you eat or drink. If you are going to get off sugar, you need to establish a palette that does not demand sweet.
- Tell your friends. Spread the word. Most importantly, keep kids off the stuff. If cavities, increasing the risk for diabetes, CVD, and obesity, aren’t a big enough reason to stay away from sugar, at least think of the habit they are developing that will cause them great struggles when they are middle aged. Give them a chance. If you wouldn’t give your child a cigarette, don’t give them a sweet drink.
I love this guy. Who doesn’t? He makes so much sense. Years ago I read his book “Food Rules” and hid it from my clients. I felt that if they read and followed it, I’d be out of work. Well, humans are strange and knowing something does not always equal doing something. So here I still am and I’ve picked out 8 or his rules that are appropriate for this subject.
#5 – avoid foods that have some form of sugar listed among the top three ingredients.
#9 – avoid food products with the wordoid “lite” or the terms “low-fat” or “nonfat” in their names.
#11 – avoid foods you see advertised on television
#35 – eat sweet foods as you find them in nature
#39 – eat all the junk food you want as long as you make it yourself.
#56 – limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods
#60 – Treat treats as treats.
Conclusion – Summary – The Bottom Line
The sugar industry, and all those that use sugar, want to protect themselves. Until there is hard evidence, irrefutable evidence, that sugar is the direct cause of any serious health damage, the sugar and corn industry will keep on humming along as it is now. Do not wait for government intervention. This is going to have to come from each of you. If you care about your health, and even more importantly, your children’s health, take a stand and keep the sweets, especially liquid sweets, out of your house, car, and body.
The faster it gets into your blood stream, the worse it is for you.
The more you ingest, the worse it is for you.
Here is my #1 take away:
The more sweets you consume the more you will want them. Therefore, the less you take in, the less you will want.
Willpower has very little to do with this. The less often and the less sweet your food and drink is, the less you will want something sweet.
Stay strong on this stance and before you know it, you will be sugar free and feeling great.
Get off Sugar
Break Your The Habit Now
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You Might Also Like
- The Live Fit Sugar Slash Solution
- Ep 30 – The Sugar Battle
- Ep 89 – Sugar pt 1: What is it and How Does Your Body Respond?
- How to Break the Sugar Habit
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