HEALTH BENEFITS OF SUGAR
Today an average person consumes around 24 kilograms of sugar each year (9kg more in industrializes countries), and because of that many scientific studies tried to examine positive and negative effects of this popular food substance. In all of their findings, some effects could be tested and proven to be true, but many were left inconclusive and unfinished. With that thing said, benefits of sugar are much easier to prove than harmful effects.
Sugar can have many positive effects on your life and metabolism. Here they are:
CALORIE CONTENT – Sugar has a high calorie content that will give your body energy that you lack. However, all that energy is short lived and it can only give your short bust of increased productivity. Because sugar contains four calories per gram, but it lacks nutritious value (no dietary fibers) and because of that sugar is only an added ingredient in many meals.
DIABETES – Scientists have proven that diabetes is a genetic condition that is created from the moment we are born. Eating bad food and lots of sweets and fats can only decrease the efficiency of the pancreas, but in moderate use there are no health risks.
SKIN HEALTH – Sugar’s glycolic acid can be very helpful in maintaining the health and look of your skin. Using it can help elimination blemishes and restoring the balance in the skin’s oils.
LESS PROCESSED – Many people use high-fructose corn syrup as a means of sweetening their food, but that product is highly processed and can cause problems to their digestion. Sugars consist only from natural ingredients that can be processed easily by our metabolism.
BLOOD AND INSULIN BENEFITS – Many foods that have in them glucose are sweet, but our bodies (and especially liver) have larger problem disassembling glucose than fructose that can be found in sugar. Because of this, insulin levels will be greatly increased during the short periods of time, making you feel energetic and powerful. Sadly after that initial rush, drop of insulin will also make you hungry for more sweets. But that is not all. Because of the influence of sugar’s glucose has on the hormone leptin, you will indeed feel more full than after eating foods with fructose.
MINERALS AND NUTRIENTS – Sugars in their structure have ingredients that are passed to them from their natural sources, sugarcanes or beet. Elements such as phosphorus, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium will not be greatly present in the industrially refined sugar.
ENVIRONMENT BENEFITS – Sugar is created from natural resources without the use of pesticides and other harmful products, in a way what don pollutes environment. That is not the case with the production of the industrial artificial sweeteners.
THE ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES ASSOCIATED WITH SUGAR ALTERNATIVES
Sugar is found many foods, both healthy and unhealthy. Carbohydrates contain sugar. As a result fruits, vegetables, breads, pastas, dairy products, desserts and many other foods that you eat every day contain some form of sugar. Traditional white table sugar doesn’t have many nutrients, but there are now many alternatives to it. Some of these alternatives are natural derived and others are artificially made in a laboratory.
NATURAL SUGAR ALTERNATIVES
There are several common natural alternatives to sugar. Honey is one of the most common sugar alternatives. Raw, unprocessed honey has health benefits, a lesser effect on blood sugar levels, and can be easily used in recipes. However, raw, unprocessed honey contains small amounts of bacterial spores that could be harmful to infants, but are typically not dangerous for adults. It should not be fed to children less than one year old. Agave nectar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice are also common sugar alternatives that are naturally derived sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners are also called non-nutritive sweeteners because they have very little, if any, caloric value. Because of this, they are commonly used in weight loss programs. They also have the advantage of being high intensity sweeteners, which make them more economic since the manufacturer uses very little to get the same result as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Artificial sweeteners are also great if you are diabetic, as they have very little or no affect on blood sugar. Artificial sweeteners such as xylitol, are often used in gum because they don’t contribute to dental decay or cavities. Common artificial sweeteners include aspartame, saccharine, sucralose, neotame and acesulfame potassium.
When you start looking at sugar alternatives, you need to consider the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure that determines how the carbohydrate will affect blood sugar levels. The carbohydrate is compared with either glucose or white bread. All carbohydrates will have an affect on blood sugar, but there are several things that can influence the glycemic index. For instance, how ripe the fruit or vegetable is. The more ripe the fruit or vegetable, the higher the glycemic index — which means the food will cause the blood sugar level to raise more. Other things that influence glycemic index include the portion size, whether the food is eaten alone or with other foods, the amount of processing the food went through and the amount of fat and fiber the food contains.
One claim that is often made in connection with the disadvantages to sugar alternatives is the increasing prevalence of cancer. There have been dozens of studies done with lab rats that have shown a possible link between artificial sugar substitutes and cancer. However, the National Cancer Institute has determined that there is not a clear link between artificial sugar substitutes and cancer. There are other disadvantages to sugar alternatives. Sugar alcohols — such as xylitol, mannitol and sorbitol — can have a laxative effect and cause diarrhea, bloating and intestinal gas when eat in amounts of more than ten grams. Also, some natural sugar alternatives can affect blood sugar almost as much as regular table sugar –brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, black strap molasses, evaporated cane juice and organic sugar — which makes them an undesirable alternative for diabetics.
You’ve just read about several of the advantages of artificial sweeteners — very few calories, little or no affect on blood sugar, more economically friendly, and not contributing to cavities and tooth decay. Natural sugar alternatives are less processed than refined table sugar or artificial sweeteners, and as a result they often have more nutrients. Raw, unprocessed honey has minerals, vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants that are removed when it’s processed. Maple syrup is high in zinc and manganese, and black strap molasses contains iron, calcium, copper, magnesium and potassium.
REASONS TO AVOID SUGAR AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDED ON IT
- The harmful effects of sugar go way beyond empty calories.
- Added sugar is so unhealthy that it is probably the single worst ingredient in the modern diet.
- Here are the top 9 reasons to avoid sugar as if your life depended on it (it does).
ADDED SUGAR SUPPLIES A LARGE AMOUNT OF FRUCTOSE
The reason added sugar (and its evil twin… High Fructose Corn Syrup) is bad for you, is that it supplies a very large amount of fructose.
Sugar (and HFCS) are half glucose, half fructose. Glucose is essential and can be metabolized by pretty much every cell in the body. If we don’t get it from the diet, our bodies make it from proteins and fat.
Fructose, however, is not essential to our functioning in any way.
The only organ that can metabolize fructose is the liver, because only the liver has a transporter for it.
When large amounts of fructose enter the liver and it is already full of glycogen, most of the fructose gets turned into fat .
This process is probably one of the leading causes of the epidemics of many chronic, Western diseases.
I’d like to point out that this does NOT apply to fruit, which are a real food with vitamins, minerals, fiber, lots of water and are very difficult to overeat on.
BOTTOM LINE: The only organ that can metabolize fructose is the liver. When we eat a lot of fructose, many things in the body start to go wrong.
SUGAR DOESN’T CONTAIN ANY VITAMINS OR MINERALS (EMPTY CALORIES)
Sugar IS empty calories. No doubt about that.
Most high-sugar foods like pastries, sodas and candy bars contain very little essential nutrients.
People who eat them instead of other more nutritious foods will probably become deficient in many important nutrients.
BOTTOM LINE: Most products with added sugars in them contain very little nutrients and can therefore be classified as “empty” calories.
SUGAR CAUSES DEPOSITION OF FAT IN THE LIVER
When we eat fructose, it goes to the liver.
If liver glycogen is low, such as after a run, the fructose will be used to replenish it .
However, most people aren’t consuming fructose after a long workout and their livers are already full of glycogen.
When this happens, the liver turns the fructose into fat .
Some of the fat gets shipped out, but part of it remains in the liver. The fat can build up over time and ultimately lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease .
BOTTOM LINE: Eating a lot of added sugar (fructose) can cause deposition of fat in the liver and lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
SUGAR HARMS YOUR CHOLESTEROL AND TRIGLYCERIDES
Most of the fat generated in the liver gets shipped out as Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) particles.
These particles are rich in triglycerides and cholesterol.
In a controlled study, people were assigned to drink 25% of calories as either a glucose-sweetened drink or a fructose-sweetened drink for 10 weeks .
THE FRUCTOSE GROUP HAD:
- Increases in blood triglycerides.
- Increases in small, dense LDL and oxidized LDL (very, very bad).
- Higher fasting glucose and insulin.
- Decreased insulin sensitivity.
- Increased fat in the abdominal cavity (visceral fat).
Basically, 25% of calories as fructose significantly harmed blood lipids and caused features characteristic of the metabolic syndrome, which is a stepping stone towards obesity, heart disease, diabetes and a (short) lifetime of poor health.
BOTTOM LINE: Consuming a large part of calories as fructose can lead to serious adverse effects on blood markers in as little as 10 weeks.
SUGAR CAUSES INSULIN RESISTANCE
The main function of insulin is to drive glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
But when we eat a Western diet, the cells tend to become resistant to the effects of insulin.
When this happens, the pancreas start secreting even more insulin to remove the glucose from the bloodstream, because elevated blood glucose is toxic.
This is how insulin resistance leads to elevated insulin levels in the blood.
But insulin also has another important function… it tells the fat cells to pick up fat from the bloodstream and to hold on to the fat that they already carry.
This is how insulin causes obesity.
When the body becomes even more resistant to insulin, the beta cells in the pancreas eventually become damaged and lose the ability to produce sufficient insulin. This is how you get type II diabetes, which now afflicts about 300 million people worldwide.
Excess fructose is a known cause of insulin resistance and elevated insulin in the blood .
BOTTOM LINE: Excess fructose consumption can lead to insulin resistance, a stepping stone towards obesity and diabetes.
SUGAR RAISES YOUR RISK OF WESTERN DISEASES
Excess sugar consumption has been associated with many Western diseases.
If anything, sugar is the single largest contributing factor to the poor health of affluent nations.
Every time sugar (and refined flour and vegetable oils) enter a population’s diet, these people become sick.
SUGAR HAS BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH:
OBESITY. Sugar causes weight gain via various mechanisms, including elevated insulin and leptin resistance .
DIABETES. Sugar is probably a leading cause of diabetes .
HEART DISEASE. Sugar raises the bad cholesterol, triglycerides and causes various other issues that can ultimately lead to heart disease.
BOTTOM LINE: Excess sugar consumption has been associated with many serious diseases, including obesity, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
SUGAR DOESN’T CAUSE PROPER SATIETY
An area in the brain called the Hypothalamus is supposed to regulate our food intake.
In a study published in 2013, two groups drank either a glucose-sweetened drink or a fructose-sweetened drink .
The glucose drinkers had decreased blood flow in the hypothalamus and felt satiated, while the fructose drinkers had increased blood flow in this area of the brain.
The fructose drinkers felt less satisfied and were still hungry.
Another study revealed that fructose didn’t reduce levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin like glucose. The more ghrelin, the hungrier you are .
BOTTOM LINE: Studies comparing fructose and glucose show that fructose does not induce satiety like glucose, which will contribute to a higher calorie intake.
SUGAR IS ADDICTIVE
When we eat sugar, dopamine is released in the brain, giving us a feeling of pleasure.
This is actually how drugs of abuse like cocaine function .
Our brain is hardwired to seek out activities that release dopamine. Activities that release an enormous amount of it are especially desirable.
In certain individuals with a certain predisposition to addiction, this causes reward-seeking behavior typical of addiction to abusive drugs.
Studies in rats demonstrate that they can in fact become physically addicted to sugar.
This is harder to prove in humans, but many people consume sugar and other junk foods in a pattern that is typical for addictive, abusive compounds.
BOTTOM LINE: Sugar, due to its powerful effects on the reward system in the brain, can lead to classic signs of addiction.
SUGAR CAUSES RESISTANCE TO A HORMONE CALLED LEPTIN
Leptin is a hormone that is secreted by our fat cells. The more fat we have, the more leptin is secreted.
This is supposed to function as a signal to tell the brain that we’re full and need to stop eating. It is also supposed to raise our energy expenditure.
Obese individuals actually have high levels of leptin, but the problem is that the leptin isn’t working.
This is called leptin resistance and is a major reason why people eat more calories than they burn and become obese.
Fructose is a known cause of leptin resistance, both because insulin blocks leptin signalling in the brain and because fructose raises blood triglycerides which also blocks the effects of leptin .
This makes our brain think that the fat cells are empty and that it needs to keep eating.
Willpower is very weak compared to the leptin-driven starvation signal.
This is the reason people can’t just “eat less, move more” and live happily ever after.
To reverse leptin resistance and make the brain WANT to eat less, sugar has to go.