What Sugar Does To Our Bodies

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Each day we see more and more information on the effects of sugar in and on our bodies. Recently I saw several ads claiming that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS, a source of sugar) and table sugar were both safe. However, recently a study was published by a Pediatrician colleague of mine from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. He and his team reported that in 43 children they tested, after only 10 days without sugar, their triglyceride levels (a form of fat) decreased by an average of 33 points. Their LDL-Cholesterols (the bad cholesterol) also dropped 5 points as did their diastolic blood pressure (the lower number). Dr. Robert Lustig and his team also determined that all of the children in their study reduced their risk of diabetes because their sugar and insulin levels normalized. Even though this study was done in children, there is no reason to believe it wouldn’t happen in adults. That this was after only 10 days without sugar is amazing!

Not All Calories Are Equal

Most diets are just concerned with calories. If you consume less calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. But this isn’t always the case because not all calories are created equal. Some calories are worse than others. Sugar as we know it is at the top of the list. We all have table sugar or sucrose in our homes. This is the most common sugar available in the US. It is made up of equal parts of glucose and fructose (fruit sugar). HFCS is also, basically, half glucose and half fructose. It is a common sweetener in beverages and processed foods. But fructose is the bad part of sugar in terms of what it does to our bodies. Our bodies use glucose as the preferred energy source. It is easily burned for energy and the extra is stored in our muscles and liver as glycogen, which can quickly be converted back into glucose if our bodies need additional energy. But this isn’t the case with fructose. Fructose is only metabolized in the liver and because the liver can only handle so much fructose at a time, the excess fructose gets stored as fat. Once the storage capability is reached, the excess fat spills into the blood increasing the risk of heart disease and strokes.

What Happened in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, we only obtained fructose in small amounts. Cane sugar (sucrose) and HFCS were not readily available as they are now. Today, we consume approximately 130 pounds of sugar each year or about 1/3 of a pound every day (there’s HFCS in pasta sauce, ketchup, processed foods, mustard, etc.). A sweetened drink hits the liver like a tsunami wave according to Dr. Lustig. Fructose, unlike other sources of calories, doesn’t turn off the hunger hormone ghrelin. This means that you can eat a lot sugar and not feel full. The consequence is that you keep eating. In addition, fructose stimulates an area in the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This area is also known as the reward center of the brain. This results in us feeling rewarded, good and euphoric, resulting in us wanting to eat even more.

What You Need To Know

Several years ago, food companies began replacing the HFCS sweeteners with cane sugar – going back to when cane sugar (sucrose) was the only sweetener. They advertise that it’s even safer. Remember, cane sugar and HFCS are both 50% sucrose and 50% fructose. And the extra fructose is bad for long-term health. The children in Dr. Lustig’s study reduced their dietary sugar intake from 28% to 10% to isolate the effect of sugar on the body. The sugar was replaced with complex carbohydrates. The results were dramatic. When sugar is reduced in our diet, expect our bodies to thank us in as little as 10 days.
Lustig, RH, Mulligan, K, Noworolski, S, et. al. Isocaloric fructose restriction and metabolic improvement in children with obesity and metabolic syndrome. DOI: 10.1002/oby.21371. Article first published online: 26 OCT 2015.

More to explorer

To Mask or Not to Mask: Why Are We Still Asking?*

The American public has always been fascinated with masks. I remember growing up with fond memories of the Masked man who left silver bullets, Batman and Robin, Zorro and of course, Halloween costumes with masks.  So with a country like the United States, why are we reluctant to wear masks, especially after we have lost

Help! I'm Doing All The Right Things, But I'm Still Not Losing Weight

Are you struggling to lose weight even though you are doing everything “right”? Are you gaining weight even if your diet and exercise routine has remained the same? If so, then your hormones may be partially to blame. I’m not just talking about your “sex hormones”, but also the hormones that control appetite or how

When Time Matters …

A 15 year old year boy is suddenly awakened late at night by his screaming mother after his father collapsed in bed. She couldn’t get him to respond. He starts CPR while awaiting the fire department and ambulance which had been called. The station is only a mile or two away, but it takes over