You’ve probably been reading a lot lately about how sugars endanger your health. For years, fat was a four-letter word. We were urged to banish it from our diets whenever possible, and we were led to believe it was not sugar but fat that was so bad for us and caused weight gain and disease.
Back in 1972, a British scientist and professor of nutrition, John Yudkin, claimed that sugar - not fat - was the greatest danger to our health. At that time his findings were universally ridiculed and his reputation was ruined. He wrote a book called “Pure, White, and Deadly.” He stated, “If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, that material would promptly be banned.” The book did well, but Yudkin paid a high price for it. Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry to destroy his reputation, and his career never recovered. He died in 1995, a disappointed, largely forgotten man.
For at least three decades, the warnings had been solely against saturated fat. When Yudkin was conducting his research into the effects of sugar, the new “eliminate fats” nutritional idea was in the process of coming forward. The main idea was a healthy diet is a low-fat diet. Yudkin and a few others believed sugar, not fat, was more likely the cause of problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Yudkin’s research was not just dismissed but buried.
In 1980 the US government issued its first Dietary Guidelines. These guidelines shaped the diets of hundreds of millions of people. Doctors based their advice on them and the food companies developed products to comply with them. We replaced steak and sausages with pasta and rice, butter with margarine and vegetable oils, eggs with cereals and milk with low-fat milk or orange juice (and if you read my previous blog you know just how terrible orange juice is for you). As a nation, we grew fatter and sicker instead of healthier.
In 2009 Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California gave a 90 minute talk titled “Sugar:The Bitter Truth” You can view it here. It has been viewed more than seven million times on YouTube. He argues that fructose, a form of sugar found everywhere in our diets, is “poison” and responsible for America’s obesity epidemic. His voice is one of many respected medical and dietary researchers who are sounding the alarm about the dangers of sugar. The consensus is now a tidal wave of highly respected opinions agreeing that sugars are, indeed, a danger to our health and are major contributors to disease and our nation’s obesity epidemic.
Sugar, both natural and added, is everywhere. Yogurt is a great example. My clients often tell me they eat yogurt for breakfast because they believe it is healthy. Yogurt is not the best option for breakfast as it is loaded with added sugar. One name brand yogurt has 8 to 12 grams of added sugar. That is far above the recommended daily amount of sugar for a woman, which is 25 grams (or 6 teaspoons) or less per day. For men, that number is 38 grams (or 9 teaspoons) or less. Cereals are another culprit. Something as “healthy” as raisin bran has 18 grams of sugar per cup. Added sugar is everywhere and often hidden. When fat was taken out of salad dressings and sauces to make them low-fat, sugars and chemicals were added to make them taste good. The ingredients in low-fat Italian salad dressing should be vinegar, oil (preferably olive), some herbs and spices and no added sugars! Sugar is added to protein bars, juices…even green juices from the refrigerated section. Dried fruit, trail mix…none of these are good choices. (Dried fruit is also often times treated with sulphur.)
Along with the diseases sugar causes, it also exacerbates aging and wrinkles. Elevated sugar in our blood stream contributes to advanced glycolytic enzymes or A.G.E. These enzymes advance aging, are highly reactive, and they damage key tissues in our bodies.
Agave is a sweetener often described as a healthy alternative to sugar. Agave became a popular option because of its low GI (glycemic index) - around 13. But it has an extremely high fructose content -- even higher than high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose tends to be harder to digest, is not regulated by insulin the way glucose is, and there is evidence suggesting it can contribute to problems with your gut, liver, triglyceride levels, and insulin sensitivity. It is manufactured using a highly processed procedure that strips the naturally occurring agave juice of all nutritional value.
According to Nancy Appleton, PhD, every time you consume excess sugar your white blood cells’ ability to ward off disease is dampened for several hours. Bob Wright, founder of the American Anti-Cancer Institute, reports, “One can of [soda] has enough sugar to shut down 50% of our immune system for a minimum of 4 hours.” This does more harm than you may think and, when you look at the research, the dangers of sugar are quite shocking. There are 141 ways that sugar contributes to poor health. There is increasing evidence that a high-sugar diet contributes to the following diseases:
· Chronic fatigue
· Dental Cavities
· Depleted metabolism
· Hormone imbalance and adrenal fatigue
· Skin conditions like acne and eczema
· Stomach ulcers
· Type 2 diabetes
When you learn how sugar contributes to the growth of cancer, the danger of this tasty ingredient usually hits home. In the words of the American Anti-Cancer Institute:
“When we consume sugar, we are simultaneously shutting off our defenses while pouring gasoline on the fire that is Cancer. When we take into account that “50 to 70% of our total immune system cells cannot see cancer … even on our best day,” the notion of adding it to our diet seems even more blasphemous.”
I have only touched on the surface of sugar and why it is bad for you. There are entire books written on the subject of how sugar can harm your health. Read your labels, stay away from added sugar and the result could be better health and maybe some weight loss.