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Sugar, Sugar, Honey, Honey: Why and How Sugar May Not Be So Sweet For Your Health

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

When most of us think of the word "addiction" we associate it with a negative dependency on a harmful substance (or substances), that impairs our ability to properly function, (slowly) destroys us and lands celebrities on the covers of magazines and in rehab. But, there are (some) "addictions" that we all have and engage in on a regular basis such as drinking coffee that have become more like daily rituals than addictions. Still, there is one "hidden" addiction that, according to studies, most are "prisoner", without even knowing it...and it's an addiction that is slowly but surely killing us.

The culprit is sugar, and according to experts, most of us have become so dependent on this substance that they are taunting it as the nation's #1 addiction. And, while not necessarily detrimental in modest moderation, the past two decades have seen our dependency increase substantially, in fact enough to have the professionals not only concerned but worried. Twenty years ago the average person consumed about 20 pounds per year, but in that number has jumped to 156 pound annually regardless of the increased information about the substances negative health effects; including an increase in obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes, all which have been tied directly to excessive sugar consumption.
So, why exactly is sugar bad for you? Well, besides the fact that white sugar, the "worst" of the sabotaging sweeteners, is processed (bearing few nutrients), it has a direct effect on the body's insulin levels, which in turn affect controls our breakdown of carbohydrates, a process known as the glycemic response. Sugars are high on the glycemic index scale and once metabolized quickly give the body a boost by raising insulin levels and then just as quickly resulting in a noticeably decrease in blood sugar that often results in fatigue.

Insulin resistance is a progressive condition that results when average insulin activity is deficient in its ability to product the proper response on insulin receptors on muscle and adipose (fat) cells. Some signs of insulin insensitivity include increased circulating levels of glucose and insulin. Also, taking in excess amounts of carbs can spur liolysis (fat generation), yielding higher levels of circulating triglycerides, a very-low density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

So, what does this all mean? It translates into a slow breakdown of the body's ability to properly process (some) foods and effectively store additional energy resulting in an increase in fat deposits around internal organs, a type of weight gain known as visceral fat, fat related to insulin resistance and correlated to an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Plus, insulin resistance and other metabolic disorders have also been linked to increased levels of C-relative protein (CRP) and other inflammatory markers which has also been shown to be associated with cardiovascular risk.

And, it doesn't end here. All the tails that you heard (and likely disregarded) as a child about sugar being bad for your teeth are TRUE. In fact, a steady intake of sugar, enough to be considered excessive has a negative effect on both dental healthy and immunity. You see, simple carbohydrates (such as refined and processed sugar) are favored by pathological and oral intestinal microbes including Strep mutants and Candida albicans, allowing them to grow and take root, resulting in intestinal bacteria overgrowth and dental problems including cavities and gingivitis. In addition, too much sugar has been linked to a lower immune system and a lower resistance to infections.

Additionally, some suggest that sugar also negatively affects our mental health and emotional well-being linking refined sweeteners to attention disorders as well as emotional issues including depression and anxiety.

Moreover, large amounts of processed and refined sugar can result in inflammatory destruction to other body organ system. Advanced gylcation end products, commonly known as AGEs, are harmful toxins that result from circulating sugars that combine with free amino acid groups of proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids; which some suggest are linked to the promotion of pathogenic cellular alterations resulting in excess inflammation and tissue damage. It is these AGEs that some claim are responsible are being the primary culprit for arthritis, heart disease, asthma, and accelerated aging. Plus, AGEs have been detected in the brains of dementia patients and may even be responsible for neurofibrillary tangles associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Experts suggest cutting back on sugar is key to living a longer, healthier and more beautiful live. Start cutting back by first identifying the sources and reasons for excessive sugar intake....and that means cutting back on more than the sugar in your coffee or the amount of sweets and candy you eat. Remember, many common foods contain sugar or are converted into sugar upon consumption. Among these sodas; sweetened fruit juices; processed foods (including pre-made sauces, salad dressings, white bread, white sugar, etc.). Remember sugar is often added to foods, especially kid's foods for added taste, moisture and texture. With that said experts suggest thoroughly reading the label of EVERYTHING you put in your shopping cart, on your table, and eventually into your family's bodies. They also suggest getting savvy about the variations of sugars and how they are listed, including glucose, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, sucrose and cane sugar, to name a few.

The worst of all however, according to experts is high-fructose corn syrup, one of the most common sweeteners, cleverly incorporated into an abundance of foods and which has potentially much greater health risks than cane sugar. In fact, according to experts, high-fructose corn syrup has been linked to increased triglycerides, weight gain, and the development of AGEs. Plus, studies show that sodas and soda-like beverages containing high-fructose corn syrup are also highly likely to contain methylglyoxal derivatives, a type of AGE that has been associated with diabetic complications.

Experts also caution buyers to beware of sugar substitutes when looking to cut back on sugar consumption. Artificial sweeteners are just as bad, if not worse for us. These include aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame K and sucralose; substance that since their introduction into our diet have been linked to health issues such as cancer and attention deficit disorder. But, according to the Food and Drug Administration, none of these claims, they say, have been extensively proven, which is why these substances continue to infiltrate our foods.

Still some recent studies suggest that regular intake of these sugar substitutes can lead to weight gain and interfere with appetite control. And, they also stimulate and insulin response from the pancreas as a way of inducing carbohydrate metabolism. But, since these artificial sweeteners have to carb value, insulin levels stay elevated, resulting in hypoglycemia and increased hunger, which often leads to eating more than you need to, especially at meal time.

Sugar intake however "is" both feasible and possible. Your best bet is natural sugars through foods and fruits. However, if you must add sugar to your diet stick to natural sugars such honey, agave, molasses and pure cane sugar.

Long Island Health, Fitness & Beauty Articles > Sugar, Sugar, Honey, Honey: Why and How Sugar May Not Be So Sweet For Your Health

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