Americans consume nearly 130 pounds of added sugars per person every year in both sugar and high fructose corn syrup forms. These sugars lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, and can be found in most everything Americans love like sweetened drinks, syrup, honey, breads, yogurts.
Some sugar advocates may say that sugar consumption has decreased 40% since the 1970’s, which is true. But there has been an increase in fructose consumption. Fructose is the sweetest of all sugars and leaves us craving more. In the past we used to consume most of our fructose from fruit, which also has fiber, filling us up and slowing down sugar absorption.
Why is sugar so bad?
Studies have shown us that excess consumption of high fructose corn syrup is linked to an increase in risk factors for heart disease by increasing a type of cholesterol that can clog arteries. Furthermore, calories from sugars are different than those from other foods. So people consuming the same amount of calories, will have completely different cholesterol profiles just by where the calories came from. If they came from high fructose corn syrup then you are left with increased levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol one of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Why does this happen?
It is believed that the liver becomes overloaded with fructose and converts some of it into fat, which then enters the bloodstream to create “small dense LDL’s,” the kind that forms plaque in arteries.
But sugar is toxic in more ways than just clogging your arteries. Other research has shown that sugar could be helping some cancer tumors to grow because sugar stimulates the production of insulin, and nearly 1/3 of common cancers (including some breast and colon) contain insulin receptors that eventually signal the tumor to consume glucose. Some tumors have even adapted to an insulin-rich environment and as such, divert glucose-rich blood from the bloodstream to itself.
Furthermore, sugar consumption triggers euphoric chemical activity in the brain similar to a ‘reward system’ such that when you eat sugar, your brain feels pleasure. This means the more sugar you eat, the greater your threshold to reach this pleasure sensation, so it’s a vicious cycle.
What can we do?
People consume more sugar daily than they actually realize. High fructose corn syrup is not necessarily worse for you than sugar, they’re both equally bad for you. A reduced-sugar diet is preferable and will have many benefits including weight loss, reduction in risk for diabetes, decreased risk of heart disease, just to name a few. Just like the government mandated a reduced consumption of dietary fats in the 1970’s, we should practice MODERATION, specifically:
- Sugar consumption
- Portion size
- Physical activity
- Healthy eating