How Sugar Snowballs into Chronic Diseases
There is no arguing it. You look at the science and see for yourself in the mirror…sugar is plain rotten.
We talked about how it is addictive and can lead to you getting fat in a hurry if you don’t have Greek God genes. Also in our last post I mentioned sugar is connected to so many diseases.
The truth is those results of sugar are just superficial until it happens to you. So what does this mean to you? How delicately does it impact your life?
This much is true about sugar: while the negative impact can be gradual over time, there is no doubt it can be disastrous. By avoiding sugar, you avoid these atrocities I am about to share with you.
Sugar’s Short-term Problems
OK I know this post is supposed to be about long-term chronic diseases. But in order to avoid these diseases, you have to start with where it begins, the short term impact.
One of the terrible short term side effects about sugar is that as insulin spikes and comes crashing down, it causes your body to crash as well. This is the catalyst for the start of a chain reaction that goes on inside your body leading to these chronic diseases.
You know this from personal experience as a mid-day crash. This crash is due to usually to a sugar-grain cocktail during lunch or breakfast that leads into what I call this the Glucose Coma.
This process helps you to retain more fat in your body. As you start retaining more fat, your body needs to consume more energy in order to maintain the fat it wants to store for preservation.
One of the ways it consumes more energy is by driving you toward more sleep. This not only makes you less functional, but highly impacts your ability to work out, which is so key to gaining energy and being lean. Top it off with more fat and exercise becomes downright unbearable.
Sounds like a vicious cycle right? Well it doesn’t stop there.
You may know this Glucose Coma drill well. These red flags start to show up if you entertain the Glucose Coma more and more:
- You lose motivation in work. Your performance falls. Then you lose out on promotions and raises. You may even lose your job.
- Clothes start to not fit. You have to shop at random stores or get custom fits. It is hard to sit, especially with clothes on. You are making noises just to get up.
- You have new issues you never dreamed about like invading other people’s space on a plane or a rollercoaster ride or being forced to buy two tickets.
- You are embarrassed to go out on a date, let alone have sex with someone. You always wonder whether people like or dislike you because of your weight. You look at old pictures and wonder what happened to that beautiful person.
- You avoid people. You don’t want to go out. You hate being in public because of the embarrassment of weight.
- You keep eating a diet full of sugar, but you aren’t the only one. You are now influencing other family members as well. Soon other family members become obese and it is hard for them to find success in their own life. All of you have fostered an environment that rationalizes poor eating.
- You have to start many medications and visit the doctor consistently. This could also mean countless surgeries and injuries.
This finally ends like all of these other sad stories: premature pain and death. You have to seriously ask yourself, “Will you live to retire with your wife? Will you die before walking your daughter down the aisle? Will you never meet your grandchildren or great-grandchildren?”
That is a sad, aggravating story and hundreds of millions of us are looking at it right in the face. I am about to talk about the terrible diseases that are associated with death from sugar, but those are just names. It is the underlying sadness you and I feel as we go through this or see loved ones do the same that really matters.
Know My Body is about living a happy life, not just avoiding an early death. Remember that as we go through these terminal diseases.
We touched on metabolic syndrome before, but it is worth revisiting being at least 75 million of us suffer from it. It is the pathway to meeting the Grim Reaper.
You know by now that high levels of fructose cause your insulin to spike. The insulin can’t do it’s job to protect the liver, so you get liver insulin resistance. That means the pancreas has to create that much more insulin, which generates higher blood pressure. The higher the levels of insulin (or energy) exerted to keep sugar at bay, the more your body produces fat, and causes more energy to go into your fat cell. The pancreas keeps struggling to keep up and eventually your insulin and liver is shot. This means your body has likely hit the stage you know as obesity.
As we also mentioned the higher your insulin goes, the less your brain can recognize the hormone chemical leptin, which is supposed to tell your brain you’re full. Now you eat more sugar just to get your fix, which in turn means more fat and more poor eating.
This entire cycle of losing control of our blood sugar levels is known as metabolic syndrome.
So how do you know if this happens? If you are overweight, you are somewhere in the stages of metabolic syndrome.
Other signs include:
- Insulin resistance
- High blood pressure
- Triglycerides go up
- HDL cholesterol goes down
- LDL particles become small and dense
- Belts don’t fit anymore
Obesity is well-known as the “gateway” disease associated with metabolic syndrome. You could throw type 2 diabetes in there as well, being diabetes and obesity are so closely related.
They all lead to major killers like these:
- heart disease,
- cardiovascular disease, and
- coronary artery disease.
Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat, mentions there are other diseases associated with metabolic syndrome as well such as Alzheimer’s and it has become even more widely accepted that breast and colon cancer are connected too. We will talk a bit about a studies that are backing those claims up.
Metabolic syndrome’s best friend is sugar. The more we consume it, the more metabolic syndrome takes over our life.
David Schubert and Pamela Maher, neurobiologists at the Salk Institute, performed a study that showed how all of the characteristics of metabolic syndrome such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high level of triglycerides, and low HDL all lead to dementia and deterioration of the brain.
While it was not directly connected to sugar in this study, if can be safe to conclude that if sugar is a major cause of metabolic syndrome and those symptoms we mentioned, then a smart way to avoid Alzheimer’s disease is to avoid sugar.
Sugar’s Impact on Heart Disease
When we drink or eat high fructose corn syrup or sucrose it overflows the liver and converts it into fat. They form small, dense LDL particles that get trapped in the blood vessels, create plaque and are the causes for strokes and heart attacks.
It contributes to more stored body fat than potentially even that evil saturated fat because it not only increases small, dense LDL, but helps to decrease our HDL cholesterol that we need to keep our pipes properly flowing with blood.
Kimber Stanhope, a nutritional biologist at UC-Davis, has done a 5 year study that shows increase in high fructose corn syrup is linked to an increase in the risk of heart disease and stroke.
She has paid group of research subjects to hibernate in a hospital wing for weeks at a time. That sounds kinda cool to be a hermit watching TV all day and getting paid for it. They were monitored 24/7 and all of their food was controlled by Stanhope and her team so the patients can’t sneak any Ding Dongs or donuts.
Stanhope and her team were impressive in their diligence on studying their biomarkers. The paid hermits would undergo scans and blood tests constantly. Every calorie was weighed and prepared for the patients.
For the first few days patients were given food low in added sugar to measure baseline blood levels. Then 25% of their calories were replaced with sweetened drinks. To see what impact sugar had on their blood levels, Stanhope and her team drew blood every 30 minutes around the clock after they started consuming sugar. That seems like a lot of blood.
The results were eye-opening. The people that had increase in high fructose corn syrup also had increased levels of small, dense LDL cholesterol and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
What may be more surprising is that these changes only took two weeks before the consistent increase in sugar skyrocketed the patients’ risks for cardiovascular disease. It simply doesn’t take much time for sugar to start highly impacting your health and moving further down the path toward a chronic disease.
Sugar Impacts Cancer
Lewis Cantley, a Harvard professor, says that if you lower your sugar intake, you also lower your risk of gaining cancer. Yes, cancer.
As you know when we eat or drink sugar it causes a sudden spike in the hormone insulin. This is in turn a catalyst to fuel certain types of cancers such as breast and colon cancer.
Cancer cells have insulin receptors on the surface of the cells like your normal cells. Insulin binds to these cells and signals the cancer cell to start taking on more glucose. It is like a burglar finding a broken window to invite other criminals to easily jump into the house.
Cancer cells are no different. They take glucose to pad their size like a steroid. Cancer is in fact wheeling glucose like a gun and turning it on ourselves. The cancer cells hijack more and more glucose that was intended for fat and muscle cells causing the cancer to grow rapidly. Now you can see sugar is to cancer like water is to a plant.
Cantley talks about this in an article posted in the New York Times where he confessed after these studies, “Sugar scares me.”
Metabolic syndrome, caused by high sugar consumption is linked to cancer as well. Plenty of resources demonstrate this.
In 2007 the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research published a report called “Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer”. They noted that there was plenty of research to show that obesity would lead to colon, esophagus, adenocarcinoma, pancreas, kidney, and breast cancer. They said workout and avoid those sugary drinks that consume more than a 1/3rd of our sugar intake.
Their final recommendation was that we stay as lean as possible and avoid weight gain.
Hahah…doesn’t that sound stupid? That sounds like someone said, “Don’t die.” But it is fairly true. The only exception may be gaining muscle.
The bottom line is the more fat we gain, the weaker we are and the higher the risk we run of forming cancer cells. If you want to stay lean to lower your risk for cancer, then eat less sugar.
Other Problems Sugar Causes
I just scratched the surface on the major grim reapers of our society. Refined sugar can have so many other negative effects on many other diseases that we haven’t even talked about. Because of it’s direct correlation with obesity, it means that sugar through obesity leads to countless chronic and debilitating diseases.
Here are some other fun doozies you get to deal with:
- Sugar suppresses your immune system which prolongs sickness with diseases like the common cold and flu,
- causes hypoglycemia,
- causes and impacts food allergies,
- and not to mention the havoc it can cause on your mouth with tooth decay.
It makes you start to wonder if those few seconds of bliss when you eat sugar are worth the long term pain and agony you will have to go through.
Again this is about every sad thing that happens along the way. What also makes this great is you can change your life now. You can pull out sugar and grab hold of your body and life. If you pull out sugar today I absolutely promise you that you will enjoy life a little bit more.
So Sugar is terrible short and long-term. The question is, “What should we do about sugar?”