Side Effects of Sugar

As a follow up to our last post about the obesity epidemic across our nation, we wanted to touch base on one of the contributing sources- sugar. It’s addicting, found in just about everything we eat, causes over 100 negative side effects, and yet our body still needs it. Don’t get the idea that you can survive off of cake alone, everything must be done in moderation and unfortunately, food manufactures have made that nearly impossible when it comes to sugar.

In the year 1700, the average person consumed a conservative 4 pounds of sugar per year. By 1800, that amount increased to 18 pounds per year and in 1900 jumped to a whopping 90 pounds per year! If these numbers are a shock to a system, get ready to get light-headed over the significant increase of sugar consumption of 180 pounds per person per year in 2009. With the development of tv dinners, soft drinks, boxed snacks, and fast food chains, diabetes has become a common disease among Americans across the nation.

So what’s the 411 on this omnipresent sweet substance? Let’s start by breaking down the different types of sugar:

Fructose, Glucose, and Dextrose are simple sugars (monosaccarides)-

  • Fructose is a naturally occurring fruit sugar that is in fruit, cane sugar, and honey.
  • Glucose occurs naturally in both plants and fruits and is the form of energy in which our bodies run on.
  • Dextrose is very much the same as fructose.

When sugars are combined, they become a complex sugar. The most well known is Sucrose (table sugar), a combination of glucose and fructose using equal amounts of each. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the combination of the two with 55% being fructose and the remaining 45% glucose. While both HFCS and Sucrose contain the same two sugars, they are quite different. High fructose corn syrup creates higher potential for health risks due to it’s chemical form. The glucose and fructose are not bound together causing your body to absorb it immediately rather than break it down.

When sugars are consumed your body will do one of two things, burn it for energy or convert it to fat and  store it. You’ve heard the phrase, “a minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips” a million times. Glucose is used by most of your bodies cells and burned as energy, while fructose goes straight to the liver (and thighs). Due to the fact that corn syrup is far cheaper to produce than sucrose, the food and beverage giants switched over to HFCS in the 1970s.

sleeping_homerOnce sugar hits the blood stream, the pancreas releases insulin as a way to control the excess amounts. If there isn’t enough insulin, the body’s cells are not able to take in the glucose properly in turn raising the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. This can lead to diabetes. On the other hand, too much insulin leads to hypoglycemia, also known as a sugar crash. Our bodies feel the need to control this by consuming yet more sugar. Severe cases of hypoglycemia can be dangerous and symptoms should not be ignored.

For more facts about diabetes, got to the American Diabetes Associations Website

To learn more about Hypoglycemia, check out these facts on the Mayo Clinic site.

Other forms of sugar are:

  • Honey-best used in it’s raw form when it is in it’s natural state. Honey is roughly 53% fructose and has many health benefits when used in moderation.
  • Stevia-a natural sweetener which comes from the leaf of a plant in South America
  • Agave-derived from the agave plant, but often times processed with as much as 80% fructose. It has been said that agave coming from Mexico is HFCS. While
  • Sucralose (Splenda) is not a sugar but instead a artificial sweetener and can negatively affect one’s health.
  • Ethanol (alcohol in beverages) is also not a sugar. Certain types of alcohol do in fact contain sugar.
  • Sugar Alcohols suchs as gylcerol, sorbitol, and xylitol are becomming more popular as sweeteners. While they are not sugars or alcohols, they are absobed into the small intestine incompletely and may cause bloating, flactulence, and diarrhea.
  • Saccharin has been linked to increased risks in cancer  and labeled as dangerous, but the term was removed when the results were only found in lab rats and not replicated in humans.

Keep an eye out for this list of other sugars you may come across on food and beverage labels:

  • Brown sugar
  • Cane crystals
  • Cane Sugar
  • Corn Sweetener
  • Corn Syrup
  • Crystalline Fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated can juice
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Invert
  • sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Syrup
  • just about anything that ends in “ose”

In this article, we have covered the basics of sugar. Keep your eyes peeled for future posts with in depth concentration on specific topics such as High fructose corn syrup, side effects and health risks of sugar intake, and sugar addiction. If you have a particular topic you would like to see discussed, feel free to leave a comment on our Facebook page.

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