Contrary to what was previously believed-that all it really caused was tooth decay- new research maintains that the sweet stuff is so bad for our health, some experts want it regulated like a drug.
Is sugar worse for you than, say, cocaine? Studies show that too much sugar (both in the form of natural sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup) not only helps make us fat, it also wreaks havoc on our liver, mucks up our metabolism, impairs brain function and may leave us susceptible to serious ailments. Experts say raising awareness isn’t enough, especially when so many of our food options contain sugar. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Nevertheless, after hearing the news, many of us shrugged and turned back to our cupcakes. Yet we may already be feeling the effects of too much sugar without even realizing it. Here’s how to beat the most common issues to prevent long term damage and feel your best right now.
For a pick-me-up, you may inhale a bag of toffees or gobble up a box of cookies. But the impulse goes deeper. To examine the hold sugar can have over us, substance-abuse researchers have performed brain scans on subject eating something sweet. What they have seen resembles the mind of a drug addict: when subject tastes sugar, the brain lights up in the same regions as it would in an alcoholic drinking a bottle of gin. A cookie a couple of times a week is fine, but on most days, go for a bowl of oats with no more than a table spoon of brown sugar. The whole grains fill you up, and the sweetness can satisfy you while raising serotonin slightly.
Blanking out in the middle of the meeting? Too much sugar forms free radicals in the brain and compromises nerve cells ability to communicate. This could have repercussions on how well we remember instructions, process ideas, and handle our moods. The fixes stay under the American Heart Association limit of nine tea spoon a day for men, five for women. Read labels and nutrition information and make wiser choices. A black coffee and plain yogurt with walnuts, sweetened with a tea spoon of honey is definitely better than a regular latte and donut.
Sugar contributes to pre mature aging, just as cigarettes and ultra violet rays do. When skin support structures collagen and elastin break down from sun or other free radical exposures, cells try to repair themselves. But this process slows down with age. And when sugar is present in the skin, it forms cross links with amino acids that may have been damaged by free radicals. These cross links jam the repair mechanism and, over time, leave you with prematurely old looking skin. THE FIX: once cross links form, they won’t unhitch, so keep sugar intake to as close to zero as you can. Avoid soft drinks and processed pastries, and trade sugar packets for cinnamon for your coffee- it seems to slow down a crossing linkage, as do cloves, ginger and garlic.
A SLUGGISH WORKOUT
Muscles mostly use carbohydrates for fuel because they break down into glucose, a simple sugar that can kick start your morning jog. But pre packaged snacks touting “natural sweeteners” may contain just fructose, a type of sugar mostly metabolized in the liver, not the muscles. This can result in bloating or even diarrhea. THE FIX: have a glucose packed snack with minimal fructose before exercise. Try a sports drink or an energy bar with a modest amount of sugar an hour before a vigorous workout.
SWEET SHOCK: IS SUGAR MAKING US OBESE?
Yes, in recent years, sugar – more so than fat – has been receiving the bulk of the blame for our deteriorating health. Most of us know we consume more sugar than we should. Let’s be honest, it’s hard not to. Sugar does more damage to our bodies than we originally thought. It was once considered to be just another marker for an unhealthy diet and obesity. Now sugar is considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, as well as many other chronic diseases. Sugar has adverse health effects above any purported role as ‘empty calories’ promoting obesity. Research suggests that the sugar has unique metabolic properties that prime your body to gain weight, especially dangerous belly fat linked to heart disease and diabetes. Your liver metabolizes much of the sugar you eat and converts excess to fat. Too much fat in the liver accelerates insulin resistance. Too much sugar doesn’t just make us fat; it can also make us sick. Individuals that get strong cravings for sugar and are unable to quit or reduce their consumption despite negative physical consequences (such as weight gain) are sugar addicts. Too much added sugar, from sweetened sodas, cakes, cookies and candy, increases your risk of death from heart disease.
Added sugars, according to most experts, are far more harmful to our bodies than naturally-occurring sugars. We’re talking about the sugars used in processed or prepared foods like sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, candy, ready-to-eat cereal and yeast breads. Your fruits and (natural) fruit juices are safe.