The Sugar Debate - Is it really as bad as they make it out to be?
The human body loves to eat sweet things. Whether it’s hard candy from a bag, or a strawberry fresh from the plant, nothing seems to satisfy like sweetness. One of the most common sweeteners - sugar - has received a lot of attention recently. Is it really as bad as they make it out to be?
Why we like sugar
Sugar is a carbohydrate, and humans are generally conditioned today to make most of their energy through carbohydrates. While fat can become the preferred source of energy with drastic diet changes, most people (especially in the West) find it easier to fuel up with carbs.
When you eat something sweet, like a sugary carbohydrate, the brain releases “reward” hormones to let you know it is good. To our ancestors, this was beneficial - finding a sweet berry to eat meant it was ripe, finding a sour berry could mean it was poisonous.
We don’t generally have to scour the countryside looking for berries to eat these days, and when we do eat berries they are normally from a store, so it’s no longer a life-or-death matter, but the link remains. Our brain considers sweet things to be beneficial to keeping our body running.
So if sweet carbs are good for energy, they must be healthy, right?
Not necessarily. The sugar in a berry or fruit (fructose) is chemically different from table sugar (sucrose), but neither are particularly great for your body (other carbohydrate sources are much better for you).
Table sugar, or more properly “refined sugar”, has been through several processes to make it more palatable and easily accessible - it is far more difficult to eat “too much” sugar from fruit than it is from a cake.
A side effect of the brain releasing reward hormones when consuming sugar is that our body becomes conditioned to want sugar all the time, which soon becomes a craving, and ends up as a dependency.
This makes it very hard to give up the sugar habit, leading many people to consume more and more sugar.
The Effects of Sugar
In a 2012 study at UCLA, rats were given a diet that was very high in fructose - something that is quite difficult to achieve in nature. (1) Rats were chosen for the experiment as they experience the same dependency and addiction patterns as human subjects.
The effects of the excess sugar were dramatic. Synaptic activity in the brain was damaged and slowed, resulting in problems with brain cells trying to communicate with each other. Furthermore, the rats became insulin-resistant.
Why is insulin resistance a problem? It’s the first step toward diabetes. Insulin helps maintain the level of sugar in your blood, and resistance can cause mood swings, fatigue, and even depression.
It is also often said the sugar feeds cancer cells. While this is true, it is only a half-truth - sugar feeds all your cells. The problems occur when you regularly spike your blood sugar level - for example, by eating food with a large amount of sugar in it - and your body struggles to handle it. (2)
Eating a lot of sugar can also lead to weight gain. Eating too much sugar requires the liver to metabolize it, and the liver turns the sugar into fat, which is a less-than-ideal situation. (3) For many years eating fat was thought to be the root cause of weight gain, but sugar can fill your body with fat without you even realizing.
So is sugar as bad as they make it out to be? With a list that includes dramatic effects on the brain, diabetes, cancer, and obesity - yes, it is!
How to Counteract these Effects
The only way to counteract the effects of sugar on the body is to cut sugar out of your diet. While it is impractical to completely remove sugar, as of course fruit (and other foods) contain naturally occurring sugars, it is a lot easier to avoid “added sugar” and go on a sugar detox.
The benefits of reducing your sugar intake to zero can be felt within just a few days. You will start to feel healthier, and be able to taste the naturally occurring sugar in fruit and vegetables. Your “brain fog” will begin to clear, and you will gradually lose the cravings.
It won’t be easy - even some prepackaged meats include sugar as a main ingredient - but you owe it to yourself, and to your health, to try and limit your sugar intake as much as possible.
As a side note, artificial sweeteners should be avoided whilst doing a sugar detox. They stimulate the same parts of the brain to release reward hormones as sugar does, but the lower calorie intake confuses the brain, and leads to overeating later on in order for the body to feel satiated.
Be warned however, going on a sugar detox diet is not for everyone. If you are already diabetic, or are on medication to control your blood sugar, you should consult a professional medical practitioner before commencing any change to your regular diet.
Apothecary 27 Sweet Suggestions
Viridian - Chromium & Cinnamon Complex
Chromium is an important mineral that contributes to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels. Cinnamon, also known as “sweet wood,” has been well studied clinically and has a long history of traditional use.
'Great for rebalancing your sugar levels and preventing sugar cravings'
liquorice and peppermint tea
'Great after meals instead of a dessert..so sweet!!'
Life Is Sweet Xylitol
'Great alternative to sugar. A natural plant-based sweetener that doesn't affect blood sugar levels. Also granulated like sugar, so it's a straight swap in recipes'
VISIT US AT Apothecary 27, 71-73 WEYHILL, HASLEMERE, SURREY, GU27 1H to purchase your sweet alternatives.