Updated: Nov 13, 2020
The American Heart Association recommends about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men max when it comes to added sugar consumption (1.) Unfortunately many Americans neglect that recommendation and have closer to 22 teaspoons daily of added sugars. There are naturally occurring sugars in foods and added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are found in fruit for instance (fructose and glucose) as well as in milk (lactose.) Added sugars are those that are incorporated during the food preparation process. Candies, desserts, pastries, fruit juices, soft drinks, ice cream, yogurts, waffles, cookies and pies are some common foods with added sugars. Sometimes it can be tricky to know if there are added sugars because they can be masked by so many different names. Common names for added sugars include: maltose, sucrose, dextrose, maltodextrin, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, raw sugar, fruit juice concentrates, syrup and honey. A note of caution should be applied as well when it comes to artificial sweeteners like: aspartame, Sucralose and saccharin as these can pose metabolic challenges and can up-regulate inflammatory cascades in the body.
Instead of added sugar in coffee ^, try a couple drops of green leaf stevia for a better option.
So why is sugar such a big deal? Why do we need to be cognizant about intake quantities? Lets dive into some of the repercussions that are observed when ingesting added sugars.
Added sugars pose serious threats to heart health. The calculated rhythm of each heartbeat as well as neurological stimulation of the heart function optimally in the absence of excessive sugars. We know that added sugars can directly compromise the gut lining leading to permeability issues. These toxins and antigens from the gut can reach systemic circulation and therefore influence tissues outside of the gut. These toxins can accumulate in the arteries causing inflammation and plaque formations. The toxins can also negatively impact neuronal health by demyelinating mechanisms that affect conduction velocity and functionality.
The liver is another organ that takes a negative toll when it comes to added sugars in the diet. One common disease manifestation that ensues is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. A fatty liver inhibits its ability to carry out its functions, such as promoting detoxification, bile production, inclusion of glucose for healthy blood sugar regulation, protein synthesis among many, many other functions. This can easily lead to infections taking root, metabolism becoming sluggish and overall body functions starting to decline.
Added sugars directly hamper robust functionality of the gut microbiome. The gut is arguably the most important area in the body to address for overall, systemic, body-wide health. If there is compromise in the gut, chances are there are manifestations and ramifications of that showing up elsewhere in the body. This can present as: headaches/migraines, thyroid issues, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, bone mineral density issues, fatigue, insomnia, skin issues, hormonal imbalances, fibromyalgia as well as digestive issues themselves. Sugars can impair the gut lining, creating a leaky gut syndrome, and this can then lead to all these other issues showing up.
Diabetes and metabolic syndrome are very real possibilities when added sugars are present in the diet. An influx of sugars can impair proper insulin sensitivity and ultimately lead to an insulin resistance problem. More insulin is being released from the pancreas to take the sugars into the muscle and liver but they aren't being up-taken properly. Here we have glucose transporters not working properly and so glucose isn't being taken into the skeletal muscle and liver the way it should be. These sugars can then be converted to fat and contribute to excessive adiposity as well as start to negatively influence blood vessel strength and stability.
With added sugars being present in the body for long enough, certain cancerous cells can begin to proliferate. This has been observed with colon cancer and breast cancer and the list doesn't end there. The sugars leading to gut compromise and inflammation seem to fuel unhealthy cell growth and carcinogenesis.
The good news is that revamping the diet can significantly start to reverse unhealthy processes that have taken root in the body. Additionally, taste bud receptors can change to be more receptive of bitters, sour foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and cranberries, and other tastes than just sweet. Natural sugars in moderation are recommended to keep inflammation at bay. If adding sugars to a meal, dish, drink or whatever, I'd recommend raw, local honey, adding dates or figs, a small amount of green leaf stevia or a little monk fruit.
Dates: A natural sugar option to satisfy the sweet tooth.
Dr. Seamus Allen
CFMP, DACBN, DC