All sugar is not created equal. Some metabolize better than others. Beware Fructose!
SUGAR CAN KILL! Reads like an alarmist, over-the-top declaration, doesn’t it? Yet the truth of it is apparent every day.
Of course, a bullet to the head kills more quickly and completely; nonetheless, with the right genetic propensities (say for diabetes) and a diet amply laden with sugar, sugar can kill you.
Now here comes a seemingly contradictory and equally true statement: Every living thing (that would include us) requires a certain form of sugar to live.
That these two statements can be true is made possible by recognizing that not all sugar is created equal. One form of it we need, a few we can tolerate, and one in particular can kill us.
Glucose vs Fructose
Glucose is the sugar type that we all need. Our brains and each cell in our bodies are powered by glucose. Our bodies are designed to use it. As a result, nearly all of it that’s ingested is used — “burned up” — soon after ingested.
Fructose is the bad stuff, particularly high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and crystalline fructose. Fructose is a major contributor to:
- Insulin resistance and obesity
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated triglycerides and elevated LDL
- Depletion of vitamins and minerals
- Cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, arthritis and even gout
Why this substantial disparity between glucose and fructose?
The answer has to do with how we metabolize these sugars. Your body metabolizes fructose in a much different way than glucose. The entire burden of metabolizing fructose falls on your liver. As Dr. Mercola points out in his article, Sugar May Be Bad But This Sweetener Is Far More Deadly:
- Your liver is 100% tasked metabolically with dealing with fructose, whereas only 20% of the glucose metabolic break down is performed by the liver.
- The metabolism of fructose by your liver creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and causes gout.
- All of your body uses glucose very efficiently and almost completely, whereas fructose is turned into free fatty acids (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which are stored as fat. These fatty acids accumulate in the body and cause insulin resistance and fatty liver disease. Insulin resistance can progress to type 2 diabetes, which is now threatening the capacity and solvency of America’s health care system.
- Fructose converts to activated glycerol (g-3-p), which is directly used to turn free fatty acids into triglycerides. The more g-3-p you have, the more fat you store. Glucose does not do this.
- When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. 120 calories of fructose results in 40 calories being stored as fat. Consuming fructose is essentially consuming fat!
- Glucose suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates leptin, which suppresses your appetite. Fructose has no effect on ghrelin and interferes with your brain’s communication with leptin, resulting in overeating.
I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard that there’s a strong correlation between when high fructose corn syrup was introduced and when Americans began getting overweight. This also seems to correspond to the emergence of the no-fat alternative. Rather than the fat, more fructose was put into processed food, often resulting in a greater caloric count per serving than the regular alternative.
And guess what? Without the satiation of the fat — since it was removed from the non-fat product — people ate more of the non-fat/high fructose alternative, thereby increasing the calories consumed.
Fructose is Everywhere
Some months ago, I “penned” a summary of the late Peter Jennings TV special about corn subsidies in America. and the damage that by-products like high-fructose corn syrup was doing to the public, entitled: How to Get Fat without Really Trying. Mr. Jennings makes it painfully obvious that fructose is in everything.
If you care about your health, you MUST read food labels of the stuff you buy. Most everything in a box or can is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Avoid this so-called food.
Consider what is served up as healthy for children, like the “made with real fruit” claims. The package of “Gerber Fruit Juice Treats for Preschoolers”, for instance, is covered with pictures of ripe oranges, raspberries, cherries, peaches, grapes and pineapple. Yet, its only fruit-like ingredient is fruit juice concentrate, which the Dietary Guidelines for Americans considers just another form of sugar. The primary ingredients are more sugar in the form of plain ole sugar corn syrup.
I don’t mean to dump on Gerber as if it’s some terrible anomaly, because it’s not the exception but the rule: Many sweetened products like to give lip service to being “natural” or “healthy”, but it’s a sham.
If you wish to give your child candy, give him or her candy, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that corn-derived sweeteners is a near approximation of fruit.
Want your kid to have fruit? How ’bout real fruit, like the kind that grows on trees.
What Sugar is Best?
Before this question is tackled, may I impress upon you the fact that taste buds are malleable. Meaning, that you can acquire an affection for a new taste not yet appreciated (remember when you hated beer, wine, coffee, etc.), or minimize the consumption of a food for which your taste buds are currently tuned, but is unhealthy.
So, reduce your appetite for sugar. Do this by incrementally reducing the amount you apply onto your food and drink. Your taste for it will adjust. (So true with salt too, and equally as important!)
In the meantime, if you really, really must dive into the sugar bowl, consider quick review of what’s out there:
Best known for its benefits in oral health (prevents plaque from sticking to teeth enamel), this is a sugar alcohol derivative that exists naturally in the body and in many plants and vegetables.
The Finns seem to have done the most research on xylitol. Many of their studies suggest that in addition to preventing cavaties, xylitol may kill off the bacterial associated with ear infections, such as streptococcus pneumoniae, as well as respiratory bacteria. (About 90% of all infection-causing bacteria enters the body via the nose.)
Ideal for anyone with diabetes, xylitol has 40% fewer calories and a much lower glycemic index than that of sugar.
One thing to be aware of when using xylitol: it requires an adjustment period wherein you gradually increase your consumption (but remember, less is more); otherwise diarrhea and gas may result to those sensitive to it.
This is an herb. I’ve grown it and seeped it in hot water along with a tea bag. I like it in very modest quantities. The body doesn’t metabolize the sweet glycosides from the stevia leaf or any of its processed forms – so there is no caloric intake. Stevia doesn’t adversely affect blood glucose levels and may be used freely by diabetics.
But know this — the processed form of stevia that’s mostly available to buy may not be a healthy sweetener alternative. Read Pooja Mottl’s insightful post on the subject, Can Stevia Solve Our Obsession With Sweetness.
3. Use organic raw honey and organic cane sugar in moderation.
4. Avoid ALL artificial sweeteners, which can damage your health even more quickly than fructose. If you’re consuming Aspartame, or any of its brands, such as AminoSweet, Nutrisweet, Equal, and many others — you’re doing yourself a great, great disservice and must read Dr. Mercola’s America’s Deadliest Sweetener! (Diabetics especially should read this.)
5. Avoid agave syrup , a highly processed sap that is mainly fructose. Agave will spike your blood sugar as if you were consuming regular sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
6. Avoid so-called energy drinks and sports drinks . They are full of sugar. They are full of sodium and chemical additives. Instead, rehydrate with pure water, perhaps with lemon juice.
OK, so now you have a few ideas of the insidious ingredients lurking everywhere that conspire to make you fat and unhealthy. Knowledge is power. Read the labels, make better choices, and let your friends and family know that sugar can kill.
Published on February 18, 2010