January 14 through January 18, 2019 is National Sugar Awareness Week. This year, sugarawareness.com would like to challenge us to go without sugar for five days and discover how much better we will feel. The aim is to educate individuals about the addictiveness of sugar and the effect it has on the brain, body, mood, and wellness. As more research is conducted and more awareness around the detrimental effects of sugar are revealed, there is a greater desire to remove added sugar from the diet.
However, to take it a step further, we need to be aware that “hidden” sugar is everywhere. It can be found under other names like “dextrin,” “agave nectar,” “barley malt,” “beet sugar,” and many others. All of it is sugar and is broken down and metabolized the same as sucrose, which is white table sugar. What are some of the effects of sugar? Keep reading to get some ideas of what we can expect from too much sugar in our diet.
Too much sugar from processed foods, sweets, and even juices can cause many health issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Recently, the federal government adopted guidelines for limiting sugar intake; the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting the amount of added sugars in our diet to no more than 10 percent of daily calories. That’s about 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, which is equal to ¼ cup of sugar. To put that in perspective, a can of Coke contains nearly 10 teaspoons.
Sugar is also found naturally in the fruit and vegetables we eat. The sugar content of these foods is generally rated the using the glycemic index. The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking system of carbohydrates based on how they affect blood-sugar levels once consumed. A high GI food is rated at 70+ and creates a spike in blood-glucose levels, which affects insulin release. Low GI foods, rates at 45 and below, provide longer lasting and sustained energy. Not only do they reduce the incidence of diabetes but protect heart health and increase brain function.
An excellent list of low GI foods is found on the Sucrose Intolerance website. A more extensive resource for researching food composition is the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, which is the major source of food-composition data in the United States. Managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the database contains over 8,000 food items, and its information is free to the general public. While the data for sucrose is not complete, the USDA continues to update the database.
As mentioned above, sucrose in the blood is involved in insulin release. Insulin-hormone release is a tightly regulated function connected to many other hormone functions in the body. Insulin allows the cells in the muscles, fat, and liver to absorb glucose that is in the blood. Insulin is like a key that unlocks the door to the cells, allowing the glucose in. The glucose serves as fuel for the cells, or it can be converted into fat and used at a later time for energy. When we continually overconsume sugar, our body simply cannot produce enough insulin to keep up. Not only does blood sugar build up in the body, but the key to unlock the door for sugar use no longer functions, and the much-needed fuel is not getting into the cells.
When cells do not get the energy they need, sugar builds up in our blood stream, and we are left feeling sluggish and fatigued. Eventually, the increased blood sugar can lead to the development of Type 2 Diabetes. Sugar also affects our sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Insulin directly affects the production of a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, which maintains the balance of the sex hormones in our system. These hormones help keep our mood balanced. When these ratios are off, we feel irritable, fatigued, and restless; and all those feelings can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and lowering of the libido.
Over time, our bodies have become addicted to sugar. It is in just about everything we purchase at the grocery store, pick up at a fast food restaurant, and at those expensive specialty coffee shops. It’s certainly hard to escape added sugar unless we make the effort to avoid it. So, let’s try the five-day challenge and see how it feels to go sugar-free. Just be aware, it won’t be easy. Cutting sugar intake suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and fatigue. But it may just be worth it to see what the differences are. Join the challenge at Sugarawareness.com and share your experience.
The hyperlinks to other webpages that are provided in this article were checked for accuracy and appropriateness at the time this article was written. Myguthealthtoday.com does not continue to check these links to third-party webpages after an article is published, nor is myguthealthtoday.com responsible for the content of these third-party sites.