Sugar vs. Your Body
This week is sugar awareness week! In my opinion, one of the biggest steps we can take is limiting the amount of, or completely eliminating, sugar in our diet. We know that sugar, particularly processed sugar found outside of natural sources like fruit, can be extremely damaging to our health. Let’s take a look at what happens inside our bodies when we consume too much sugar.
When we eat sugar, the liver is the organ that has to process it and determine if it will be used as an energy source, glucose, or stored as fat. Eating too much sugar puts too much stress on the liver, and may lead to a condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The damage done in this situation is very similar to the damage alcohol does to the liver, because the liver processes alcohol and sugar in very similar manners. Both alcohol and sugar are handled in the liver to convert dietary carbohydrates into fats. If this method is done in excess over long periods of time, can lead to insulin resistance, fatty liver, and high levels of fat (triglycerides) in the bloodstream.
Overeating sugar also causes all sorts of metabolic dysfunction away from the liver and often results in a barrage of symptoms known as metabolic syndrome. I have mentioned metabolic syndrome in the past, as a precursor to many chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Health professionals are thoroughly convinced that excess sugar is the leading dietary factor leading to metabolic syndrome. Classic metabolic syndrome includes symptoms such as weight gain, obesity, increased LDL cholesterol, decreased HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, high fat in the bloodstream, and high sugar in the bloodstream.
Heart disease is a common disease following metabolic syndrome. We know that sugar consumption can change and negatively affect cholesterol levels and ratios, two common components of heart disease. In my opinion, inflammation, particularly systemic inflammation, is a larger determinant than cholesterol numbers in the development of heart disease. Systemic inflammation is damage that occurs within the blood vessels themselves, which can lead to plaque formation and stress on the cardiovascular system. Sugar is a known trigger for systemic inflammation. Think of it like this, your blood vessels are like hoses, and sugar is like razor blades running through the hoses. More damage to the blood vessels caused by more sugar leads to more inflammation and, eventually, heart disease.
Avoiding and limiting sugar isn’t easy, but it can be done. The easiest tip I can offer is replacing sugary drinks, including sodas, café-style drinks, and sports drinks, with water. Eating plenty of healthy fats will help curb your appetite away from craving sweets, as fats tend to make us feel more full than other macronutrients. Great sources of healthy fats come from fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and oils like coconut and olive oil. Finally, avoiding sugar is important, but replacing it with an artificial sweetener is even worse. These chemicals have been shown to be detrimental to gut health, and some studies have even linked them to cancer growth. If you or a loved one need any tips on avoiding and replacing sugar, ask how we can help!
Yours in Health, Dr. Alex
Project Wellness Company, Madison WI