A natural approach to functioning optimally
       8 Reasons to Remove Sugar from Your Diet

By Karen Calomino, MS
December 1, 2014

Sugar and sweets seem to go hand in hand with the holidays.

Gingerbread cookies, candy canes, hot chocolate, and pumpkin and apple pies are a few of the images and smells that stir our senses and revive past memories of this magical time.

We pay for it though.

Just one slice of apple pie with ice-cream has about 50 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent of about 12 or 13 teaspoons.  A candy cane or gingerbread cookie contains about 2 to 3 teaspoons of sugar each, and a 20 ounce can of coke has about 10 teaspoons.

Unfortunately, most of our sugar consumption is not limited to these few months but instead continue consistently throughout the year.

In fact, sugar consumption among American adults has increased more than 30% in the last three decades. Added sugar in our diet accounts for nearly 500 calories of our daily diet with the top 20% of adults consuming about 721 calories from this alone [1]. To put this in perspective, the average American ingests around 3 pounds of sugar each week, or more than 150 teaspoons [2].

And if we add in grain carbohydrates, including pasta, cereals, and breads which our body converts into glucose, the annual consumption is 360 pounds per person [3]!

According to the World Sugar Research Organization (WRSO), which is coincidentally supported by the sugar industry, “people around the world eat sugar as part of a healthy, nutritious, and balanced diet.” They also inform us that, since no research has linked the consumption of sugar to any chronic disease, we don’t need to worry about this affecting our health [4]. 

In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists sugar as “generally regarded as safe (GRAS).” These statements, along with no U.S. Dietary Guideline limits for added sugar in foods, justify an unlimited amount of this toxic substance added to our diets.

And that is a disaster waiting to happen (or already has for many) with regards to our health. Here are eight reasons why:

1. Sugar Fuels Cancer Cells

Cancer cells thrive on glucose, a simple carbohydrate and component of table sugar. This has been known for over 85 years when Otto Warburg discovered that most cancer cells rely more on glycolysis than oxidative phosphorylation to meet their energy needs.

Glycolysis is a metabolic pathway that produces ATP molecules, or energy, through the conversion of glucose into pyruvate. This is done without the use of oxygen in the cytosol of cells.

In normal cells, pyruvate continues into the mitochondria where large amounts of energy is formed through oxidative phosphorylation (the generation of ATP by the oxidation of nutrients including fatty acids), however cancer cells are unable to do this due to mitochondrial mutations.

Since glycolysis is a more inefficient form of energy production, cancer cells require a constant supply of sugar to proliferate and grow.

Evidence exists from studies and reviews that chronically elevated blood glucose levels accelerates the growth of tumors and that low carbohydrate diets help suppress this growth [5,6,7].

This applies to fructose as well, which is also a component of table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. According to the University of California Los Angeles, cancer cells can easily metabolize refined fructose to increase proliferation, however they also mention that this may be curbed by reducing sugar intake [8].

2. Sugar is Pro-Inflammatory and linked to Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Arthritis

According to Dwight Lundell, a heart surgeon with 25 years of experience, "Despite the fact that 25% of the population takes statin drugs and despite the fact we have reduced the fat content to our diets, more Americans will die this year of heart disease than ever before [9]."

He explains that, while this was the only accepted therapy and any deviations could possibly result in malpractice, "these recommendations are no longer scientifically or morally defensible" and are the result of an epidemic of obesity, diabetic, and heart disease, "the consequences of which dwarf any historical plague in terms of morality, human suffering and dire economic consequences."

Instead of cholesterol and fat being blamed for so many diseases, the real culprit is inflammation. And guess what one of the most serious causes of inflammation is. Sugar.

Sugary foods raise blood sugar (glucose), which triggers the release of insulin. This hormone helps to balance blood glucose levels by moving it into our cells to be used as fuel.

With proper nutrition, our body is able to maintain this balance, however if we ingest a lot of sugar, blood glucose rises quickly and the pancreas has to work overtime to release larger amounts of insulin. As the cells become saturated with sugar, they become less responsive to insulin, leading to insulin resistance and Type II Diabetes.

Insulin resistance is the root cause of many symptoms grouped together and called "metabolic syndrome". These include rising blood sugar, increased triglycerides, increased small, low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol), and high blood pressure.

It also triggers the production of proteins called cytokines, which activate an inflammatory process resulting in a build-up of artery-clogging plaque.

In one study, sugar was the only food type that yielded a significant association with diabetes[10]. Another one showed a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases [11].

These same inflammatory cytokines cause many other degenerative diseases as well, including arthritis.

Just this year, results of the Nurses' Health Study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that women who consumed one or more servings of sugar-sweetened soda per day had a 63% increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared to those who consumed none or less than one serving per month [12].

3. Sugar can Make You Fat

Beware of fat-free products. They are filled with sugar to make-up for the loss of taste. And this is what makes you gain weight.

It does this in different ways. First, when there is excess sugar in our blood due to insulin resistance, much of it is turned into triglycerides and stored as fat.

Also, when eating healthy diets, fat cells secrete a hormone called leptin when they are filled with sufficient amounts of fat. This signals the brain that we are full, which in turn prevents us from overeating. However a high sugar diet raises tryglycerides, which block the transport of leptin leaving us feeling unsatiated.

And finally, rather than being used as fuel in our cells, the fructose in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup goes directly to the liver, where it is stored as adipose tissue (fat) on our waistline.

Sugar-sweetened soft drinks in particular, due to their high fructose content, may be a main contributor to obesity [13,14].

4. Sugar can Impair Brain Function

A diet high in sugar may reduce the production of a brain chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which has been related to depression and Alzheimer's [15].

In one study, researchers at the Charite-University Medicine in Berlin found that higher glucose levels are significantly associated with a smaller hippocampus in the brain and poorer memory, even in people without diabetes. They also implied that cognition can be preserved by lowering blood sugar levels [16].

The Mayo Clinic received similar results. When people 70 years and older ate foods high in carbohydrates and sugar, they were 1.9 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment. Interestingly, those with diets highest in fat were 42% less likely to face this [17].

5. Sugar can Age You

Studies show that consumption of sugar may cause you to look older earlier.

Researchers at the Leiden University Medical Center along with Unilever measured glucose levels in around 600 people between the ages of 50 and 70 and took their photographs. Their actual age was compared to the estimated age given by 60 independent assessors. Taking all other factors that could affect aging into consideration, the study found that for every 1 mmol/L increase in glucose level there was a perceived 0.4 years increase in age [18].

Excess sugar in the bloodstream attaches to proteins to form advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which in turn increase the stiffness and reduce the elasticity of collagen, resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin [19].

6. Sugar can Provide the Breeding Ground for Bacteria and Yeast

Sugar facilitates the growth of bacteria and yeast by weakening our body's ability to fight them while at the same time providing the environment where they can thrive and multiply.
Sugar in all forms has been known to weaken our immune system since 1973 when a study proved that ingesting a mere 100 grams of sucrose, glucose, fructose, honey, and pasteurized orange juice resulted in a 50% reduction in neutrophil activity within 30 minutes of consumption [20].

Neutrophils, which make up about 40% to 75% of our white blood cells, are one of the first responders to fight acute inflammation caused by bacterial infections and other stressors so a reduction in these can result in an increase in infections.

In addition, an impaired immune system, antibiotics, and a diet filled with refined sugar can kill off the beneficial microorganisms and allow bad bacteria and yeast to proliferate and grow out of control.

7. Sugar can cause Fatty Liver

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, a bestselling author and known advocate of Functional Medicine, 90 millions Americans have something called a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is caused by the 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour consumed each year [21].

Our liver converts the excess sugar into fat, which infiltrates the organ and eventually converts the healthy tissue into a yellow greasy one filled with fat deposits. This is detrimental to our survival as the liver performs over 500 functions including detoxification, fatty acid breakdown, and the conversion and storage of vital nutrients.

8. Sugar is Addicting

If sugar is so bad for us, why do we crave it so much? It turns out that it functions similar to many drugs, including cocaine.

Eating sugar releases dopamine, a "feel-good" neurotransmitter in the reward and pleasure center of the brain. As we consume large amounts of sugar
or refined, processed foods, dopamine receptors can down-regulate and cause us to crave even more of these foods to get the same result.

Our sweet receptors evolved when there was a lack of sugar,  however modern-day diets cause a supranormal reward signal in the brain, preventing self-control mechanisms to kick in, which in turn can result in addiction.

Research has proven that sugar can not only substitute addictive drugs, but that at the neurobiological level, "the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward appear to be more robust than those of cocaine. [22]" 

In one study, 94% of rats preferred the sweet taste of saccharin and sucrose over cocaine [23], and in another, students from Connecticut College confirmed that oreo cookies stimulated more neurons in the brain of rats than both cocaine and morphine [24]. 


[1] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141104141731.htm

[2] http://www.hungryforchange.tv/article/what-eating-too-much-sugar-does-to-your-brain>

[3] http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/research-reveals-how-sugar-causes-cancer?page=1

[4] http://www.wsro.org/AboutWSRO.aspx

[5] http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/71/13/4484.full

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3267662/?tool=pubmed#B36

[7] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120626131854.htm

[8] http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/08/02/cancer-fructose-idAFN0210830520100802

[9] http://www.sott.net/article/242516-Heart-surgeon-speaks-out-on-what-really-causes-heart-disease

[10] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23460912

[11] http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1819573

[12] http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1819573

[13] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/2/274.full

[14] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11229668

[15] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17151862

[16] http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/813075

[17] http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/eating-lots-of-carbs-sugar-may-raise-risk-of-cognitive-impairment-mayo-clinic-study-finds/

[18] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11357-011-9339-9

[19] http://medwelljournals.com/fulltext/?doi=rjmsci.2010.324.329

[20] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/26/11/1180.abstract (neutrophil and sugar study 1973)

[21] http://drhyman.com/blog/2013/09/26/fatty-liver-90-million-americans/

[22] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23719144

[23] http://www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1931610/ (saccharin)

[24] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267543.php

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