Tag Archives: sugar

Sugar Consumption and Your Health – Part 1

SugarSusanBiconBy Susan Brown
Health & Wellness Editor

Everyone, it seems, has a natural primeval urge to seek out high energy dense or high calorie foods, as one type of sugar called glucose is literally our brain food. Our bodies make glucose by breaking down the carbohydrates, proteins and fats that we consume, so it’s actually unnecessary to add glucose to our diets. Science has shown that sugar is addictive and has a powerful effect on the reward centers of the brain. Sugar is pervasive in the standard American diet and the high level of consumption is a major contributing factor to the alarming state of unhealth of our citizens. The big sugar industry has known since the early 1970’s that excess sugar could be damaging to public health. And to protect their own corporate interests, the sugar industry set out to undermine science and subvert sensible regulation, an all too familiar tactic.

Back in 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that people limit their added sugar intake to 10% of daily calories. The sugar industry had no trouble taking their complaint to the U.S. Congress, which consequently threatened to pull WHO funding. Unsurprisingly, only 5 months later, the recommendation just simply disappeared. Politics aside, denial of the deleterious health effects of added sugars has become not only a health issue, but a moral issue as well. A food and beverage corporation recently attempted to blame the obesity epidemic on consumers’ failure to exercise, causing an uproar from scientists who say that exercise is good for you, but if you want to lose or maintain weight, you’ll need to cut back on sugar and processed food and opt for healthy nutritious whole foods.

As the FDA prepares to refine nutrition labels to reduce confusion and make it easier for consumers to keep track of exactly how much added sugar they are consuming daily, groups such as the American Bakers Association and the Sugar Association are challenging the changes every step of the way. Even though more people are reading labels and attempting to decipher them as they currently stand, it’s time for us to take control of exactly what we are feeding our bodies. Knowing how much sugar is added to our food is a good step in the right direction. One thing we do know is, we can’t go on ignoring sugar consumption and good nutrition if we want to live longer and have healthier lives.

While a recent Gallup poll reports that 63% of Americans say they actively avoid drinking soda and other sugary drinks, nearly half of Americans drink at least one soda per day. Just one can of cola for example, contains 44 grams or 10 teaspoons of sugar, surpassing the American Heart Association’s recommendation of a maximum of 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily for women and 9 teaspoons daily for men. Alarmingly, one sugary beverage per day equates to 50 lbs of excess added sugars a year, way more than our bodies are designed to handle. And that is only what we consume in our drinks. Annually, the average American consumes 130 lbs of refined sugars that contain no essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes or fiber. Processed, packaged and fast foods all contain hidden sugars, which can have harmful effects on metabolic processes. Proposed label improvements are imperative, as the current nutritional label is designed to keep us in the dark, and what we don’t know can be seriously detrimental to our overall health and longevity.

American attitudes are changing, as more people become aware that consuming excess sugar raises the risk factors for developing chronic diseases. The new nutrition facts label is designed to make servings sizes, calories and daily values of the various nutrients easier to understand. The proposed listing of added sugars, separately from the natural sugar the food may contain, has been the most controversial change. While the food and beverage industry opposes this modification, the added sugar labeling recommendations are necessary, as only a well informed consumer can make healthy dietary changes once they decide to improve their health and longevity and reduce their risks of developing chronic disease.  

A reckoning is not far off. Should the obesity and diabetes epidemics continue to escalate, 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes by 2050. The impact on health care costs will be all consuming and unsustainable, as diabetes has a deleterious effect on the entire body and as such is a very costly chronic disease. As we struggle to contain obesity, diabetes and the alarming rise of other chronic diseases, our desire to change our diets or lose weight far exceeds our efforts. Ideally, the average American would like to weigh 15 pounds less than they do, yet many are not making the dietary changes that are necessary for weight control.  

And, while 7 of 10 Americans report eating fast food weekly, only 25% believe it has some degree of nutritional value. It appears that the appeal of sugary drinks and the convenience, taste and low cost of fast food products considerably outweigh the health concerns. The question remains, do you trust food and beverage corporations with your health? If your answer is no, opting for water in lieu of sugary drinks, and nutrition-rich whole foods in lieu of fast and processed foods are good ways to get started on a better path to a healthier life.

Up next: Part 2 – The Deleterious Health Effects of a High Sugar Diet

How Sugars and Sweeteners Affect Your Health. http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/oct2014/feature1
Daily Intake of Sugar – How Much Sugar Should You Eat Per Day. http://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-sugar-per-day/
Americans More Likely to Avoid Drinking Soda Than Before. http://www.gallup.com/poll/174137/americans-likely-avoid-drinking-soda.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=syndication&utm_content=morelink&utm_term=All%20Gallup%20Headlines%20-%20Well-Being

Our Sugar Obsession

CandyBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Americans are having a deleterious love affair with sugar without even dipping into the sugar bowl.  Largely due to the amount of sugar added to processed foods, the average American consumes 77 pounds of sugar annually (or 22.7 teaspoons of sugar daily), which adds a whopping 363 calories to their dietary intake each day.  The American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of 9 teaspoons daily for men and 6 teaspoons daily for women.  In 1973, 2% of the population or 4.2 million Americans had adult-onset, now called type 2 diabetes.  As of 2011, nearly 10% or 26 million Americans have type 2 diabetes and the numbers continue to rise.  It is believed that an additional 79 million people have prediabetes.  Another 1.9 million are diagnosed with diabetes every year.  If the current trend continues, 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes by 2050. 

The American Heart Association warns that sugar provides empty calories with no nutritional value.  According to Richard Johnson, a nephrologist at the University of Colorado, Denver, “sugar isn’t just empty calories, it’s toxic.  It seems that every time I study an illness and trace a path back to its first cause, I find my way back to sugar.”   “It has nothing to do with calories,” states endocrinologist Robert Lusting of the University of California, San Francisco.  “Sugar is a poison by itself when consumed at high doses.” When sugar gets into our bloodstreams it stimulates the same pleasure centers in the brain that respond to heroin and cocaine.  Sugar, with this pronounced effect, is literally an addictive drug. 

Johnson believes that Americans are overweight because they eat too much and exercise too little.  But he also feels that this is a direct result of sugar addiction which, after the initial “sugar rush,” saps our energy creating a vicious cycle.  The solution he says “Stop eating so much sugar.”  It’s not as easy as it sounds as sugar is so pervasive in the foods we eat that it’s difficult to avoid.  But avoid it we must as nearly one third of our population may meet the criteria for Metabolic Syndrome set by the National Institutes of Health. 

Metabolic Syndrome is a group of risk factors that increase the chances of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  These include central obesity (excess fat in the abdomen), high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood glucose levels and high cholesterol.  All of these factors can produce insulin resistance, a fatty and dysfunctional liver and other metabolic changes.  Physical inactivity and excess weight are the main contributors to the development of Metabolic Syndrome. 

Why we need to take a better look at our nutrition and reduce sugar consumption:

  • 85.2% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. 
  • The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. increased by 128% between 1988 – 2008.
  • Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates that are 2 – 4 times higher than those without diabetes.
  • The stroke risk of those with diabetes is also 2 – 4 times higher.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20 – 74 years.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. 
  • Approximately  60% to 70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage or neuropathy.
  • Hearing loss is twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those without diabetes. 
  • More than 60% of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes.  About 180 amputations are performed every day. 
  • Total costs of diagnosed diabetes in the United States in 2012 was $245 billion including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion due to lost productivity, disability and premature mortality. 
  • People with diagnosed diabetes have health care costs that are 2.3 times higher.
  • Diabetes kills more Americans every year than AIDS and breast cancer combined. 
  • A person diagnosed with diabetes at age 50 will have their life span shortened by about 6 years. 
  • Overall, the risk of death among people with diabetes is about twice that of people of similar age but without diabetes. 

What you can do  to prevent, reverse, or significantly reduce the health risks associated with poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyle, and too much sugar consumption:

  • Lose excess weight.  Moderate weight loss in the range of 5 -10% of your total body weight can help your body use insulin more efficiently and can help reduce the risks associated with metabolic syndrome. 
  • Make the dietary changes necessary to restore your health.  Cut way back on sugar and processed foods.  Avoid baked goods, candy, ice cream and soft drinks.  Increase your fiber intake by adding more legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to your diet.  Make sure you choose healthy fats and reduce your intake of red meat and animal fats. 
  • Exercise can improve your insulin levels and assist with weight loss, improved blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels and may reduce the risk for developing heart disease. 
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. 

Products for blood sugar support:

Glucose Balance by Protocol for Life This product supports healthy glucose metabolism and supports normal insulin function. 

Alpha Lipoic Acid w/ GlucoPhenol by Pure Encapsulations –  Supports glucose and fat metabolism and overall cardiometabolic health by maintaining healthy cellular function and inflammatory balance.

Glucose Tolerance by Allergy Research Group – Contains a formulation of nutrients that support the body in regulating blood sugar levels.

Chromium (polynicotinate) 200 mcg by Vital Nutrients –  To promote the maintenance and regulation of fat, cholesterol and glucose metabolism.

Sugar – How Much Is Too Much?

sugarBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Sugar, or sucrose, is a simple carbohydrate that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially sugar cane and sugar beets.  In the human body, simple sugars are metabolized quickly and are easily broken down to form glucose.  Glucose fuels the body and is a critical energy source for all cellular and bodily functions, particularly brain function.  The brain requires a continuous source of glucose to meet its high energy needs and utilizes 25% of the body’s total glucose production.  In the region of the brain known as the hypothalamus, the body’s available energy supply is monitored minute to minute.  It keeps track of how much long-term energy is stored in fat, monitors the body’s blood glucose levels and is wired to other brain areas that control taste, reward, memory, emotion and higher-level decision making.  Together these brain regions form an integrated circuit designed to control appetite and the desire to eat. 

Added sugars include any sugars or sweeteners that are added to foods and beverages during processing or preparation.  Added sugars can include natural sugars as well as chemically manufactured sugars.  The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of added sugar, equal to about 100 calories, each day.  For men, the recommended limit is 9 teaspoons (36 grams) and 150 calories.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans consume 156 pounds of sugar each year, which translates to more than 30 teaspoons (120 grams) per day.  Approximately 29 pounds of our annual intake comes from traditional refined sugar.  A large chunk, or approximately 26%, of added sugar comes from processed foods. The number one source of sugar in American diets comes from soda and fruit drinks, followed by candy, cakes, cookies and pies.  With 8 teaspoons of added sugar, a regular 12-ounce soft drink will put most women over the daily limit.

Too much sugar relates to too many calories that have little or no nutritional value.  Added sugar is contributing to American consumption of too many discretionary calories, the number of calories remaining after a person eats the foods needed to meet nutrient requirements.  These excess calories not only increase our weight, they wreak havoc on our liver, negatively affect our metabolism, impair brain function and open the door for heart disease, diabetes and obesity.  Calculating sugar intake can be challenging as labeling does not differentiate between added sugar and naturally occurring sugars.  There are over 50 names for added sugar.  To check for added sugar, look at your product ingredients for the following: sugar, glucose, honey, sorghum syrup, lactose, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, fructose, sorbitol, molasses, maltose, corn sweetener, sucrose, brown sugar and syrup.  It’s best to remember, that sugar by any other name is still sugar, and with sugar a little goes a long way. 

The American Heart Association recommends that most of our sugar intake be in the form of complex carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which take longer to digest and provide steady blood sugar levels and sustained energy.  Complex carbohydrates provide fiber, vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients.  A two ounce candy bar has approximately 30 grams of sugar, the same calorie count as three medium bananas.  The candy bar will spike your blood sugar, provide empty calories and won’t satisfy your hunger.  The bananas contain no added sugar, are low in fat, high in vitamins and minerals and are fiber-rich.  Eating the banana will make you feel fuller and you’ll stay fuller longer. 

As we become more aware of how much sugar we are consuming, we can begin to make more healthy choices:

  • Eat more fresh fruit.  Low density foods such as apples, oranges and other fruits are low calorie, nutritious and loaded with fiber.  Opt for plain yogurt with fresh fruit as opposed to sugar-laden fruit flavored yogurts. 
  • If you are going to drink fruit juice, make sure it is 100% fruit juice, not juice drinks that have added sugar.  Remember, one standard glass of apple juice can contain 4 apples without the fiber and other nutrients present in fruit.  Consider having a half glass of juice with sparkling water added. 
  • Watch for sugar in breakfast cereals.  Healthy breakfast cereals can contain sugar but skip the non-nutritious sugar coated or frosted cereals.  Look for cereals that have no more than 8 grams of sugar per serving. Better yet, opt for oatmeal and pay attention to serving sizes.  It may take multiple servings to fill your cereal bowl. 
  • Read the label on all your products.  Even peanut butter can have added sugar.  Look for natural peanut butter containing only peanuts and salt. 
  • Make the decision to stop eating too much sugar.  Grant yourself a daily sugar quota and stick to it.  Sugar is addictive.  As your taste buds adapt to a lower sugar consumption, your cravings will decrease and you’ll be satisfied with less. 
  • Cut back on dessert.  Dessert should be an occasional treat.  Opt for fruit instead or a small serving of ice cream if you haven’t reached your daily quota for sugar. 
  • Don’t add sugar to foods.  Many recipes for sauces or casseroles call for sugar as an ingredient.  In most cases, the extra sweetener is not necessary and you likely won’t notice any difference in taste. 
  • Avoid foods that list sugar as one of the first three ingredients on the label.  Remember any ingredients that end in “ose” such as sucrose, glucose, dextrose, fructose and maltose, are all sugar aliases. 

Eating less sugar is about preserving your health.  Strive for the World Health Organization’s recommendation of sugar comprising no more than 10 % of your daily diet.  Remind yourself that, as you wean off sugar, there are benefits to having less sugar in your life.  It may take time to get off the sugar bandwagon, but your heart, your waistline and your overall health will reap the benefits. 

Supplements for blood sugar support:


Wellness Essentials Healthy Balance (Formerly Blood Sugar Support)
Wellness Essentials Healthy Balance by Metagenics –  When taken as part of a healthy diet, Wellness Essentials Healthy Balance is formulated to target  unique nutritional needs to help  maintain healthy blood sugar levels already in the normal range.
Gluco-Support Formula
Gluco-Support by Douglas Laboratories –  This product offers a synergistic and comprehensive combination of vitamins, minerals, herbals, and other nutrients carefully formulated and specifically designed to offer nutritional support for healthy glucose metabolism.
UltraLean Gluco-Support Bar (Mocha)
UltraLean Gluco-Support Bar by BioGenesis Nutraceuticals –  This functional food bar is designed for weight control and blood sugar stability.  Completely fortified for balancing blood sugar and increasing energy.  Supports lean body mass maintenance.