Just Don’t “Pass da Sugar”!

What we said then

A while ago, we described published findings about the cardiac health risks associated with the consumption of sugar in sweetened beverages.

The take home lesson was:

When 15% of daily calories come from simple sugar, (not carbohydrates…sugar!) the risk of cardiovascular diseases starts to increase.

What does 15% means for people in their daily life?
For a 2,000 calories/day intake, we are talking about drinking two 12-ounce cans of Pepsi.

Replace Pepsi by any other beverage of this kind and the numbers will easily hold true.

At the time, we concluded consuming simple sugar in liquid form (“passing the sugar”) should be done sparingly.

It is worse now!

Turns out it is much preferable to pass up altogether; a recent meta-analysis [1]Metaanalysis is a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies. It is most often used to assess the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of healthcare interventions. It can be particularly useful to shed light  in the field of nutrition. Interested readers can find more here.  contends one 12-ounces per day is sufficient to raise the risk of becoming diabetic within a decade.

 

We now know excess sugar, and most especially fructose can lead to metabolic syndrome. [2] a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol that dramatically increases the chances of heart disease, diabetes and stroke

A study of 43 obese children with metabolic syndrome demonstrated how a reduction in sugar intake can dramatically and persistently lower the components of metabolic syndrome. The children received a diet where sugar was mainly replaced by starch. The results were impressive: the kids reduced their  blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, body weight and improved their blood sugar controls. Even more impressive is the fact that all these changes took place in only 9 days! [3]Something to remember and share with a loved one resisting much needed lifestyle changes…

Should we “drop da sugar” altogether?

Given the scary data, one could be tempted to reach this conclusion. That would be a mistake. Sugar is a natural molecule present in the most unprocessed food nature has to offer. It is the most efficient fuel to nourish our brain and muscle. Therefore, there are no good reasons to deprive ourselves from sugar coming from wholesome sources.

The problem with modern day unfettered access to sugar is two fold: First, if it is available in quantities that are excessive. Humans have evolved with only whole fruits as dense sources of sugar. Depending on their environment fruit may or may have not been available year round. We are designed to absorb as much sugar as we can when the stuff is available. Presented with a continuous and easily accessible supply is a recipe for health troubles.
The second problem is that alongside sugar, we’ve ingested a lot of fiber . This fiber feeds the whole system of our gut’s microbes, the microbiome. This system is so important as to be called our second brain. Depriving ourselves from the benefits of this fiber turned out to be detrimental to our overall health, mental and physical. Furthermore, the fiber act in the gut like loose hair in the shower drain; they slow down the absorption of sugar, which avoid insulin spurts. This, in turn, makes the body direct sugar to our muscles (physical activity anyone?) instead of our fat cells. (ooops!)
Bottom Line: The key to manage sugar in modern day nutrition is to get back to the basics of minimally processed, wholesome foods as a staple of our diet. A pumpkin cheese cake once a month or half a cup of ice cream twice a week ain’t going to kill anyone nor reduce life expectancy.
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References & Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Metaanalysis is a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies. It is most often used to assess the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of healthcare interventions. It can be particularly useful to shed light  in the field of nutrition. Interested readers can find more here.
2. a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol that dramatically increases the chances of heart disease, diabetes and stroke
3. Something to remember and share with a loved one resisting much needed lifestyle changes…