How Much Sugar is Too Much Sugar?
This week let’s continue going over all the disastrous health effects of consuming excessive amounts of sugar. But first, how much sugar would be considered excessive? The American Heart Association and the World Health Organization recommend limiting your daily added sugar intake to 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men, and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women. The limits for children range from 3 to 6 teaspoons (12- 25 grams) per day, depending on age. Four grams of sugar is equivalent to about 1 teaspoon. Though I agree with these recommendations, I don’t see any benefits from consuming “added” sugars. This does not mean that I never consume foods with added sugar or sweeteners. I do try to keep added sugars in my diet very low, which is usually less than 10 grams per day. It is important to remember even “Natural sugars” when consumed in excess, will lead to many of the same health consequencesDoes
Does Sugar Cause Type 2 Diabetes?
Sugar may be a primary cause of Type 2 Diabetes and birth defects While the former may not surprise anyone, the latter is not as well known. Let’s first go over how eating sugar causes Type 2 Diabetes. Certain cells require a constant supply of glucose, so it must readily available. The Pancreas regulates blood sugar levels by secreting multiple hormones including insulin, which helps remove sugar from the blood stream. When we consume large amounts of sugar we overload the pancreatic control system and form a mess of Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs). These AGEs need to be cleaned up and if the cleanup isn’t done before the next sugar rush. The cell membranes are so full of cross-links that they are slow to respond to insulin, and blood sugar levels rise. This only enables more cross-links to form and thus the cells respond even more poorly to insulin. This downward spiral leads to fasting sugar levels to rise above 90, also known as prediabetic levels. Eventually, unless the cycle is stopped, this leads to diabetes. Given all of this, many experts (but not enough) recommend treating Pre-diabetes as Diabetes.
Does Sugar Also Cause Birth Defects?
It may come as a shock to hear that sugar can cause birth defects. Even though it is accepted that diabetics run up to ten times higher risk of having a child with a major birth defect. Uncontrolled diabetes has been shown to have profound effects on fetal and neonatal growth.1 But what about those who are borderline diabetic, insulin resistant, or hyperglycemic? Could the effects of a high-sugar, high-carb diet lead to birth defects? Given the disastrous effects of sugar on our cells, I believe the answer is yes.
Sugar and LDL Cholesterol
Sugar also increases LDL cholesterol levels in a multitude of ways. Yes, sugar affects cholesterol, something you might assume has nothing to do with sugar but we all know what they say about assuming, right? Sugar, more specifically too much sugar, uses several mechanisms to increase LDL levels. First, as we have already learned sugar elevates insulin. High insulin levels accelerates LDL production by turning on the enzyme HMGCoA-reductase, which is the exact same enzyme statin drugs are engineered to turn off.2 Sugar also glycates (coats) circulating apoproteins locking the affected LDL molecules in blood stream circulation by making their normal identifiable proteins, unrecognizable. 3,4,5,6 These circulating apoproteins raise LDL levels higher. Then over several years, sugar cross-linked capillaries become stiff. It is important that capillary channels remain flexible to allow the passage of LDL and other lipoproteins to the underlying tissues. When our capillary channels become inflexible and cannot open fast enough, if at all because they are coated stiff in sugar cross-links. The blocked off LDL is forced to stay in circulation longer, and LDL levels rise even further.
Sugar also Damages Brain Cells, Which Makes it Harder to Learn
If you look at most of the research into the origin of Alzheimer’s dementia you will find it does not implicate genetic mutation, as many would assume, but instead sugar.7,8 When the brain is overloaded with glucose (sugar), the effects on its cells are pronounced. Normally, a single brain cell looks very similar to a tree, with thousands of branches, called dendrites. The dendrites from one brain cell reach out to dendrites of other brain cells. Communicating through the exchange of chemicals that enable us to think, remember, and experience emotions. The brain should be consistently bathed in hormones that stimulate the growth of dendrites (branches). If these hormones are taken away the nerve cell branches die off.9 Sugar induced crosslinking, resulting in the gumming up of brain cell membranes is likely to be at least part of the problem. This is because as with any cell membrane cross-links reduce hormone sensitivity. Less sensitivity or receptivity means brain cells can’t respond to growth factor hormones. Less response means fewer branches, which means fewer connections. Is it any shock that one of the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s involves the loss of dendrites, a process known as dendritic pruning.10
Fact of the week
It shouldn’t come as any shock that as sugar consumption has risen, especially since the advent of processed foods and drinks, that obesity and diabetes rates have skyrocketed worldwide. When it comes to sugar, fructose is metabolized in your liver, while glucose is metabolized in every cell of your body. According to Dr. Robert Lustig, a Neuroendocrinologist who has done extensive research on the role of sugar in your body, your liver can safely metabolize only about 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Any excess gets metabolized into body fat.