We eat more sugar and refined carbs in a week than people who lived 200 years ago ate in one year. When you eat bread, rice, pasta, cereal (including oatmeal) you’re eating carbohydrates that turn into sugar. Your body is exposed to insulin every time you eat them. The body’s constant exposure to insulin causes the cells, over time, to become resistant. They are no longer able to recognize insulin which is the beginning of insulin resistance, which ultimately leads to diabetes.
About 20 years ago, Nancy Appleton, PHD, began researching all of the ways in which sugar destroys our health. Over the years the list has continuously expanded, and now includes 141 points. Here’s just a small sampling:
- Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, lung, gallbladder, and stomach.
- Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose and can cause reactive hypoglycemia.
- Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract, including an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Sugar can interfere with your absorption of protein.
- Sugar can cause food allergies.
- Sugar contributes to obesity.
But not all sugar is created alike. White table sugar (sucrose) is composed of two sugars: glucose and fructose. Glucose is an important nutrient in our bodies and is healthy, as long as it’s consumed in moderation. Fructose is a different story.
Fructose is found primarily in fruits and vegetables, and sweeteners like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (FFCS). A recent USDA report found that the average American eats 152 pounds of sugar each year, including almost 64 pounds of HFCS. Unlike glucose, which is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and taken up by the cells, fructose is shunted directly to the liver where it is converted to fat. Excess fructose consumption causes a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is directly linked to both diabetes and obesity.
Another issue is that excess fructose is not well absorbed in the gut, which in turn leads to its rapid fermentation by bacteria in the colon or abnormal overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Small-bowel bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, is now believed to be the major cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common functional bowel disorder that is the second-leading cause of people missing work behind only the common cold.
In a widely popular talk on You Tube, Dr. Robert H. Lustig explains that fructose has all of the qualities of a poison. It causes damage, provides no benefit and is sent directly to the liver to be detoxified so that it doesn’t harm the body.
Fortunately, glucose enhances the absorption and uptake of fructose, so when the two are found together in roughly equal amounts, the body can handle the fructose without much problem. However, when the amount of fructose in a food or sweetener is significantly higher than the amount of glucose it contains, the excess fructose will cause problems.
So which sweeteners have a favorable ratio of glucose to fructose?
Brown rice syrup does not actually contain any fructose, so is an excellent choice. Maple syrup has a higher content of glucose than fructose, so would be another good choice. Molasses also has an relatively even ratio of glucose to fructose, and also a high mineral content, so is a good choice. Honey is 50% fructose and 44% glucose but does have antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and because of this would be acceptable. High fructose corn syrup, is 55% fructose and 45% glucose and devoid of any nutrients and should be avoided at all cost. Agave syrup is comprised of 92% fructose and 8% glucose and must be avoided as well. Stevia is about 300-5—times sweeter than sucrose, but has negligible effects on blood sugar. This should be safe but I find it to be very distasteful.
- Brown rice syrup
- Maple syrup
- Agave syrup
- High-fructose corn-syrup
The problem with fructose is that it turns into fat faster than any other sugar. We forget that fruit is not the same as vegetables, even though everyone mentions them together. Fructose metabolizes differently than glucose, and ultimately contributes to fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. So whether this is high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, or simply eating too much fruit, you need to limit your fruit consumption to two to three times a week.
Interesting to note that Steve Jobs went on an all fruit diet. He ended up with pancreatic and liver cancer…
Yours in health,
Rick J Bernard