My journey to limit the refined sugar in my diet has led to a number of intrigued conversations with friends and colleagues. Mostly, the questions asked are why I bother, and why is sugar so bad anyway.
The answer to both of those questions is thus.
1. Sugar Has a Similar Effect on your Brain to Hard Drugs
There’s a reason why sugary treats are so difficult to resist. The intense sweet taste of sugar lights up the same pleasure centres in your brain as heroine and cocaine. In fact, it is 4 times more addictive than cocaine1. This was one of the principal reasons why I chose to get it out of my system.
2. A High Injection of Sugar causes your Mood to Roller Coaster
Sucrose, our table sugar, is made up of glucose and fructose. Both of these sugar types impact the body in different ways. When you flood your body with sugar, the rise in blood glucose levels trigger your pancreas to release insulin. The insulin then transports glucose into your cells (including your brain), giving you a burst of energy that we associate with the sugar high. A spike in blood glucose levels causes the release of high levels of insulin, sometimes more than is actually needed. This can cause your blood sugar to end up dropping below its normal level. This leads to the feelings of lethargy, anxiety and irritability that we associate with the sugar crash. Low blood sugar also triggers the release of cortisol, the stress hormone2.
3. Our Bodies Cannot use Fructose
Glucose, which is contained in many of the foods we eat – even including meat and eggs, enters our cells to be used as energy. Fructose cannot enter our cells. It is poorly absorbed by the body and almost entirely filtered out by the liver3. The bottom line is that our body does not need fructose for any biological processes.
4. The Liver Converts Fructose into Fat (triglyceride) & Free Radicals
When we consume a high amount of fructose through eating sugary foods such as cakes and sweets, the liver cannot process the fructose fast enough and it is essentially turned into fat, stored as triglyceride. Two other products of this process are uric acid and free radicals4.
Triglyceride & Free Radicals can be Damaging to our Bodies
At high levels triglycerides can build up in your liver cells and damage liver function. When released into the bloodstream, they can also contribute fat build up inside artery walls.
Free radicals cause what’s called oxidative stress. This can damage cell structures, enzymes, and even genes4. Fairly recent scientific study has demonstrated how oxidative stress caused by environmental toxins (such as smoking, pollution, and bad diet) can cause serious degenerative diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disorders and heart disease5.
The full impact of high levels of sugar consumption at a cellular level are still not fully understood by scientists. However, the above facts were reason enough for me to treat sugar in the same way that I do alcohol – keep it to the weekends and don’t go overboard even then. I also make sure that when I do indulge in the white stuff that I fully appreciate every single taste!