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  • Writer's pictureBrian Dooreck MD

Addicted to Sugar

Updated: Jul 25, 2023


Healthy foods help your gut diversity, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor
Sugar. Sugar. Sugar.

Sugar. It is everywhere. It is embedded in our diet and our lives. Consuming sugar regularly is becoming more and more in your control.


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Sugar is not a required nutrient in your diet.


But why limit sugar? It's "so sweet" and "gives me energy," you say. Read on.


Sugar can negatively affect your health and body in many ways.


What is "natural" sugar?


Sugar occurs "naturally" in carbohydrates.


What are carbohydrates?


Whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy are carbohydrates.


Your body digests these whole foods slowly. This "natural" sugar provides energy to your cells. Diets based on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are healthy. It reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.


Plant-based foods have fiber, antioxidants, and essential minerals. Dairy has protein and calcium. Balance and portion control are fundamental when consuming "natural" sugars, carbohydrates, and dairy.


The key is balance and portion control when consuming "natural" sugars, carbohydrates, and dairy.

What is "added" sugar?


The problems occur with too much "added" sugar. This "added" sugar is the sugar "added" to food products to extend shelf life and increase the flavor.


Should I read the labels?


Yes. We consume way too much "added" sugar. Look at the labels and ingredients of soups, bread, processed meats, tomato sauce, protein bars, and ketchup.


Look for the "added" sugar. Try to avoid or reduce your consumption of it.


Try to avoid, or reduce, your consumption of "added" sugar.

Where does your "added" sugar come from?


  • Soda/energy/sports drinks

  • Corn sweetener/corn syrup/high-fructose corn syrup

  • Grain-based desserts

  • Flavored yogurts

  • Fruit drinks/fruit juice concentrates

  • Dairy desserts

  • Candy

  • Ready-to-eat cereals

  • Sugars/brown sugar/honey/inverted sugar/malt sugar/molasses/agave nectar/palm sugar/cane juice

  • Tea

  • Yeast bread

  • Syrups/toppings

  • Anything ending in "–ose" (i.e., dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)


Note: About half of the added sugar comes from beverages, including coffee and tea, if using sweeteners.


Source: CDC, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–06.


Healthy foods help your gut diversity, health, microbiome, gastrointestinal gi system for you and the gastroenterology doctor
Just sharing the label. I was not aware.

How much "added" sugar am I eating?


Adult men consume about 24 teaspoons of "added" sugar per day, or 384 calories, according to the National Cancer Institute.


Americans overall average about 20 teaspoons of "added" sugars per day.


The American Heart Association suggests that men consume no more than around nine teaspoons of "added" sugar per day, or 150 calories. That is close to one 12-ounce can of soda.


How much "added" sugar is recommended?


  • Six teaspoons for women

  • Nine teaspoons for men


This doesn't include "natural" sugar in foods like fruits and milk.


So, we consume more than twice the "added" sugar as recommended. I emphasize the word "choice."


What does sugar do to my body?


Your Brain


Sugar provides your brain with something called dopamine. This naturally produced chemical, dopamine, makes you feel "good." There is less dopamine released with whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Thus the sugar "craving" we get from "added" sugar.


Your Mood


Blood sugar levels rise fast when eating candies and sweets, causing a “sugar high." That sugar is absorbed in cells. Then sugar levels drop. You can feel jittery and anxious because of this “sugar crash." There is also a greater risk of depression with high sugar intake.


There is a greater risk of depression with high sugar intake.

Your Pancreas


Insulin is made in the pancreas. When you eat excess amounts of sugar, the pancreas eventually cannot produce enough insulin, and it will stop working as it should, causing your blood sugar levels to rise. You develop insulin resistance. This leads to type 2 diabetes. Diabetes increases your heart, eye, kidney, and vascular disease risk.


Your Heart and Cardiovascular System


Insulin (from the pancreas) enters your bloodstream when you eat sugar. Insulin helps regulate sugar levels. However, excess sugar leads to excess insulin, eventually insulin resistance, which leads to the "hardening" of the arteries in your circulatory system.


Sugar contributes to high blood pressure (hypertension). Your blood pressure will also remain lower when you consume less sugar.


Sugar increases chronic inflammation.


The above-contributing factors (insulin resistance, hypertension, and chronic inflammation) increase your risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease, heart attacks, and strokes.


This, plus the other effects of sugar, such as weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease—all of which are linked to increased risks for heart attack and stroke.


Your Body Weight


The more sugar you eat, the more you weigh—a known fact.


The more sugar you eat, the more you will weigh.

Although you think it is healthy...the "empty" liquid calories in sugary beverages are not as satisfying to your body as calories from solid foods. So grabbing that "energy" drink is turning off your "appetite-control system," and you are adding "empty" calories.


Being overweight or obese increases your risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease, heart attacks, cancers, fatty liver, and strokes.


Your Skin


Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) age your skin. AGEs are harmful compounds formed when protein or fat combine with sugar in the bloodstream. This process is called glycation. The inflammation may age your skin faster, causing the dreaded "wrinkles" and "saggy skin."


Your Liver


The liver metabolizes (breakdowns) sugar and alcohol. The liver also converts dietary carbohydrates to fat. The more sugar (carbohydrates) consumed, thus the more significant accumulation of fat in the liver. This causes fatty liver disease. Fatty liver leads to insulin resistance.


Insulin manages sugar in your bloodstream and helps direct average amounts into energy. With fatty liver and insulin resistance, your body cannot control your blood sugar level, which causes type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is often called the silent killer because of its easy-to-miss symptoms. As noted above, insulin resistance also increases your risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease.


Diabetes is often called the silent killer because of its easy-to-miss symptoms.

Your Kidneys


The kidneys filter out toxins, waste, and blood sugar. Diabetes, caused by excess sugar, causes kidney damage. If the kidneys are not functioning correctly, it can lead to end-stage kidney (renal) failure, requiring dialysis.


Your Sexual Health


Your circulatory system, or blood flow in your body, allows men to develop and keep an erection. Excess sugar can negatively affect your circulatory system and lead to erectile dysfunction (ED).


Your Joints


The inflammation in your body caused by sugar leads to worsening joint pain. Sugar also increases the risk of developing the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


Your Teeth


The bacteria that cause cavities eat sugar. Sugar and candy will cause enamel and dental decay in teeth.


Personally


I eat a high-fiber, mostly plant-based 🌱 diet, no red meat, drink 4 liters of water a day, exercise, and am focused on keeping nutrition simple. I am sharing what works for me and what I routinely recommend to my patients.


"Balance. Portion control. Keep nutrition simple. Eat Smart. Eat Healthy. 🌱 🌾 🌿"

Gut Health ➕ Patient Advocacy with Navigation ➕ Life Balance


If you were looking for information about Private Healthcare Navigation and Patient Advocacy from Executive Health Navigation


Connect with Dr. Dooreck on LinkedIn, where he focuses his sharing on Health, Diet, Nutrition, Exercise, Lifestyle, and Balance.


 

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