Sweet Poison - Sugar
Sugar - Sweet Poison
By: Allan N. Spreen, MD, The Nutrition Physician
We're talking about sugar...everyday, garden-variety refined sugar. Yep, it's a killer. Maybe not this instant, in mid-ecstasy over that candy bar, but you should respect what's happening here because it'll get you sooner or later. We, as a country, are eating vastly more sugar than our ancestors, over 120 pounds per person per year, in the United States, and that's a LOT.
Everyone is concerned these days about calories...eat too many, you gain weight, eat less calories, you don't. There's more to it than that. HOW those calories are packaged is significant to how your body handles them.
The major types of packaging are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Within the carbohydrate package, there are simple carbohydrates, or sugars, as opposed to the complex, or starches. Within the sugars there are refined simple carbohydrates, as opposed to the unrefined. In nature sugars are found, with the exception of honey, in an unrefined state, such as in sugar cane, sugar beets, and most fruits, where they are naturally sweet. In other sources, such as corn, rice, and even milk, they are not so sweet. Almost all vegetables have fair amounts of natural sugar in them and, whether naturally sweet, or not-so-sweet, there is little problem eating basically as much of them as desired (not counting food allergies).
Then man gets into the act with his refining process.
I contend that there would be little or no problem eating either sugar cane, or sugar beets, as a squeezed, non-concentrated juice straight from the plant. Every nutrient required for the assimilation (absorption and utilization) of the juice is contained within it. If you chew the stalk, you even get natural fiber. This seems to be a law of nature. A real food contains within itself the nutrients required for its use by the body.
The point here is that sugar, REAL sugar, is not the problem. The problem is that refined sugar no longer qualifies as food. This means that when "the white stuff" is ingested, the vitamins, and particularly the minerals required for burning (or storing) that fuel internally (B-1, B-2, biotin, niacin, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and others), do not accompany the now totally pure and concentrated sugar! The body will handle the fuel. However, it does it by taking from body stores already in existence.
These stores, of course, were supplied from whole foods previously eaten. What happens if too much is eaten of the "take" foods, and not enough of the "give" variety? You can see where this is headed.
Long-term intake of such "naked" calories continually stresses the body by sapping it of the internal stores of nutrients. Eventually, deficiency states arise, possibly of a sub-clinical nature, or possibly of a combined nature, such that they do not fit the textbook descriptions of deficiency states. I believe this is happening on a daily basis in this country. Most of our diets are full of naked, non-food substances. It's a slow, but harmful, even deadly process.
Sorry, sugar-lovers, there's more. This refined calorie is not only naked, but it's also concentrated. Besides the nutrients being removed, the water is all gone; the juice is now a crystal. Soluble fiber is also missing.
It's been found that the equivalent of five ounces of refined sugar requires 2 1/2 pounds of sugar beets! That much sugar is nothing for most people to eat in a day (or in 10 minutes!) Try it with the beets.
Now, once sugar enters the system, the blood sugar rises. The body's response to this is to remove the sugar from the blood and send it into muscle and brain cells. If you don't happen to be lifting or thinking enough, it is then stored, but not as sugar...it is converted, and stored as FAT! So, you can cut your fat grams to zero, but if you eat too much sugar instead, you put on fat. The low-fat food advertisers forgot to tell you that.
What's worse, the body can over-react to refined sugar, causing your blood sugar to drop too quickly. Then you feel bad, with symptoms such as headache, irritability, fatigue, abdominal pains, muddled thinking, even blurred vision, depression, and/or others, along with cravings for another sugar "fix." The problem is, you went back up too fast, so you have caused the same problem all over again, setting yourself up for another fall an hour or so later. It's a roller coaster time bomb...and it's everywhere.
Maybe you can't win, but it's sure worth it to keep on trying.
Allan N. Spreen, MD
"The Nutrition PhysicianŽ"
Dr. Spreen is a nutritionally-oriented medical doctor in practice for over a decade before concentrating on nutritional writing. He is known for his original "Nutrition Physician" on-line sites for both America Online and iVillage's 'The Women's Network', offering nutrition information directly to the public.
His authored works include Nutritionally Incorrect-Why the American Diet is Dangerous & How to Defend Yourself (Woodland); Smart Medicine for Healthier Living (Avery), co-authored with Janet Zand and James LaValle: and The Menopause Diet (Woodland).
A graduate of both the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee before obtaining his M.D. from East Tennessee State University, Dr. Spreen wears a second hat as a coach of competitive divers at the national and Olympic levels.
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