Putting it as bluntly as possible – sugar is poison. I know you don’t want to hear this and you don’t want to believe it is as bad as that, but I beg you to stick with me and really let the truth sink in here. The definition of poison, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is: a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism. I know many of you are inwardly shrugging while thinking, “Yeah, I know sugar is bad for me, but the pleasure I get outweighs the dangers.” Denial of the truth of the toxicity of sugar will bring either you or someone you love into an early grave or a greatly reduced quality of life. Please read on.
From the moment sugar enters your mouth it begins wreaking havoc with your system. Your mouth is host to a myriad of microorganisms. Sorry – I know you don’t like to think about that. Some of those microorganisms are actually beneficial and some are not. A member of the latter group is a bacterium known as Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium that loves sugar and, as it metabolizes some of the sugar you feed it, turns it into acids and enzymes that attack the enamel of your teeth. Every time you put sugar in your mouth you are feeding some nasty bacteria, encouraging them to grow in number so they can rot your teeth. Picture that every time you are tempted to eat something sweet. In addition to this Streptococcus mutans has been found in diseased heart and vascular tissue causing scientists to wonder if it travels from the mouth to the heart. But it gets far worse…
The real poison is what happens to sugar after it enters into your system. Now sugar in the form of glucose is the easiest energy source for every cell in your body, but we consume far more than we need. (In fact we don’t need sugar in the form of sweeteners at all; we get more than enough glucose from starches like grains and potatoes and, lacking those, can create glucose from fats and proteins.) Some excess glucose is simply stored as fat. The rest is sent along with fructose (which is 50% of table sugar) to your liver. Now to make a long story short, all this excess sugar in the liver has now been found to be associated with insulin resistance (the precursor to diabetes), metabolic syndrome, elevated LDL (the “bad cholesterol” you worry about), decreased HDL (the “good cholesterol” you want to gain), elevated triglycerides (a fancy word for fat), an increased risk of heart disease, fatty liver disease, and hypertension. Yes, studies are showing that it is more likely the sugar (and carbs) you are consuming that are the cause of your cholesterol problems instead of the fat you consume. I promise to devote some future posts to explanations of how this all works, but it is far too complicated to explain all in this post.
In addition to being implicated in all of these cardiovascular and liver problems there have been recent studies that indicate higher levels of sugar promote cancerous tumor growth while restriction of sugar slows the growth of tumors. There is enough evidence, that if I had a loved one battling cancer of any type I would plead with them to give up all sugars and most complex carbohydrates in an effort to starve the cancer.
So, take your pick: gingivitis, heart disease, fatty liver disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer. Which are you willing to risk in order to enjoy your daily intake of sugar? Which of these are you willing to risk in your child, spouse, or other loved one?
Addendum: It was brought to my attention by a lovely reader that I had failed to bring up the point that I am not just talking about the white stuff we call table sugar. Many of us bought into the lie that other forms of sugar are somehow better for us or at least they are not quite as bad. Actually they are just as bad! Honey, agave, brown sugar, raw sugar, maple syrup are just as harmful as table sugar – they are made up of the same molecules of glucose and fructose and once past the taste buds your body cannot tell the difference.