This generation binges on and is addicted to refined sugars. Fructose, glucose, dextrose, sucrose (table/white sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup are some very common food components today. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of just how harmful to health the various types of sugar can be, particularly when consumed in excess.
The abovementioned foods are simple carbohydrates with a high glycemic index -- this means that they quickly raise blood sugar levels. When there's extra sugar circulating in the body, the pancreas has to produce insulin to convert it into fat; this is necessary because too much sugar in the bloodstream is dangerous. It's thus easy to see that weight gain is the result of excessive carbohydrate consumption, especially when they're not used up, for example, through exercise.
To compound matters, when insulin levels are high, the levels of two other hormones in the body are lowered -- growth hormone and glucagon; these hormones regulate muscle development plus sugar- and fat-burning.
Further, insulin spikes result in drastic drops in blood sugar levels. This then causes one to feel hungry, often craving more carbohydrate-laden and sugary foods. What follows next is likely yet more binging on foods which raise blood sugar levels, resulting in a very unhealthy vicious cycle.
There is thus a multiple whammy effect here involving sugar intake and insulin levels contributing to putting on fat, weight gain and possibly obesity. In the modern-day context, the overconsumption of carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates, is the main reason behind weight gain and obesity, more so than fat ingestion itself.
Lowered immune function
Another problem with sugar is that it is, according to The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, "one of the food components most damaging to our immune system."
Research has shown that sugar consumption can suppress the ability of white blood cells to deal with foreign micro-organisms and particles. Impaired white blood cell function then results in higher susceptibility to various ailments. White blood cells are very important in defending the body against infections.
Broadly speaking, the higher the amount of sugar consumed, the more immunity will be compromised.
Research has linked sugar consumption to numerous other conditions, including:
• Premature aging
• Various cancers -- breast, ovary, prostate, rectum, etc.
• Crohn's disease
• Digestive problems, including chronic indigestion
• Fatigue and low energy
• Heart disease
• Hyperactivity and concentration problems
• Loss of muscle mass
• Menstrual irregularities and premenstrual syndrome
• Nutritional deficiencies, including decreased ability to absorb calcium and magnesium
• Psychological and emotional issues -- depression, anxiety, mood swings, etc.
• Stress/burnout syndromes
• Tooth decay and gum disease • Ulcerative colitis
• Yeast infections
This list is not exhaustive.
Excess sugar consumption harms health in more ways than most realize. At the very least, it suppresses immunity and causes weight gain, two factors alone linked to many health issues, including increased cancer risk.
The problem isn't carbohydrates per se, because the body does need this food group. The big issues are overconsumption and consuming simple carbohydrates, which cause quick blood sugar elevation and increased insulin levels. Complex carbohydrates actually release simple carbohydrates into the bloodstream at slower rates and don't cause sugar spikes.
Sugary foods are definitely problematic -- and some form of sugar is hidden in most packaged foods and drinks. In general, natural whole foods are better than processed/refined foods because they contain other nutrients which regulate or mitigate the effects of sugar.
Everyone would do well to stay away from or at least reduce their intake of food products containing refined sugars and refined carbohydrates.
Sources for this article include:
Mercola, Joseph, Dr., and Pearsall, Kendra, Dr. Take Control of Your Health. Schaumburg, IL: Mercola.com, 2007. Print.
Haas, Elson M., MD, and Levin, Buck, PhD, RD. Staying Healthy With Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. New York, NY: Celestial Arts, 2006. Print.
Murray, Michael, ND., Pizzorno, Joseph, ND., and Pizzorno, Lara, MA, LMT. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books, 2005. Print.
Murray, Michael, ND, and Pizzorno, Joseph, ND. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Print.
About the author:
Reuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth.
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