By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
America takes first place… as the top consumer of dietary sugar in the world. Our sugar consumption is a major player behind the skyrocketing rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and cancer. The average American now consumes an average of 130 grams of sugar per day—for reference, the daily recommendation for women is a maximum of 20 grams a day! This is more than just sad: it’s dangerous. Today we are going to outline some of the effects of sugar on our immediate and long-term health.
This might seem obvious, but food producers are getting craftier with their labeling as they realize more and more people are making the choice to eat healthier. Sugar goes by many names, with new ones popping up all the time. Some sugars are natural, most are processed, and more and more are being created in labs. Here are just a few names to look out for on product labels:
Yes, fruit technically contains sugar, in the form of fructose. However, there is a big difference between enjoying a piece of fruit as an after-dinner treat, versus having orange juice with breakfast and fruit juices as your beverage of choice throughout the day. Studies have shown that eating fruit whole can lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, drinking fruit actually increases your risk! The fiber you get from eating fruit whole slows the absorption of the sugar and keeps the glycemic index low. Plus, it takes a lot more squeezed fruit to fill a glass than you could possibly eat in a serving, meaning you’re consuming way more sugar than you realize!
Consuming large quantities of sugar has been linked to an increased risk of a variety of chronic diseases including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) as well as cognitive decline and even some cancers!
There are also many health issues caused by sugar that aren’t as talked about:
Sugar depletes the body of critical electrolytes, antioxidants, and minerals, which leads to cell death, muscle spasms, insulin resistance, and other health defects. Its effects on the immune system leave you prone to getting sick more often and more severely.
Sugar feeds bacteria and parasites, like yeast and Candida. It also depletes the body of good gut bacteria, promoting Leaky Gut and other gut infections. Chronic pain, vision problems, and even wrinkles can be worsened by sugar!
Sugar causes chronic inflammation in the body, and inflammation is said to be the root cause of almost all disease.
Sugar consumption has been proved to feed cancer cells and speed up the growth of tumors. Too much sugar consumption causes insulin resistance, as well as a specific protein to be released from your pancreas. This protein causes your cells to replicate and become immortal, which is how pre-cancerous cells can begin to take over.
Cancer cells prefer glucose over oxygen, but our mitochondria can’t use the glucose as energy. White blood cells are our immune system’s soldiers, and need vitamin C to function properly. A cancer patient needs lots of healthy white blood cells to fight the disease, however, sugar blocks the absorption of vitamin C in our bloodstream, weakening our immune system.
In summary, sugar causes cancer cells to reproduce and thrive, and blocks the mechanisms that would slow down or kill cancer cells and tumors.
Sugar addiction runs deep, and can be hard to kick. Stay tuned for Dr. J’s thoughts on artificial sweeteners, approaches to beating sugar addiction, and healthy alternatives for sugar.