Sometimes I wonder if people still really believe that we MUST eat sugar for energy or if it’s an excuse they use to continue eating sweets and chocolates. What people need to understand is that sugar is addictive.
In practice I often hear the words “ask me to give up anything but not sugar, I can’t go without my cakes,” and because many people have been told that sugar gives them energy they feel justified in continuing to use it in enormous quantities.
The truth is we do not need sugar for energy and especially not the sugar we get from processed foods and drinks. In fact we do not even need carbohydrate. Unlike protein and fat, carbohydrates supply none of the elements necessary to build or repair tissue in the body, and provide no essential component.
We function very effectively and efficiently on “ketones” that we derive from healthy fats. This includes the functioning of our brains. Although our brain requires 120g of glucose per day, it’s inaccurate to think this can only be obtained from dietary carbohydrates. The human body is able to make all the glucose that we require (which is not a lot) in our own livers in a process called gluconeogenesis (which is the production of new glucose). In other words it is not glucose that has been consumed in the form of dietary carbohydrates but “new” glucose that is being made in the liver from protein.
Many folk seem to be terrified at the prospect of giving up sugar lest their brains seize and yet a healthy, efficient brain is one that draws on several different fuels none of which require the consumption of sugar. Contrary to popular belief, sugar will actually decrease your energy levels. Many people who consume sugar refer to a feeling of shakiness and weakness as a “sugar low” and sadly reach for more of it.
Consuming sugar causes a spike in blood glucose. Glucose in the blood is TOXIC – it is NOT good for the body. The body responds to these high levels of glucose by secreting insulin which removes the glucose from the blood. This may result in the blood sugar dropping to a lower level that the person in used to and a feeling of being weak may result. The solution is NOT to eat more sugar but to abstain from eating it in the first place. I want to repeat – we do not need to consume added sugar. It is detrimental to the body.
According to Dr Aseem Malhotra who is an interventional cardiologist and the founding member and science director of Action On Sugar, a group of specialists concerned with sugar and its effects on health. “There is absolutely no role for added sugar to be part of a balanced diet. There is no nutritional value and the body does not require any energy from added sugar.”
We have seen that the body can function optimally without consuming sugar at all but are all sugars the same and are they all bad? Dr Malhotra goes on to tell us that the cells of the body use glucose for energy which is intrinsically present in whole fruit and vegetable but regular sugar which is added to sweeten foods is bad. One regular can of Coke for example contains 9 teaspoons of added sugar. To put this in perspective as per the American Dietary guidelines, ONE can of coke has TRIPLE the recommended limit of sugar for the average 4 – 8 year old child. The average chocolate bar has 8 added spoons of sugar!
Not only is sugar unnecessary for energy but parents need to be wary of the very detrimental effects of these “foods” and fruit juice is no better. A very large observational study recently published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) revealed that fruit juice consumption was associated with and increased risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Lastly, studies have shown that sugar can be as physiologically addictive as many drugs. If you feel you absolutely cannot live without sugar perhaps it’s time to step back and view it from this perspective. “In most mammals, including rats and humans, sweet receptors evolved in ancestral environments poor in sugars and are thus not adapted to high concentrations of sweet tastants. The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction.”
We are not genetically designed to consume the amount of sugar that we are currently eating. For that reason, our brains get that ‘happy feeling’ from sugar and it can override the “I’ve had enough” mechanism.
The bottom line, we do not need sugar for energy, it is bad for our health and can be addictive. Yet another myth bust and yet another bad habit to leave behind.