Sugar - Passion or Poison??? - Part 2

In the first part of this article we looked at how sugar consumption can lead to diabetes. In this part I want to show how it can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and premature ageing.

This graph shows how sugar consumption has changed over fifty years and how the consumption of high fructose corn syrup, which causes even more problems than sugar, is on the increase.

Sugar consumption graph

First of all, though, lets have a brief look at how sugar leads to obesity. Whenever we eat sugar and it enters the blood stream, the pancreas releases insulin, which removes the sugar from the blood. It is essential that blood sugar levels stay within narrow limits. High blood sugar causes serious damage to nerves, blood vessels and organs, which is why the body will do everything it can to keep blood sugar at a proper level.

So once the sugar is in the blood, insulin is released and removes the excess sugar. Some is stored in the liver ready to convert into energy when needed and the rest is converted to fat and stored in the fat cells. This is why sugar causes obesity. Sugar is very high in calories and if you eat more calories than the energy you use each day then the body has to store the excess energy as fat.

In the past, before the ready availability of food all year round, this served a useful biological survival purpose. Weight would be put on when food was readily available and then this weight would be used to sustain the body through times of scarcity or famine.

Heart Disease

A study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine showed that you have a 38% higher risk of dying from heart disease if you get more than 17% of your calories from added sugar compared to those who obtained 8% of their calories from added sugar.

But how does sugar contribute to heart disease?

1. Firstly, obesity puts a great strain on the heart. The heavier you are, the harder your heart has to work when you are moving around. Even when you are still, your heart will be under strain because it has to pump blood around arteries and veins surrounded by constricting fat.

2. Obesity can lead to insulin resistance. This is where the pancreas keeps producing insulin but the cells have become insensitive to it and do not respond to it. Kimber Stanhope of the University of California say “Think of insulin as the key that unlocks the door to their cells. That door needs to be opened in order for glucose to exit the blood into the cell". As insulin is not able to reduce blood sugar properly, blood sugar stays abnormally high which may lead to diabetes. Those with diabetes are at much higher risk of heart disease.

Insulin resistance

3. Sugar contributes to inflammation of the walls of the arteries because it causes a sudden rise in insulin. When insulin keeps being pushed out by the pancreas n large quantities it causes damage to the lining of blood vessels. The blood vessels of the heart will be affected also, increasing the chances of heart attacks and strokes.

Sugar and High Blood Pressure

Research is now showing that sugar rather than salt is a key player in high blood pressure problems.

Dr Mercola says the underlying cause of high blood pressure tends to be related to the body producing too much insulin and leptin (a protein that regulates fat storage) as a result of a high intake of sugar and processed carbs. As insulin and leptin levels go up, blood pressure rises also and may cause insulin and/or leptin resistance.

If you are insulin resistant you can't store magnesium so it passes out of your body through urination. Low magnesium means that your blood vessels will be unable to fully relax, and this constriction raises your blood pressure. Fructose also elevates uric acid, which drives up your blood pressure by inhibiting the nitric oxide in your blood vessels. (

Sugar and Aging

Yes, it has been found that sugar can cause wrinkles. This happens though a process called glycation. When you eat sugar and your blood sugar increases some of the sugar molecules attach to protein molecules in the blood and form products called advanced glycation end products. These products are called AGEs for short, which is appropriate considering the effect they have!!

The two proteins most easily damaged are collagen and elastin. These are the two main contributors to the plumpness and elasticity of your skin and underlying tissues. When they are damaged the skin more easily becomes wrinkled and loses its firmness. AGEs also affect your skin’s anti-oxidant content making it more susceptible to sun damage, which will also contribute to the aging process.

So, I think it clear that consuming more than a little sugar is going to cause health problems in the long run. It seems to me it is time to add sugar to alcohol, smoking and drugs as a major cause of serious health issues and stress on healthcare systems.

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