Today, two-thirds of American adults are overweight with an estimated 35.7% being obese. In children, one out of three fall into the overweight/obese category and the adolescent population has tripled in the last 30 years. Obesity leads to other serious health issues including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and certain cancers. It is also rated the second highest preventable cause of death (behind smoking) according to the Journal American Medical Association (JAMA).
As this problem worsens, suggestions come from across the board. Medical doctors, alternative health care providers, authors, athletes, weekend warriors, TV personalities, poets, firemen all weigh in (no pun intended) with their suggestions. These suggestions include taking appetite suppressants or amphetamines, taking medications, avoid eating, counting calories, severely restricting dietary intake, eating every two hours, quit eating after six o’clock, drinking 10 glasses of water, avoiding fats, reading food labels, buying pre-packaged (full of preservatives) weight-loss meals, or following the latest magic weight-loss diet plan. Our government has also intervened by giving us the four food groups and the pyramid dieting scheme, which, if followed, promotes weight gain. You would think that with all this effort, coupled with the obsession we have with weight loss that obesity would become extinct. Hardly.
Simply put, if you want to lose weight, keep it off, and maintain a stable weight, then one thing must be done…control sugar consumption. It’s not complicated. Even if you comply with many of these extraneous weight-loss activities and fail to address sugar consumption, the weight-loss problem will continue. And when I say sugar I am referring to all sugar including fructose, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners, which isn’t a sugar but rather a laboratory concoction that tastes sweet.
The reason why sugar consumption is integral to weight gain is because of insulin. Insulin is an anabolic hormone that is produced by the pancreas. Its purpose is to clear off and then store any excessive sugar from the bloodstream. It can store it in three places, either back into the cell, in the liver where it’s stored as glycogen, or in fat (adipose) tissue as a triglycerides (TG) also known as a very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) which is a component of your cholesterol profile. The cell holds a minute amount, while the liver can hold about 100 grams, while the rest goes to adipose tissue where it gets stored as fat.
About Blood Sugar
The body can function well on five grams of sugar which is less than two sugar packets. The body also tightly regulates blood sugar; when it gets too low, the body can stimulate the adrenals to produce adrenaline (the fight or flight hormone) or cortisol (the stress hormone) or it can also stimulate the pancreas to stimulate glucagon which stimulates the liver into breaking down glycogen which raises blood sugar. However, if the blood sugar is too high, there is only one hormone involved…insulin. The reason why we have a number of ways to increase the blood sugar and only one to lower comes from our survival history. When we were facing severe or critical situations whether from famine, drought, starvation or escaping from that ravenous bear or big cat, nature provided us the extra needed energy source to cope or survive such crises. Having a high blood sugar wasn’t common place then since our food was mainly wild game and plants and berries; not much sugar there. Now that we consume 150 pounds of sugar yearly, or nearly three pounds weekly, and the body can function with just five grams, the result, insulin, which ought to be secreted out like pixie dust, gets dumped out as if it were coming from a cement mixer. That excessive sugar makes a beeline into fat tissue, where men store it in their abdominal region and women store in their hips and thighs. Therefore the high sugar diet is ultimately a fat deposition diet. It’s not complicated.
Problems with Sugar
Some of the problems with fluctuating blood sugar problems include mood swings, bouts of depression, malaise, brain fog, compromised memory, poor peripheral circulation (erectile dysfunction anyone?), numbness/tingling in the hands and feet, visual problems, adrenal problems, cravings for sweets and nervousness, to go along with that midsection spread. Sugar also extends its deleterious, sweet tentacles into every phase of our health including suppressing the immune system, upsetting the mineral balance including excreting calcium from bone and making it vulnerable to fracture and osteoporosis, feeding the microbial world of bacteria, mold, candida, feeding cancer cells, causing, or at least, contributing significantly to hypertension, leading to heart problems, causing dental caries, in addition to having weight gain issues.
It’s not a mystery why there’s an obesity epidemic. High sugar intake promotes weight gain. If we are committed to losing weight we need to be like the archer, who focuses not merely on the target but rather the bull’s-eye, once we can develop that commitment to avoiding sugar we then can simply lose weight. It’s not that complicated. It only gets complicated if we continue eating sugar. After all obesity is the number two preventable condition there is.
Next time: Part II: Fructose.
Joel Berger, MS, DC, DABCN June 2013 ©