Is sugar really bad for your health? That question may be one of the most difficult health questions to answer because sugar is everywhere in our diet, and to make matters worse, there are many foods that act just like sugar in our bodies. Some groundbreaking research, though, is beginning to show what many of us have suspected for a long time: sugar is a non-food that can harm your health.
Sugar is something you eat every day, even if you don’t know it. You may be on a path to health and eat well, but sugar has a way of sneaking into your life. Sugar shows up in peanut butter, salad dressing and hundreds of other foods. It also can sneak into your diet as honey, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, maltodextrin or under many other names.
We love sweet tastes. Some scientists speculate that our sweet tooth may be genetic, and that may be so. It is also supposed that sweet-tasting foods are the safest to eat and that is the reason for our cravings. But there is another reason why we eat so many sweet foods and that is because sugar is an addiction. While most people, when asked, will admit to some sort of sugar addiction, most people also don’t know just how harmful that addiction can be.
In order to understand the connection between sugar and poor health, let’s take a peek at another addiction: cigarettes.
Sugar Cigarettes Connection
Most people laugh when I first mention that sugar and cigarettes are very similar, both in the way that they are addictive and in the way they are harmful. Take a look for yourself and see just how similar they are:
- · Healthy? We laugh at the notion that cigarettes were actually considered healthy at one time, but they were. The reason why people thought they were healthy is because they made you feel better when you smoked. Smoking makes you feel calm, alert, and gives you more energy. Does that sound anything like sugar? Don’t we all reach for sugar when we need energy?
- · Addiction? Cigarettes are an addiction, you know that. But sugar is also an addiction that is just as strong as cigarettes. Scientific studies are beginning to prove that the brains of rats addicted to sugar look almost identical to the brains of rats addicted to alcohol, nicotine and even hard drugs.
- · Harm? The harm that both sugar and cigarettes do takes place over a long period of time. If you put sugar into your mouth and you felt sick immediately, I wouldn’t be writing this article, but, just like smoking, the destruction that sugar does takes a long time. One cigarette is not harmful; the harm comes from thousands of cigarettes smoked over a long period of time, the same is true of sugar.
- · Birth and Birthdays? We use sugar to celebrate just as we use cigars and cigarettes to celebrate. Sugar is a reward for a job well done, or for birthdays or anniversaries. This makes sugar unique among foods: when was the last time you treated yourself to a bunch of broccoli on your birthday?
To really see the harm that sugar does, all we have to do is look at people who have a ton of sugar running around in their veins. Diabetics cannot control their blood sugar and, as a result, have a high amount of blood sugar. This high amount of blood sugar causes harm.
The diseases that diabetics tend to have as a result of high sugar are these:
- · Retinopathy: eye disease that may leads to blindness
- · Peripheral vascular disease: clogged arteries in the legs and sometimes arms
- · Nephropathy: kidney damage that may lead to kidney failure
- · Cardiomyopathy: heart damage, that can lead to heart failure
- · Neuropathy: loss of sensation in nerves, tingling and numbness
- · Coronary Artery Disease: clogged arteries, can lead to heart attack
- · Stroke
When you look at these diseases, they all seem very different and have nothing in common, but they all share a common means of destruction.
Blood vessel damage is what ties all these diseases together. Sugar harms blood vessels in the same way smoke harms lungs: slowly over time. Blood vessel damage is much more obvious in diabetics in the way damage from cigarettes would be more obvious in someone who smokes three packs a day compared to someone smoking one pack a day.
The Million-Dollar Question
Here is the question that you and scientists should be asking: does sugar also harm people who have normal blood sugar? The answer is yes, but first consider how likely it is that you will become diabetic.
In the United States, your chances for getting diabetes are about one in three, or about thirty percent. If you don’t get diabetes, you may get a condition called metabolic syndrome, which is a pre-diabetic condition that also carries risk for blood vessel damage. Your combined risk for having either metabolic syndrome or diabetes is about 50 percent, so you chances that sugar will cause destruction to your blood vessels are high.
But let’s assume that you are lucky enough to avoid either of those conditions. Should you avoid sugar because sugar can cause you harm even if you have normal blood sugar? The answer is yes. New research shows that sugar also harms the blood vessels of people with so-called normal blood sugar.
In order to stay healthy, you need to learn to avoid sugar and foods that act like sugar in your body. While it is difficult to avoid sugar, your long-term health is dependent on it.
Dr. Scott Olson
Dr. Scott Olson is a naturopathic doctor, an expert in natural medicine and the author of the book Sugarettes.
You can read his blog at http://olsonnd.com/