Some people like David Gillespie Author of Sweet Poison – will say a firm YES.
“Sugar is very bad news. It destroys (in this order), our teeth, our gut, our liver, our ligaments, our pancreas, our kidneys our blood vessels, our heart and eventually our brain. The science on all of this is now so uncontroversial, that many countries are implementing sugar taxes to help pay for the accelerating damage” – David Gillespie
Others will voice a concerned NO– some sugar is required for brain health and is often found in quality fruits that contain other vital nutrients.
“Sugar is vital for your brain health – which is the biggest guzzler of the sweet stuff in your body,” Dr. Drew Ramsay wrote for Well + Good. He explains that our brains use up 400 calories of glucose every day, but that doesn’t mean scoffing two chocolate bars is going to give your brainpower a boost. It’s all about where you get your sugar from.
The common ground between these opposing views is that sugar in the form of JUNK food is BAD.
When you are feeling fat, bloated, lacking in energy, are you reaching for a sugary treat? Does it give you a temporary jolt of energy? But then an hour or so later you crash?
What happens in your body as you eat that sugary junky treat?
You savor the chocolatey Tim Tam, (or 4) then you proceed to get a heightened blood sugar level. That sugar in your blood temporarily feeds your brain, muscles, and liver with some glucose. You top up your stores (if they required it) but then, your brain, being smart as it is, measures that the blood is too rich in sugar. It tells the pancreas “MAKE INSULIN AND STORE THAT EXCESS SUGAR”
Blood that is too high in sugar causes damages to the body’s organs and tissues. So, our brain wants to reduce this high sugar level as protection, to keep you alive and well.
Over time, as we shovel more and more sugar in our mouths, the insulin becomes less effective, it can no longer get the sugar into the cells to store it. This means the brain keeps measuring high blood sugar, and the poor pancreas eventually can’t keep up with the pressure and cannot produce enough insulin to store all the sugar that is remaining in the bloodstream.
When the pancreas is struggling, we end up with Type II diabetes.
What shocks me the most is that – children can now get type 2 diabetes. It used to be called adult-onset diabetes because it took time to develop the disease. But these days with higher incidences of obesity and poor food choices we are seeing children now get a disease of degeneration. In Australia, the incidence of Type 2 diabetes in patients under the age of 17 years was approximately two per 100,000 person-years, with a 27% rise in average annual adjusted overall incidence between 1990 and 2002.
People who knew me back in the mid-2000s will remember my “Sugar is poison” statement. I repeated it over and over. I wanted to train my brain that ‘sugar was poisonous to my body systems’. I was probably a bit of a party pooper. I certainly made a few people feel guilty over their choices. (whoops, sorry not sorry) I still ate fruit in its fresh form, but I did keep that to one piece a day. I felt great, my energy was stable, weight balanced and I didn’t feel I was constantly battling the weight gain. I was able to teach myself to run, I ran my longest ever fun run at 16km. (something I thought I would never do). I felt great!
I still mostly keep clear of junk sugar. But occasionally the natural sugars creep up too high. You know it’s getting to be a problem when you are eating the fresh raw honey, from your father-in-law’s bees, straight out of the jar with a spoon. Just call me Pooh Bear! Or when I open the sultana bag and eat a good half of the packet before I notice I am feeling quite sick. When I am in this state I’m not in control, the sugar has taken control. I gain weight, I get moody, my hormones and cycle even gets out of whack. But reigning it in again is not always easy.
So how do you QUIT sugar? (well the bad ones anyway!)
- Fill your kitchen with healthy foods. Buy fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, good quality cheese (if you tolerate dairy). Buy some foods you love that are not sugar-filled. My personal favorites are roasted nuts, healthy dips, and some quality (usually made by my in-laws) fresh salami. But choose whatever floats your boat. When the cravings arrive eat foods that are fat-filled, protein-rich, and fiber-filled. These foods will release energy slowly and will satiate you for longer.
- Look at your diary and plan around upcoming social events. If I see that there is a party or dinner coming up and I know it will be full of sugary temptations, I make a game plan. Sometimes I eat before I go, so the temptation is reduced. Other times I tell myself I can have the birthday cake, but no other sugary treats. Sometimes I take some of my own snacks and crunch on some nuts. Sometimes I just let myself go and eat whatever I like realizing that I might need to re-set the cravings at the very next meal. Whichever you choose, just make it work for you. The last thing you want is to feel permanently deprived. You will not stick to your health goals if you are constantly in a will power game with yourself.
- Get your family on board. I have been living with my bread loving husband now for over ten years. I will not touch bread! Especially his gluten-filled white bread. (Bread is like sugar, salivary amalayse breaks bread into sugar before it even gets to your stomach!) We have some house rules. He can have his bread in the house. It no longer tempts me. (I haven’t eaten ‘glutened’ bread since about 1998). But he cannot bring into the house any treats that push me into a craving zone. He is in charge of his own health if he wants sugary treats, he can have them, just don’t leave them in the house for me to devour. We want each other to be the best versions of ourselves. So we support each other in our endeavors. Speak to your partner about their health goals and the goals of your family. Support each other to get healthy and stay healthy!
Yours in Health,
Dr. Anthea Holder
(Chiropractor and Nutritional Therapy Practitioner)