Why Sugar (and sugar substitutes) are Killing You

I never eat corn syrup. Strong word, right? NEVER. It is absolute. No coming back from. I rarely use it, especially when it comes to food and eating. But this is one of the worst things you can put in your body. It will cause you to eat more than you need while at the same time storing what you eat as fat, and even worse it is super prevalent. The one thing that really struck me in one of my nutrition classes while getting my BS was that corn syrup interferes with the hormone that tells you are full. The human body is a super intricate but so well running machine that it blows my mind. We have messed with this machine by introducing so much shit into our food that this blows my mind in a different way. But let me not get on a soapbox and instead try to help and inform instead of rant and vent!

When I say to people to take sugar out of their diet they inevitably ask: “What about fruit?” and then I ask: “What are your goals?” because I have a different answer depending on if you want to lose weight or not. Why? Because while there is a difference between eating fruit and adding sugar to foods, fruit will not help you towards losing weight. “What?? No fruit??” Nope. No fruit. “But what about…..” Nope. No fruit. 3 months. And then 1-2 pieces a day. Tops two. But not alone- with either a protein or fat to slow down the sugar into the bloodstream.

Because that is really where the problem lies- a fast hit of sugar rushing into the bloodstream, leaving the body scrambling to remove it.Why? Why not just leave it there? Well, added sugar in the blood stream increases the pH level, causing it to be caustic….has anybody ever poured gasoline in Styrofoam? Ok, that might be a little extreme, but you get the idea. High sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels. This is why diabetics who don’t control their sugar levels lose their eyesight, lose their toes, even their entire feet, cannot heal well, and lose feeling in their extremities.

Ok, that might be a little extreme, but you get the idea. High sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels. This is why diabetics who don’t control their sugar levels lose their eyesight, lose their toes, even their entire feet, cannot heal well, and lose feeling in their extremities.

So, in order to prevent high sugar levels, your body releases insulin to take care of it. Very simply put, insulin is a hormone that regulates your blood sugar levels. It either tells your cells to take insulin into them OR it tells your liver to convert the sugar and store it as fat. The issue with added sugar is that it goes almost directly to your bloodstream—this high sugar level causes the body to produce a high amount of insulin which then quickly (too quickly) takes care of the sugar. Now you are left with insulin in your bloodstream and no sugar, so your body thinks it is starving and YOU think you are hungry. You eat, and the same cycle repeats itself. Along with the crash of your blood sugar you also have a crash of energy.

The cycle is hard to break and is what contributes to obesity and the myriad of diseases that go along with that. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US and cancer is second. Strokes are fifth and diabetes seventh. These are MORTALITY rates, as in this shit will KILL YOU. Studies show the link between high fat/high sugar diets (think processed foods) and muscle damage/systemic inflammation. Sugar sweetened beverages are proven to increase vascular risk (increasing risk of congestive heart disease and stroke). Tumor cells are known to use a higher amount of glucose than normal cells- recent studies arefocusing on the ketogenic diet to help treat cancer patients.

Ok, you get it. Sugar is bad, you’ll just stop eating it. No more candy or pastries. Well….it might not be that easy.

  1. Sugar is the second ingredient in some very common foods- think pasta sauce and peanut butter.
  2. Sugar is highly addictive.

Let’s start with one: In order to eliminate sugar from your diet you need to start reading labels. I get it, its annoying, trust me my partner tells me every time we go shopping. Drives him up a wall. But the food industry has figured out that they can engineer food to hit all the pleasure points in your brain by adding the right amounts of sugar and fat. Which brings us to point two. Studies have shown sugar—and sugar substitutes—to be more addicting than cocaine and heroin. Yes. Cocaine AND heroin. Drug addicted rats will choose sugar water over drugs. Frightening. Terrifying, really. And how about the study that concluded Oreos are just as addicting as morphine?

So is it just a waste of time to try and not eat sugar if it is so addciting and prevelant? No—as you can see, sugar is a contributor in the majority of top causes of death. It is worth the effort to stop eating sugar and sugar substitutes since the health benefits, and increase in healthy life span, cannot be surpassed. If it is so addicting how do you stop?? Will power and cold turkey. Studies on smoking (also highly addicting) have shown that cold turkey works twice as well as “cutting down” does. Positive goal planning can also help, as well as recruiting the help of friends and family. (some tips about goal planning here.)

Also, throw out the mindset that you cannot have your favorite sweet ever again. Moderation is the key to life. Give yourself one month—just 30 days—of not eating sugar and then reintroduce it back to your diet in small bits and pieces here and there. Save King Cake for one or two special days during carnival season instead of every few days. Switch to protein based desserts such as a bowl of full fat Greek yogurt with a small amount of sliced fresh fruit or assorted berries.

It sucks getting off the sugar bandwagon, especially if it means you are the only person of all your friends and family doing so. That’s rough. Keep at it though. Sugar has invested billions into creating a normalcy around sugar consumption. One company alone spent 3.2 million on lobbying in 2016. Kellogg’s spent $32 million last year in advertising Pop Tarts (read this article). Just Pop Tarts. Nothing else. These companies have the money and influence to keep their products in your pantry. Do your body a favor, give it what it needs. Shop for whole foods, read labels, and cut down to quit eating sugar. If you are too busy, find a  local food prep service to supply you with healthy meals during the week.

Recruit a friend to help you on this journey. Or get a coach to report to. Trust me, in a moth, your outlook on food will completely change.

If you found this article useful or interesting, please share!

CDC 2016 Mortality RateThe money spent selling sugar to Americans is Staggering

Pub Med: High fat high sucrose diet rapidly alter muscle integrity, inflammation, and gut microbiota in ratsSugar sweetened beverages, vascular risk factors and eventsKetogenic diet and other intervention in the treatment of cancerIntense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine RewardDrug vs Sweet RewardOreos can be compared to drugs of abuse, Does how you quit affect success?

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