Sugar: The Silent Killer

Posted: April 10, 2015

We all love sweets and they are everywhere. But we tend to forget that excessive sugar in our bodies is the beginning of bitter health issues. 

Sugar, long associated with religious and cultural traditions, has become an irreplaceable part of our life. We follow the tradition of distributing sweets whenever there is some good news, and it is also an integral part of all types of poojas. But modern scientific research now highlights its role as a silent killer when consumed in excessive amounts. It is now an established fact that, excess sugar not only causes or aggravates diabetes, but is also one major factor for increased incidence of diseases like obesity, hypertension, behavioral problems, allergies, chronic infections, autoimmune diseases and cancer. Let us have a look why it is really so dangerous and what measures we can take to prevent its effects.

Functions of sugar in human body

The main function of sugar in our body is the production of energy. Each and every cell in our body requires a constant uninterrupted supply of sugar to produce energy. Human brain can only metabolise sugar to produce energy. But it lacks the capacity to store sugar and use it whenever required. Hence, for proper functioning it also requires a constant supply of sugar. The production of energy from sugar is governed by the hormone insulin. Whenever, excessive refined sugar is consumed in the form of fruit juices or bottled drinks, it passes quickly into the bloodstream giving pancreas a shock. They respond by producing even more insulin, resulting in a sharp decline in the blood sugar level. This triggers a signal in the brain to consume even more sugar (as we feel tired and weak) and the cycle continues.

The main function of sugar in our body is the production of energy

We continue consuming more and more sugar (devoid of nutrients), and increase confusion in the brain as well as the pancreas. This also creates a deficiency of nutrients like magnesium and B complex vitamins, which are required for proper functioning of the brain and when undersupplied leads to many diseases like alzheimers and depression. Needless to say, it is also one of the causative factors for the early onset of type two diabetes. Sir Frederic Banting, codiscoverer of insulin had noted that, among sugar plantation owners who ate large amounts of their refined stuff, diabetes was common; among native cane cutters, who only chew raw sugarcane, he saw no diabetes.

The process of energy production from sugar also requires magnesium, calcium, chromium, phosphate and B group vitamins. When we consume refined sugar, these nutrients are leached out from our body’s supply of nutrients. For instance, calcium is leached out from teeth and bones, making them brittle. Excessive sugar also makes the blood sticky and thick, inhibiting blood flow to minor capillaries that supply our teeth with these nutrients.

Why is too much sugar dangerous?

Refined white sugar is extracted from sugarcane or sugar beet. In sugarcane, it is present along with fiber, B complex vitamins, magnesium, calcium, chromium and phosphate. These nutrients are still present after extracting the juice. But during the chemical treatments employed to refine it, all of these nutrients are lost leaving behind 99% pure, refined white sugar. Sugar produced in such a manner is nutritionally unbalanced as it contains “naked calories” and is very sweet to taste, in contrast to fresh or dry fruits, which are moderately sweet.

The sugar produced from unrefined complex carbohydrates in food is a component of the sticky mucus coating the walls of stomach and respiratory system. Excessive sweet foods leads to excessive mucus secretion and acid production in the body, makes the blood acidic, destroys the useful microorganisms in the intestine, and depletes the body of minerals and B group vitamins. All this leads to a weakened digestive system, hampering food digestion and assimilation. This triggers a ‘hunger response’ in our brain, with a hope that, the ingested food will provide the necessary supply of nutrients. Refined, processed food consumed at such a time only results in faulty digestion of that food and instead of being used up, it gets deposited in the form of storage fat. Refined sugar consumption is one of the leading causes of obesity.

Sugar produced from unrefined complex carbohydrates in food is a component of the sticky mucus coating the walls of stomach and respiratory system.

Sugar from our diet, is used up to produce energy. Left-over sugar is then transported to the liver, and stored in the form of glycogen. Excessive sugar consumption leads to excessive glycogen production, which is then stored in the form of body fat around stomach, thighs, breasts and buttocks.

Sugar in excessive amounts has special affinity for collagen and elastin proteins which form the muscles. It binds these proteins and distorts their structure. Such distorted proteins then get incorporated in muscles and makes them weak, causes sagging and wrinkled skin and symptoms of premature aging. Excessive sugar also weakens our immune system, decreasing its efficiency to fight off infections, detoxify the toxic chemical residues and inhibit growth of cancerous cells.

Thus, you may have realized that, excessive sugar consumption in the form of sweets, desserts, processed refined foods and fast foods is a major causative factor of all diseases like obesity, tooth decay, weakness, nervousness, negative thoughts, heart disease and cancer.

What can replace sugar?

What can be done to substitute sugar in our diet?

  • Use jaggery or molasses.
  • Use fresh fruits or dry fruits.
  • Use honey – it is produced by honeybees who are not as intelligent as man, and hence preserve the nutrients in it.

This post was first published at the author’s blog.

Image of sugar in bowls via Shutterstock

I have a unique background of being a nutritionist and a microbiologist. My treatment approach

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