Correlation between disease and sugar

Many of us still underestimate the devastating impact sugar can have on our bodies. What’s more, even those aware of the dangers are still consuming far too much of it.

Sugar is responsible for over 35 million deaths globally per year. This is not just about a couple of extra dental visits and gaining a few extra pounds. It is far more serious than that.

The medical world has long suspected a link between sugar and cancer, and in light of several ground-breaking studies over the past decade, there is now plenty of scientific evidence to back up these suspicions. Sugar is not only a fuel source for existing cancers, but also potentially a primary factor in the initiation of cancerous characteristics in previously healthy cells.

The study goes on to suggest that rather than increased glycolysis (the breakdown of glucose to provide energy) being a consequence of cancer, it is rather the activation of sugar-based metabolism in a cell driven by high sugar quantities on the cell membrane that actually causes cancer to form in the first place. Those who eat a diet with a high glycemic load (GL) increase their chances of developing prostate cancer by almost 30 per cent, rectal cancer by 44 per cent and pancreatic cancer by 41 per cent.

When it comes to weight gain there is no easier way to pack on the pounds than by eating a high sugar diet. This is largely due to the sugar, fructose, found mainly in fruit juices, wheat products and “high fructose corn syrup” – which is most commonly added to food by manufacturers as it is sweeter and cheaper that sucrose (table sugar).

There is no hormone to remove fructose from our bloodstream and very few of our body’s cells can make use of it. Therefore, it is left to the liver to remove. When the liver is overwhelmed by too much of this sugar, it converts it to fat, which ultimately leads to insulin resistance, hardening of the arteries and, of course, obesity.

Fructose has also been known to cause weight gain by interfering with the way our bodies respond to the hormone, leptin. Leptin is secreted by fat cells, which the bigger they are, the more they secrete, and their job is to tell the brain that we have adequate fat stores and, therefore, do not need to keep eating. However, high fructose levels can block the transport of leptin from the blood to the brain which makes it believe that the body needs to eat more and burn less in order to replenish our fat stores.

What about the heart?

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in westernised countries and it’s this high sugar intake that has the biggest contribution to this disease.

When we eat high amounts of sugar, our bodies release insulin to get excess glucose out of the bloodstream and into our cells. The higher the level of glucose in our blood, the higher the amount of insulin released.

While this is a perfectly natural response to sugar in our bloodstream, when insulin is chronically high (which it is for most people adhering to that Western diet high in sugars and grains and processed foods) it causes inflammation and damages the lining of our blood vessels, leading to a host of cardiovascular-related concerns.

Diabetes is also on the rise affecting nine per cent of the global adult population and is responsible for a staggering 1.5 million deaths around the world each year. Or to put it another way, one person dies from diabetes every seven seconds and evidence suggests a direct link between sugar and this disease.

The reality is that if you consume a diet consistently high in sugar, grains and processed foods (full of sugars and trans fats), your blood glucose levels will be chronically elevated. The pancreas then becomes overworked and even damaged, the body becomes desensitised to insulin and the end result is insulin resistance and eventually full-blown diabetes.

In my mind, this is perhaps the least publicised health complaint, and that is, fatty liver disease. This particular problem is caused by your body's least favourite sugar – fructose. As liver cells are the only ones that can break down fructose, they set about turning the sugar into fat in a process called lipogenesis.

Over time, and given enough fructose, fat droplets start to accumulate in the liver cells, which ultimately results in non-alcoholic liver disease – so called because the effect is much the same as that which alcohol has on the liver. As with alcohol damage, if left untreated the liver becomes scarred, leading to irreversible cirrhosis and irreparable damage.

There are so many reasons to stay off the sugar and I’m going to help you do just that.