Why Sugar Is Slow Suicide for Your Body

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Avoid heart disease, heart attack, and cataracts by cutting out sweets

One of the biggest hidden threats to our health is the consumption of all forms of sugar. In addition to its detrimental effects on the body's proper pH balance, a major problem stemming from sugar consumption has to do with a chemical process called glycation.

In simplest terms, glycation refers to the combination of a sugar and a protein molecule. Most everyone has seen the effects of glycation in the kitchen. During baking, sugar combines with certain amino acids in grain proteins. This chemical reaction causes bread and pastries to turn brown. The same reaction also occurs when meats are glazed and coffee is roasted.

In the body, glycation also occurs when the sugar in your blood (glucose) combines with the amino acids tryptophan, lysine, and arginine. This reactive process creates certain byproducts known scientifically as advanced glycation endproducts. And in terms of what they do inside the body, their acronym says it all: AGE.

How Glycation "AGEs" Your Body

To help get a better picture in your mind about AGEs, visualize the clear, runny portion of a raw egg. This part of the egg is mostly protein. When you heat this clear portion of the egg, it quickly and permanently transforms from a runny, clear liquid to a solid white mass.

When glycation occurs and AGEs form within the body, the affected proteins are changed forever—just as with the egg. Unfortunately, the long-term health consequences of this can be disastrous.

For example, when proteins in blood vessels undergo glycation, you get stiffer, less flexible arteries, which lead to higher blood pressure, plaque formation, blood flow blockages, heart and artery disease, and eventually, stroke or heart attack. The smallest blood vessels are the hardest hit, such as those in the back of the eye, the kidney and the brain. These areas require a constant supply of glucose to meet their high energy requirements; as a result, they have the highest degree of glycation.

How You Can Guard Against Glycation

Cut Back on Sugar

I'm not talking about just the white granules we all keep out on the counter, either. Sugars of all types are being added to processed foods. In general, the easiest way to cut back on refined sugars is to read food labels and make sure any form of sugar is not one of the first four or five ingredients on the label. Look specifically for:

  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Maltose
  • Lactose
  • High-fructose corn syrup

If you do buy processed foods, choose those with at least a few grams of fiber. This will help slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream.

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Use Natural Sweeteners Like Stevia and Xylitol

Unlike sugar, stevia doesn't trigger glycation or spikes in blood sugar. And unlike artificial sweeteners, stevia has no aftertaste, side effects, or connection to cancer.

Xylitol, another terrific option, is a compound naturally found in certain vegetables, strawberries, raspberries, plums, and jute, as well as various hardwood trees like birch. Because Xylitol has a more complex chemical structure than table sugar, it doesn’t trigger the release of insulin from the pancreas—making it ideal for people with diabetes. Xylitol also has 40 percent fewer calories than sugar, and it can be substituted for sugar in cooking.

Both sweeteners can be found at health food stores and even many mainstream grocery stores.

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Eat More Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

 

Health food manufacturers like to point out that because fructose is the natural sugar in fruit, it doesn't lead to the quick spikes in blood sugar levels associated with regular table sugar. These claims about fructose are only half right.

It's true that fructose consumed in fresh, whole fruits doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar. But when that same fructose is extracted from the fruit and used in processed foods, it acts just like sucrose...if not worse! Whole fruits, however, have built-in co-factors like fiber, antioxidants, and minerals that help prevent glycation. So opt for those instead.

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Maintain High Antioxidant Levels

Along with eating more produce, take 500–1,500 mg of vitamin C and 400–1,000 IU of vitamin E. Vitamin B6 and alpha-lipoic acid have also been shown to be particularly beneficial in combating the effects of glycation.

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More Dr. Williams Advice on Diet and Overall Wellness

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