If Orange is the New Black is Sugar Now the New Tobacco?

Ok, so unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of decades, you know that eating too much sugar leads to weight gain, possibly obesity, diabetes, and it rots the teeth right out of your head, making your dentist rich. But can it really lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and cancer? A group of medical researchers say that it’s true, that sugar acts much like a toxin in the body and is the main culprit for our ever increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Sugar is in just about everything we eat today, not just the typical cakes and cookies, but in foods you thought were a bit healthier like crackers, energy bars, tomato sauce, and salad dressings. Because of this, experts thin that most people are walking around in a toxic sugar overload nightmare.

Ok, so everyone knows the dangers of smoking but could sugar be just as bad? According to research, the answer is yes. It seems that the scourge of the modern world isn’t fat or salt, but sugar.

Several types of white sugar - refined sugar and granulated sugar

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This really is the biggest public health crisis in the history of the world, according to endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig, who works out of the University of San Francisco. In the journal Nature, Dr. Lustig and his colleagues argued that sugar is so harmful to the body that it should be regulated the same way alcohol and tobacco are. He believes that every substance that humans abuse, whether it is alcohol, heroin, or cocaine, has required social intervention in order to get people help. There is nothing for sugar addiction.

How can something that makes babies smile, sweetens things like tea, and consoles you in times of need be so terrible?

Its understandable that if this is the first you have heard about it, this kind of anti-sugar policy might seem a bit off the chart. However, Dr. Lustig and his colleges will tell you that you are mistaken. Sugar is harmful in significant amounts, and not just because it’s high in calories, but because it triggers a domino effect of chain reactions in the body that cause it to produce harmful fats, excessive and damaging hormones, and other metabolic by-products.

In fact, sugar is found in just about everything except for meat, oil, and butter. There is a world of difference, however, between sugar that is found naturally in unprocessed foods from nature such as vegetables, fruit, milk, and whole grains, and the sugar that is added to processed foods. Those added sugars include every kind of name and sweetener that you could ever imagine: table sugar, corn syrup, brown sugar, honey, agave nectar, dextrose, and high fructose corn syrup. And this is just a scratch of the surface! It’s these added sugars that many experts are saying are actually the root cause of our health problems. Not just sugar, but the excessive amounts we are eating, without ever even realizing it. In nature, sugar is actually hard to come by, it took man to make it easy to get.

When considering all the different types of sugar that are available, experts say that fructose may just be the most harmful. Although it’s found naturally in very small amounts in fresh fruit, it’s combined with glucose, and is the base of almost every commercial sweetener there is, including high fructose corn syrup. What makes fructose so dangerous? Perhaps because it’s unique. It can only be metabolized by your liver, so when you eat this kind of sugar, it’s processed and then stays in the liver, which causes it to produce fats in the blood that are very dangerous. These fats are called triglycerides.

At least sugars that don’t contain fructose, such as pure corn syrup or pure glucose, are processed by your liver, and then leave. They go out to your bloodstream, whether you actually need fuel or not. If you eat too much fructose and your body builds up a lot of triglycerides, the result is insulin resistance, which will lead to diabetes, or a fatty liver. Read more about top 5 natural sugar substitutes.

Researchers have known for many years now that insulin resistance can lead to diabetes and weight gain. They’ve recently discovered that it can also cause heart disease, partially because eating too much sugar actually suppresses the good cholesterol that you want, the HDL cholesterol.  Also, eating too much sugar of any kind tends to increase blood pressure. Many researchers believe that the effects sugar has on insulin metabolism can cause cancer or accelerate the growth of cancer. One theory here is that high levels of insulin drive the growth of tumors, as the hormone already is known to encourage cancer cells to grow faster in lab tests.

If you think exercise will save you from the negative effects of all that sugar, think again. Although exercise does improve your cholesterol by a few points, it’s usually not enough to bring it down into a range your doctor would consider is healthy. It doesn’t matter if you are a thin, active person, eating a diet that is high in sugar is still harmful to your body. Unless you are a professional athlete, eating too much sugar is not a good idea.

Now you will find some other experts who insist that sugar isn’t that big a deal and certainly isn’t much of a threat to anyone, but they are in the minority. Even so, ask those experts who don’t believe sugar is a threat if it’s ok, then, to consume large amounts of it and even they stop short.

Want to ditch that sugar habit? Although you don’t have to cut out everything, try your best to cut back as much as possible. Read food labels and avoid those that have added sugar. Stop adding extra sugar to your meals. Tomato sauce really doesn’t need sugar to taste good, does it? Stop drinking all sweetened sodas (don’t go the diet soda route either, that’s just as bad if not worse) and drink more pure water and freshly brewed green tea. Find out how to give up sugar in 9 steps.

Overall, make eating whole, unpackaged foods your priority. If your “food label” has only one ingredient, then you know you are on the right track.