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The Scary Truth About Sugar

Just about everyone nowadays has heard the expression ‘He/she has a sweet tooth!’ When you think about it though, it really would be more accurate or revelatory to point when someone doesn’t have a ‘sweet tooth’ considering that the average American consumes approximately 150 lbs of sugar yearly! That is almost a half a pound of sugar every day, astonishingly! Many European, Oceanic, and increasingly Asian countries are close behind or on occasion even exceed these consumption facts!

So is it really so surprising so many of us are waging a war with our waistlines and blood sugar levels (and largely losing!)? This is a dramatic change to the diets of just 100-150 years ago. In the 1800s, in early American colonial times, it has been estimated that the average YEARLY sugar consumption was 1.5-2 lbs.

So in some 6 generations, we have increased our sugar intake nearly 100 times yet are less active than in any other recorded period of history. If you think that sounds like a recipe for disaster, you’re right. In this article, we’re going to talk a little bit more about sugar and why we need to drastically curtail consumption of this empty-calorie, nutrient poor substance in our diets if we want to reach our physical potentials and maximize our health lifespans!

Selling Ourselves Short

When I talk with students or patients that based on science validated in a number of studies that humans are designed to live on average 120 years, most people are astonished. Astonished because they never knew that, but also more astonished because on average, in the US, we are largely, willingly, giving up 1/3 of our lives due to our poor habits, uneducated choices, and skewed priorities! Why is this, you might ask? Well many reasons of course, but a big one is the diet and one big factor in the diet is, you guessed it, SUGAR!

In Chinese medicine, sweet is one of five key flavors essential to be kept in balance with other flavors (which also include bitter, salty, sour, and umami (i.e. a savoury, meaty type of flavor). Typically the American diet is rife with foods heavy in salty and sweet aspects with very few that touch on the other essential flavor elements. However, when we understand that different flavors also have different effects on organ systems, digestion, etc., we start to understand that we can’t be so heavily tilted in one or two directions without big repercussion.

The flavor of bitter, for instance, helps stimulate the liver and gallbladder to be more active, process toxins and fats, and in general, to stay working in better shape. Sour, in contrast, gets many of the digestive juices flowing in the stomach, pancreas and intestines.

Sugar, in excess, stresses the insulin/glucagon system and creates excessive free radical generation in the body, which accelerates aging systemically. Remember that sugar rich, refined foods tend to actually deplete of us of nutrients in the body as we require them to process the food, so not only are they not providing us with many nutrients, they’re actually stripping our stores of them as well! Many degenerative illnesses are associated with excess free radical production including Cataracts, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cancer and more.

Sugar also promotes the growth of opportunistic pathogenic microbes in our gut such as candida albicans, which can lead to a host of digestive and absorptive issues that can become systemic as well as superficially accelerate wrinkling and weaken dental enamel, encouraging dental cavities.

There Is An Alternative!

With all of these scary sugar facts, you might want to never eat anything sweet again! But, thankfully you don’t need to go that far. Having small amounts of naturally sourced and derived sweeteners such as raw honey, molasses, stevia, and some sugar alcohols for many individuals may be ok. The important to remember is that such sweets should be garnishes and small additions to your daily diet, not major portions of it! That is where many people are going wrong nowadays—their proportions are completely backwards!!

That’s where the paleo diet comes in—with so many fresh and whole foods with no added sugars to them—it naturally supports more optimal insulin and blood sugar levels so that you’re not suffering from all the woeful detrimental effects of too much sugar. Talk about a sweet, not-so-sweet alternative!