We are in October, and for many this month is the beginning of a 3-month free for all when it comes to diet. We tend to give ourselves and our families permission to eat foods we generally avoid. One of the worst additions is refined sugar and fructose.

Sources of these two (non-foods) can be sodas, fruit drinks, sweet tea, juice, extra fruit, energy drinks, candy, cakes and cookies, and alcohol. While a little each day doesn’t seem like much, it can and does add up. Let’s look at some statistics that just keep going up each year!

  1. The US consumes about 25 tsp. of sugar per person per day. This is about 150 lbs per person annually. We are #1 in the world. (Washington Post)
  2. Approximately $190.2 billion annual healthcare dollars are spent on obesity related illnesses. Sugar consumption is related to obesity. (Institute of Medicine National Academics)
  3. 91% of American children were consuming as much as 60% of their calories from sugar sweetened beverages. (Harvard Medical School)
  4. A 20 oz coke contains 16 tsp of high fructose corn syrup.

There are many reasons to minimize sugar intake, among the most important is the progression of insulin resistance to Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). We have discussed this in other blogs, but as a recap here is what happens.

First: Sugar intake is excessive or repeated.

Second: Insulin output by the pancreas gets reduced at times and continues with a consequence.

Third: The consequence of continued insulin output is that the receptors get desensitized and they stop recognizing sugar in the bloodstream leaving you with elevated blood sugar.

Fourth: You get prediabetes, a Hemoglobin A1C of 5.7 to 6.1 (functional ranges) and this can progress to full blown T2D with a HgA1C of greater than 6.4.

Other physical issues you can acquire with blood sugar issues are non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, elevated triglycerides, obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, pain, gout, etc.

So, I don’t want you to get the idea that only refined sugar is to blame here. Because it is not! Fructose, or fruit sugar is equally as damaging to the body in excess.

Did you know?

  1. Fructose or fruit sugar causes increases in uric acid levels which can lead to gout
  2. Fructose can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  3. Fructose induces leptin resistance and increases the risk of obesity. Leptin lets you know you are full. Artificial sweeteners are also a factor in leptin resistance.
  4. Consuming 2 or more sodas per day, you are 69% more likely to develop gout. It is hard on the kidneys. (British Medical Journal)
  5. High fructose corn syrup is very damaging to the body and should be avoided always.
  6. 100 grams of sugar, which is about ½ cup, can suppress white blood cell function by 40% for more than 5 hours. In other words, it can affect your ability to fight infections.

A new study has also shown that consuming sucralose or Splenda, the calorie free sugar substitute, in conjunction with carbohydrates (fries, bread, pasta, flour) blunts the body’s ability to metabolize or break down sugar, thus leading to T2D. So even if you are eating the “diet” sugar you are not safe!

What is a sugar craving person to do? There are options.

  • Eat dark chocolate of 82% or darker. The darker the chocolate the less sugar and the higher the percentage of cacao.
  • Choose low sugar fruits such as berries instead of higher sugar fruits such as bananas, mangoes and pineapple.
  • Bake your goods with monk fruit, which does not increase your insulin output, or as paleo goods without grain flours, using instead, coconut and almond flours.
  • Consider reducing your alcohol consumption to the weekends only
  • If you already have a fatty liver ask me how to defat it, (you may know by some lab values on your comprehensive metabolic panel, AST and ALT or an ultrasound) there are supplements to help with the metabolism of fats in the liver.
  • If you are pre-diabetic with a HgA1C of 5.7 to 6.4 let’s talk about your nutrition and insulin resistance, you may need Cataplex GTF (glucose tolerance factor) to reset your insulin receptors.
  • If you are a Type 2 Diabetic, we definitely need to talk about your nutrition, call to set up an appointment and implement the above steps as well.

Sugar doesn’t have a season, but if it did it would be the end of the year. Let’s be proactive and find recipes and options that are less taxing on our poor pancreas. It deserves a vacation and the way it gets that is to eat protein, good fats, veggies and low sugar fruits in moderation. Try keeping a food log if you struggle with this idea, it can really help. I use the app CarbManager, but there are many others out there as well.

Check out my Facebook or Instagram for this month’s health challenge, all about changing your diet to avoid pre-diabtes and diabetes!

Dr. Virginia Irby DC, ACN

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