The Season of Sugar: Setting the Stage for a Successful New Year
Dec 11, 2015 02:53PM
● By Beau Smith, D.C.
The sugar season is well underway. It begins with Halloween and extends through Valentine’s Day. As a society, we expand these special occasions into a lengthy season of parties and festivities. Any reason to celebrate is a good reason, we rationalize.
The holidays offer opportunities to maintain friendships and connections which is an important component of health. Unfortunately, though, many people demonstrate their love in the form of sugary snacks. Sugar decreases the body’s immune function, packs on the pounds, and can become highly addictive. Therefore, limiting your sugar intake throughout this season will protect your health now and set you up for success this New Year.
Sugar season complicates the cold and flu season. Environmental changes, decreased exercise habits, holiday stress and excessive sugar intake create a perfect storm for sickness. Simple sugar temporarily shuts down the immune system. Glucose is the simplest form of sugar that the body uses, and is similar to the chemical structure to vitamin C.
When there a high concentration of sugar enters the blood stream, vitamin C content in the white blood cells gets displaced by glucose molecules. This displacement slows or stops these cells’ ability to engulf foreign invaders. This depression of immune function can last up to 5 hours. Studies show that 75–100 grams (20 teaspoons) of sugar depress the body’s immune function. Complex carbohydrates do not have the same effect.
How Much Is Too Much?
Americans consume a massive amount of sugar each year. In fact, various sources estimate the average American consumes over 130 pounds of refined sugar annually. Sugar negatively impacts one’s health in at least 76 different ways. The World Health Organization recommends that women limit their sugar consumption to 25 grams per day. Men are only allowed a slightly higher amount. The average American consumes 161.5 grams of sugar per day. That’s more than six times the recommended daily allowance.
To put this statistic into perspective, a typical 12-ounce serving of soda contains roughly 33–39 grams of sugar. Almost all processed foods contain a large amount of processed sugar. Foods are engineered to make consumers want more. Did you ever notice there are no daily percentage values next to the sugar column on nutrition labels?
There are several different types of sugar. The most common in foods are glucose and fructose. Other sugars can be identified by the suffix “–ose.” The brain uses glucose as its energy source, so when the brain receives glucose, this is perceived as a reward. That sugary sweet reward can be even more enjoyable and attractive than addictive drugs like cocaine.
Glucose spikes blood sugar which stimulates the release of insulin, increases the storage of belly fat, causes inflammation, elevates triglycerides, lowers high density lipids (HDL), raises blood pressure and decreases testosterone. Insulin blocks the satiation control hormone leptin which makes a person feel full. Therefore, long-term excessive sugar intake creates leptin resistance, fueling a constant sensation of hunger and sugar cravings.
Fructose is another common form of sugar found in food which occurs naturally in fruits and other plants. The food industry uses it heavily in processed ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup or just plain fructose. Fructose affects the body slightly differently by stimulates insulin resistance, increasing blood sugar and causing fatty liver, inflammation and the accumulation of body fat. Fructose does not stimulate feedback to the brain or reduce ghrelin, the hormone that controls one’s appetite.
A calorie is a unit of energy under controlled conditions in a laboratory. However, the body is not a laboratory and responds conversely to different forms of fuel. The sugars in soda and processed foods enter the blood stream rapidly, causing the body to rapidly process these substances. Sugars in fruits and vegetables must be sorted out from the fiber content. This fiber slows the absorption of sugar, allowing the body to use it over a period of time. Fiber even prevents some of the sugar from being absorbed.
A myth promoted in the food industry is that weight can be controlled through the “calories in/calories out” equation. Keep in mind, however, this formula is only partially accurate. Proteins, simple sugars and complex carbohydrates all contain calories that can be broken down into simpler forms of sugar. These various caloric sources respond differently in the body and affect hormones in multiple ways. Excessive sugar consumption causes hormonal imbalances and displaced nutrients. Similarly, changes in normal body chemistry contribute to weight gain and resistance to weight loss.
Strategies for Success
The simplest strategy is to raise the culinary bar. There is no reason to deprive yourself of celebrating throughout this holiday season. Learn how to cook amazing yet healthy dishes to serve your loved ones. Make bite-sized sweet treats instead of large portion desserts. Use the most nourishing whole food ingredients available. The American Heart Association reports, “…you can cut the refined sugar in recipes by 1/3 to ½ without tasting the difference.” Or, simply limit your portion size at the various parties.
Reducing your sugar intake during sugar season can help you achieve your New Year’s health goals. Binging on sugar for a couple months prior to cleaning up your diet does not create the conditions for success. Limiting sugar now will protect your physiology, making it easier to lose weight in January. Making small changes in December might improve your chances of making lasting changes in your life throughout 2016.
Excessive sugar consumption depresses your immune function and changes the way your body responds to insulin, leptin and ghrelin. Hormonal changes in the body affect your appetite and ability to feel satisfied after a meal. Excessive sugar intake also can lead to obesity and resistance to weight loss. So, protect yourself and your family this sugar season by reducing your consumption of sugar.
Dr. Beau Smith is a Chiropractic Doctor and founder of Mainstay Chiropractic, along with his wife Dr. Jill Smith. Mainstay Chiropractic is located at 717 Honore Ave., Sarasota. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 941-342-1291, email [email protected] or visit MainstayChiro.com.