Sugar, Sugar — Another Look

Article by Dr. Paul Kennedy
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Everyone enjoys something sweet every now and then—myself included. But we as a culture eat more refined sugar in one day than our caveman ancestors did in a lifetime. It is estimated that the average person in the United States consumes about 40 POUNDS of sugar annually and another 160 POUNDS of “other sweeteners” such as viagr a pfizer high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)—the preferred sweetener used by manufacturers of carbonated soda and fruit juice “cocktail” (fruit juice sweetened with additional refined sugar or HFCS in order to make it cheaper). To put that amount of sugar per serving into perspective, assume that a person with whom you are having lunch orders a medium sized glass of carbonated water and calmly adds 10 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR before drinking it! You would probably be a bit shocked by that. BUT, that’s the same sugar “hit” as one 12-ounce can of soda. How much sugar in a “Big Gulp”???? Over 400! Get the picture? And there is even more “hidden” sugar in dozens of the processed foods that we love to eat. But just focusing on the overload of unneeded calories is only one part of the issue as described in my previous article on the subject (see “Sugar, Sugar”). The essentially non-nutritive value of refined sugar and HFC has many other unwanted effects that can be just as damaging as the creeping overweight due to caloric excess.

Briefly, additional sugar and commercial sweeteners consumed at even “moderate” levels can increase the level of low density lipoprotein (LDL-the “bad” cholesterol) in the blood and reduces the level of high density lipoprotein (HDL-the “good” cholesterol). Overindulgence in sugar and related products can decrease absorption of vitamin C which, in turn, can weaken or depress the immune system (the body’s defense against disease) which can have a cascading effect on a myriad of illnesses and conditions—primary among

these being an increase in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes. And the list of related conditions is, of course, far more complex than one might think whenever the immune system is compromised. But even with all these issues concerning our nationwide overindulgence in sugar, we also now realize that sugar can kill muscle. I know that “kill” seems to be a strong word but it is appropriate in light of the relationship between sugar and insulin response. Here’s how!

First, insulin (the chemical that allows the body to assimilate or use glucose—the body’s major fuel source) and insulin receptors play a pivotal role in skeletal muscle growth. Insulin receptors are cellular mechanisms that act as enzymes to help the body—especially muscles—to absorb, use and/or store glucose. Also, insulin is used to assist in the uptake of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) used in muscle cell development. As a result, the molecular disruption caused by excessive intake of sugar slows, reduces or even stops the renewed growth of skeletal muscle that is stimulated via strength training and other challenging forms of physical exercise. In other words, too much sugar means LESS muscle. Since muscle mass or lean body tissue is critical to maintaining our metabolic rate (the rate at which we burn calories), the unneeded sugar “overload” provides a double whammy in terms of possible fat weight gain. First, it provides us with unnecessary calories when consumed (with little nutritional value) and, second, it makes it more difficult to grow or even maintain the calorie burning lean body tissue that drives our metabolism and helps us to maintain a desired body weight and body composition. It is critical, therefore, to keep the intake of refined sugar and HFCS (both carbohydrates) to no more than 20% (or less!) of our TOTAL daily carbohydrate intake. In other words, it might be time to pass on the “Big Gulp” and substitute other more nutritious beverages. Ever hear of water?

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for June 2010. Good luck with YOUR program. I KNOW you can do it!

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