Six GREAT reasons to go on a sugar detox

I sometimes get asked what is the single most important thing we can do to improve our health. I honestly think that one simple change that would have far-reaching consequences is to cut out sugar, especially processed sugar, from our diet. Americans consume 52 teaspoons of sugar per day, while our ancestors enjoyed less than half of that amount of sugar (22 teaspoons) per year, according to the USDA. Study after study confirms what we already intuitively know: as a society we are ingesting more sugar than our bodies were ever designed to process which is resulting in epidemics of modern diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. What is worse is that we are indiscriminately eating varieties of sugar that our bodies do not even know how to assimilate (for example, aspartame, sucralose, saccharin and high-fructose corn syrup). We are slowly poisoning ourselves without having a full grasp of the long-term consequences and health implications, allowing corporations to tell us that their drinks and food products are “safe enough,” putting the burden of proof on the underfunded scientific community.

The truth is that sugar upsets your body’s delicate balance in so many ways. Here are just a few examples to get you thinking:

Sugar mines your body for minerals leaving you deficient

Minerals are used by your body to perform essential tasks such as blood clotting, blood cell formation and functioning, the maintenance of healthy teeth, bones, eyes, hair and skin, the proper functioning of the heart, bone formation and muscle functioning. Processed sugar completely is devoid of fiber, vitamins and yes, minerals. In fact, in order for your body to metabolize processed sugar, it “borrows” calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, chromium, zinc and other such essential minerals from your healthy cells. This is especially troubling because as a nation our mineral levels are depleted to begin with (largely due to low mineral levels in soil as a result of modern farming methods in addition to the prevalence of processed food in our diets). Mineral deficiencies may result in the following (non-exhaustive) list of symptoms and ailments: type 2 diabetes, muscle cramping (especially in the leg), muscle spasms, osteoporosis, arthritis, ADD and ADHD.

It is important to note that no amount of supplement pills or healthy eating can balance the rate of mineral loss due to sugar. Dr. Joel Wallach of Rare Earths: Forbidden Cures states that high sugar loads in the body increases the rate of mineral loss in sweat and urine by 200 percent for 12 hours(!!!). Imagine what this does to growing children who gobble up so much of our supply of sugary foods and drinks.

Sugar makes you fat

In a world where “low-fat” foods get so much shelf space in our supermarkets and grocery stores, one may wonder why the obesity epidemic is so out of control. The answer is that fat is not the problem. In fact, moderate doses of healthy fats are essential for our health. The problem lies in the absurd amount of sugar we are consuming.

How does sugar make you fat? It is simple. Every single one of our cells needs glucose for energy. However, when we have too much glucose in our system any excess is turned into FAT. Moreover, research has shown that a high-sugar diet can lead to overeating as sugar affects the satiety mechanism in your body, effectively hampering with the system that lets you know when you are full. I have found that one of the easiest ways to lose weight for many people is to simply cut out added sugar from the diet. A good place to start is with fruit juices, sodas and processed food.

Sugar strongly impairs your immune system

Did you know that consuming 8 tablespoons of sugar (about 2.5 12-ounce cans of soda) reduces the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by up to 40 percent? This immune system impairment can last up to five hours after consuming your sugary treat (source). Similar studies (such as this famous one) have shown that white blood cells of individuals who consumed sugar fight bacteria at a noticeably reduced rate as compared to those with lower blood sugar levels. Keep that in mind during flu season!

Sugar feeds cancer cells

It has been proven that those with high blood sugar levels are at an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, urinary tract cancer and malignant melanoma. Glucose feeds our body’s cells, and in excess allows cancer cells to grow and thrive. Furthermore, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study shows  that adults with impaired glucose tolerance have a higher relative hazard of cancer mortality than those with normal glucose tolerance.  One more reason to work to get our blood sugar levels under control!

Sugar causes inflammation

It seems like everybody is talking about inflammation, specifically silent and chronic inflammation. Unlike acute inflammation (where for example, you bang your leg and it gets swollen, red and bruised until it eventually heals), chronic inflammation is constant and puts your body’s immune system under stress as it forces your system to be in a state of perpetual repair. Some signs that your body is in a state of inflammation are allergies, digestive problems and skin imbalances such as eczema. Chronic of inflammation is associated with many of today’s ailments such as cancer, heart disease and autoimmune diseases.

You may be wondering what sugar has to do with inflammation. The answer is a lot as a quick google search will show you. Suffice it to say that high levels of insulin put your immune system’s cells on high alert (did you know that 70 of your immune cells are in your gut?!) and when this happens inflammation is more likely to occur.

Sugar impairs brain function

A study out of UCLA showed that sugar (in this case specifically, high fructose corn syrup) affects cognitive function. Professor Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, PI on the study stated that, “Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think. Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain's ability to learn and remember information… We're not talking about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants, we're concerned about high-fructose corn syrup that is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative”. There you have it! In fact, the title of the press release was “sugar makes you stupid” which made me giggle. Sadly, the average American consumes over 40 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year, which is not a laughing matter at all. Make sure to read the labels on everything you purchase and stay away from anything that has HFCS as an ingredient. Once you become an ingredient detective you will be surprised how widespread it is in processed food. Of course, the best way to protect yourself is to cook your meals yourself.

It important to note that it is not just corn syrup that is a problem: diets high in sugar of all types has been linked to a plethora of brain ailments. High sugar diets reduces the production of a chemical found in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Low levels of this chemical may lead to learning problems, depression and even alzheimer's disease.

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So there you have it, 6 HUGE reasons to get your sugar consumption under control. I could go on, and on and will probably write a part II to this post shortly.

P.S. One last terrifying study: did you know that rats find sugar more rewarding than cocaine?! Time to detox!