Monday, January 25, 2010
Break Free of the Sugar Addiction
The health issues that develop as a result of a high-sugar diet are strongly linked to the response of the hormone insulin to carbohydrate ingestion, a phenomenon known as the glycemic response. Simple carbohydrates such as sugar are considered high glycemic and are metabolized quickly by the body, resulting in a rapid release of insulin and a quick rise and fall in blood sugar.
Insulin resistance is a progressive condition that occurs when normal insulin activity is inadequate to produce a response on insulin receptors on muscle and adipose (fat) cells. Initial signs of insulin insensitivity include high circulating levels of both glucose and insulin. In addition, consumption of excess dietary carbohydrate can stimulate lipolysis (fat generation), resulting in higher levels of circulating triglycerides, very-low-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
As the body's ability to store excess energy becomes further impaired, fat deposition begins to occur around the internal organs. This specific form of weight gain, known as visceral fat, is characteristic of insulin resistance and is strongly linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
Recognizing the sources of sugar in your diet can require some savvy label reading skills. Sugar can be listed on food packages in a variety of ways, including glucose, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, sucrose, and cane sugar, to name a few.
As a consumer, it is important to recognize that all of these are types of sugar, and as a result all can cause negative health effects. A particular form of sugar used in processed foods, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), may be especially damaging. HFCS is one of the most commonly used sweeteners in the U.S., and is produced from corn starch via a series of enzymatic processes. Clinical research now shows that HFCS may present more health risks than regular cane sugar.
When looking to reduce dietary sugar intake, many of us turn to artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes as an alternative option. But ingestion of artificial sweeteners still initiates an insulin response from the pancreas as a means of inducing carbohydrate metabolism. Since artificial sweeteners provide no carbohydrate value, insulin levels remain high, leading to hypoglycemia and increased hunger. This interference with appetite control mechanisms can lead to overconsumption of food at the next meal.
If your current diet is high in refined sugars, try taking small steps to regulate your intake. Cut down on soda drinking or dilute juices with water. You can also reduce your intake of processed foods and start making your own meals at home to limit your exposure to sugars that are incorporated as part of food processing. If you must use sugar, try sticking with more natural varieties, such as honey, agave, molasses, fruit, and cane sugar. Making these minor adjustments can have significant benefits on all aspects of your health and well-being. Talk to your doctor for additional information.
In your Health,
Dr. Jon Wise
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