At one point in time, it was a delicacy, a condiment that was difficult to come by. If you were lucky, you may have added it to your coffee or tea.
Today is a very different story and the sad result for Americans is Type 2 diabetes, Cardiovascular disease, Hypertension (high blood pressure), Dementia and Cancer.
Why Is Sugar Bad for Your Liver?
According to Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco (USCF), sugar was “still extraordinarily expensive until the middle of the 18th to 19th century.”
That expense may have been a blessing in disguise, as it made it virtually impossible for mot people to consume in excess. And therein lies the problem. Sugar acts as a chronic, dose-dependent liver toxin (poison) when consumed in excess, Dr. Lustig has stated.
In fact, the rise of chronic metabolic disease in the U.S. follows the growth of the U.S. sugar industry and increases in per capita sugar consumption.
Today, we consume about 20 times more sugar than our ancestors did, and we have very little control over the amount since what was once a condiment has now become a dietary staple.
The Main Problem With Sugar
The main problem with sugar, and processed fructose in particular, is the fact that your liver has a very limited capacity to metabolize it. In the video above, Dr. Lustig explains why sugar is so damaging for your liver and how it may lead to diabetes.
Part of the problem, according to Dr. Lustig, is that you can safely metabolize only about six teaspoons of added sugar per day.
However, the average American consumes 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day.1 All that excess sugar is metabolized into body fat, and leads to many chronic metabolic diseases, including but not limited to:
According to SugarScience.org, a product of Dr. Robert Lustig and colleagues, who have reviewed more than 8,000 independent studies on sugar and its role in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease and more:2,3
“Over time, consuming large quantities of added sugar can stress and damage critical organs, including the pancreas and liver. When the pancreas, which produces insulin to process sugars, becomes overworked, it can fail to regulate blood sugar properly.
Large doses of the sugar fructose also can overwhelm the liver, which metabolizes fructose. In the process, the liver will convert excess fructose to fat, which is stored in the liver and also released into the bloodstream.
This process contributes to key elements of MetS [metabolic syndrome], including high blood fats or triglycerides, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and extra body fat in the form of a sugar belly.”
Type 2 Diabetes Raises Your Risk of Dementia
While insulin is usually associated with its role in keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range, it also plays a role in brain signaling.
In one animal study, when researchers disrupted the proper signaling of insulin in the brain, they were able to induce many of the characteristic brain changes seen with Alzheimer’s disease (disorientation, confusion, inability to learn and remember).9
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the same pathological process that leads to insulin and leptin resistance and type 2 diabetes may also hold true for your brain.
As you over-indulge on sugar and grains, your brain becomes overwhelmed by the consistently high levels of insulin and eventually insulin and leptin levels and signaling become profoundly disrupted, leading to impairments in your thinking and memory abilities.
Eventually this may cause permanent brain damage, among other health issues. So it’s not surprising that a new study published in Diabetes Care found that type 2 diabetes is associated with a 60 percent increased risk of dementia in men and women.10
A past study — published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013 — demonstrated that a mild elevation of blood sugar — a level of around 105 or 110 — is also associated with an elevated risk for dementia.11
Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the books “Grain Brain” and “Brain Maker,” has concluded that Alzheimer’s disease is primarily predicated on lifestyle choices and, in a nutshell, anything that promotes insulin resistance will ultimately also raise your risk of Alzheimer’s.
He also believes a blood sugar level of 92 or higher is too high and the ideal fasting blood sugar level is somewhere around 70 to 85, with 95 as the maximum.
Reengineering Your Food Environment to Break Junk Food Cravings
For people addicted to junk food, simple will power may not be enough to break the cycle of addiction. Some experts, like Michael Lowe, a clinical psychologist at Drexel University (who also coined the term “hedonic hunger”), suggest reengineering your personal food environment as a form of treatment.
This means not bringing junk food into your home and even avoiding venues that sell it if necessary. The good news is that the less sugar you eat, the faster your cravings will go away. In the video below, you can see what happens when one man gave up sugar.
While initially he was struck by cravings and irritability, after a week or so the cravings went away. He was awestruck when he finally woke up one morning and had no desire to eat something sweet. What’s more, his health measures, including weight and blood sugar, improved, as did his energy and fitness levels.
Are You Addicted to Sugar? Here’s How to Break Free
Eliminating excess sugar from your diet is a foundational element of reaching optimal health. If you currently eat sugar, there’s a good chance you’re struggling with sugar addiction. So I highly recommend trying an energy psychology technique called Turbo Tapping, which has helped many “soda addicts” kick their sweet habit, and it should work for any type of sweet craving you may have.
In order to minimize your sugar intake you’ll need to avoid most processed foods, as added sugars hide in 74 percent of processed foods under more than 60 different names.13 If you’re insulin/leptin resistant, have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or are overweight, you’d be wise to limit your total fructose/sugar intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has resolved.
For all others, I recommend limiting your daily fructose consumption to 25 grams or less. Please refer to my free nutrition plan for a step-by-step guide to making positive changes in your diet. You simply cannot achieve optimal health on a diet of processed foods and sugar. A few other tricks to try to kick your sugar cravings:
- Exercise: Anyone who exercises intensely on a regular basis will know that significant amounts of cardiovascular exercise is one of the best “cures” for food cravings. It always amazes me how my appetite, especially for sweets, dramatically decreases after a good workout.
I believe the mechanism is related to the dramatic reduction in insulin levels that occurs after exercise. Additionally, if you do eat sugars or fruits around the time of the exercise, your sugar levels will not rise as it will metabolized for fuel
- Organic, black coffee: Coffee is a potent opioid receptor antagonist, and contains compounds such as cafestrol — found plentifully in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee — which can bind to your opioid receptors, occupy them and essentially block your addiction to other opioid-releasing food.14,15 This may profoundly reduce the addictive power of other substances, such as sugar.
- Sour taste, such as that from cultured vegetables, helps to reduce sweet cravings, too. This is doubly beneficial, as fermented vegetables also promote gut health. You can also try adding lemon or lime juice to your water.