When I speak to people I find that when it is comes to sugar and sweeteners there is a massive divergence, there seems to be two distinct and inflexible (they know their right) views.
- Never eat artificial sweeteners, they are chemicals and can cause cancer, don’t touch them; or
- Sugar is natural, too much might make you fat but that’s about it.
Both these views are utter rubbish, I truly hope this article helps readers wake up to the truth, because holding the wrong view is likely to contribute their epitaph being written earlier than would otherwise have been the case.
Sugar cane is a stick, we can’t eat it! The stick has to be milled and refined to remove the sugar from it and present it as the table sugar we are all familiar with. Therefore, by definition table sugar is not a natural “whole food” it is a “food extract”, and probably the most widely used food additive. Why, because it makes food taste great!
Other sweeteners apart from sugars are also found in or derived from plants. Examples are Stevia and sugar alcohols. Are these the same as sugar? Then there are still others that are “artificial” and not found in nature. Examples are Aspartame and Saccharin.
The internet contains hundreds of millions of documents about sugar and sweeteners, unfortunately, more often than not, the ones that make the top of the list on a google search are essentially biased bulldust.
Sugars are a carbohydrate. Part of the carbohydrates we eat are broken down into single sugar molecules and absorbed into our bloodstream, that carbohydrate which isn’t is called “fibre” and is either consumed by the bacteria in our intestines or excreted.
The chemical name of most sugars ends in “ose”. The single molecules of sugar absorbed by the intestines are mostly glucose, galactose, and fructose (there are others but there presence is less significant). Lactose is the sugar found in milk, it is one molecule of glucose joined to one molecule of galactose. Sucrose is table sugar, it is one molecule of glucose attached to one molecule of fructose. Sucrose is found in plants, usually in high concentrations in fruit and berries and much much lower concentrations in vegetables. Glucose and Galactose can be metabolised to create energy in all human cells.
Somewhere along our evolutionary pathway human cells lost the ability to metabolise fructose for energy. Fructose is converted by the liver into glucose or fat (nearly always fat) and those compounds are then used for energy by other cells or stored for future use.
Glucose is an essential sugar. For example red blood cells only source of food is glucose, they can’t “eat” anything else. We don’t have to eat glucose though. Our liver will manufacture enough glucose from protein to feed our red blood cells (and brain cells which also seem to require some sugar). Blood sugar levels are tightly controlled by our bodies chemical signalling systems, because sugars are a double edged sword. Some is essential, but too much, too often wreaks body wide cellular damage, promotes age related chronic diseases, and shortens lifespan. This is because sugars are “reducing” chemical compounds. Sugars glycate fats and proteins; the two other nutrients that provide energy feed our cells.
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE’s) - Sugars unpublished killer.
AGE’s are rarely mentioned in the public domain sugar literature. Apart from genetic and epigenetic influences AGE’s are the most likely cause of ageing and the onset of age related chronic disease. AGE’s formed inside our body start with sugars ability to haphazardly react with proteins, this reaction is called “glycation”. An example is the blood sugar test your GP asks for when doing the standard patient checkup. The test is called the HbA1c test. It does not measure how much sugar is in our blood, instead it measures the amount of “glycated” (damaged) hemoglobin (the protein in the blood cell that carries oxygen for our survival) and from this calculates the amount of glucose that must have been in the blood over the last 90 to 120 days. This glycation reaction is particular to sugars, glucose is the least reactive and fructose the most reactive (about 7 to 10 times more depending on the research read). It is not the reaction itself that is dangerous, it is the byproducts of the reaction and their byproducts that cause the damage! These byproducts are the AGE’s. Here are just a few extracts from the scientific literature:
Advanced glycation end products (AGE) such as N-ε-carboxy-ethyl-lysine (CEL), N-ε-carboxy-methyl-lysine (CML), imidazolone, methyl-glyoxal-lysine dimer (MOLD), glyoxal-lysine dimer (GOLD), pyrraline and pentosidine have been imparted in the development and worsening of complications of diabetes. They are also involved in atherosclerosis, normal aging process, arthritis, cancer and progression of age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease.
These results suggest that elevated levels of AGEs in tissues and serum of diabetic patients may inhibit endogenous antibacterial proteins by binding to this conserved AGE-binding cysteine-bounded domain 'ABCD' motif, thereby increasing susceptibility to bacterial infections in the diabetic population
Vascular complications are a leading cause of blindness, end-stage renal failure, a variety of neuropathies and accelerated atherosclerosis, which could account for disabilities and high mortality rates in patients with diabetes. There is a growing body of evidence that formation and accumulation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) progress during normal aging, and at an extremely accelerated rate in diabetes, thus being involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic vascular complications.
This study shows that AGE accumulation in the skin is independently associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms and depressive disorder.
Cross-linking modification of organic matrix proteins such as collagen by AGEs not only leads to an increase in vascular and myocardial stiffness, but also deteriorates structural integrity and physiological function of multiple organ systems.
Glycation is the reaction of a reducing sugar with proteins and lipids, resulting in myriads of glycation products, protein modifications, cross-linking, and oxidative stress. Glycation reactions are also elevated during metabolic dysfunction such as in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Down's syndrome.
The latter glycation (AGE’s) reactions are the major cause of tissue dysfunction in the elderly due to cross-linking, which stiffens the tissues, and to side-chain modification, which alters normal cell–matrix interactions.
OK I’ll stop now, because hundreds (possibly thousands) of credible scientific reports have been published. In fact one of the the theories of ageing espouses “AGE’s” as the principal cause. Do we really need to say more!
Most of us have played scissors, rocks and paper. In general, sugars damage proteins and fats, fats don’t damage proteins or sugars and proteins don’t damage fats or sugars. Our cells are mostly built from fats and proteins. There is only one bad guy, sugar (sucrose) and the baddest sugar of all is fructose, 50% of table sugar is fructose!
I could go on and on about excess sugar consumption. Excess sugar is a chronic toxin it is not an acute poison like lethal doses of cyanide and strychnine (both natural products that can be extracted from plants), no sugar is different; it kills slowly and is implicated in just about every age related chronic disease you can think of.
Numerous health and diet products have added fructose (it is sweeter than table sugar) and often make a health claim that fructose lowers blood sugars because fructose has a very low glycemic index. Yes fructose has a low glycemic index simply because the index measures glucose, and blood sugar tests are blood “glucose tests”. Fructose is not glucose so it doesn’t register in a glucose test and is not counted in the glycemic index!
Research the ingredients of the diet and health products, go to the products website to check ingredients if an ingredients list is not apparent on the food labeling (ingredients list is different to the nutrition panel).
If the product contains fructose don’t by it, it simply demonstrates the producer has no idea about how the human body works, or chooses not to tell you.
The Glycemic Index is phooey, it’s Glycemic load that matters.
Some are artificial and some other non-sugar sweeteners (like stevia) are natural plant extracts. If they are on the supermarket shelves in Australia they can be considered safe. The artificial synthetic sweeteners have been through animal and human testing, plant extracts like Stevia have been consumed in countries like Japan for over thirty years without any harmful effects being recorded and in parts of South America for as long as man can remember.
No sugar alternatives available for sale in Australia produce AGE’s.
Imagine a world today where the extraction and processing of sugar from cane and beet had yet to be discovered and “sweeteners” were the norm. Then upon discovery this new table “sugar” sweetener would have to undergo trials and investigation before it could be sold to the public. The first thing that would be discovered in animal studies would be a dramatic increase in tooth decay, that alone would probably negate approval.
Just think about it, if sugar wasn’t added to food maybe we wouldn't have to fluoridate our water!
Warning - Phenylalanine
Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid (the building blocks of proteins). Some individuals suffer from a genetic disorder that leaves them unable to metabolise phenylalanine properly, this is known as phenylketonuria. Some artificial sweeteners when metabolised produce phenylalanine, those that do so must state this on the labelling. So if you suffer from phenylketonuria check the label before consuming or buying.
Naturally occurring sugar in whole food (not juiced) is OK, if not overeaten. But going overboard can do harm, one piece of fruit a day is ample. Our body does have pretty good repair mechanisms so luxury food eaten sparingly or on occasion is OK.
It’s best to “get off” the taste of sweet since the taste alone can cause us to overeat and gain weight. But if we can’t quit the sugar taste then use alternative sweetener, try a few and find one that suits you. It won’t taste exactly the same as sugar, but give it time and you should become accustomed to it.
Note Boomers Health diet programs describe how to minimise sugar (and especially fructose) intake, including how to read labeling to quickly check the safer sugar level in processed foods.
If you have a question or concern email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, please give us a few days to reply. Common questions and answers will be posted in a FAQ on the Boomers Health website.