Friday, August 12, 2011

Sugars: The difference between prevention and promotion

As most Americans go to the grocery store and fill their carts with aisles and aisles of whatever type of food they want, little effort goes into actually knowing what ingredients that "food" is made of (I know I used to be that person). Over the past several decades (since the 1950's actually) there has been a shift from your grandmother's home cooking to processed and pre-packaged meals. My grandmother used sugar (you know the white granular stuff that looks like salt), honey, and mollases. Now-a-days there are so many different types of sugar made from many different sources (natural and man made) that when reading a food label it may be difficult to recognize what is sugar and what isn't. 
I took the liberty to list many of the different ingredients that show up in our food now that are sugar in one form or another (I'm sure I missed a few):
Sugar – Cane & Beet
- Fine Granulated
- Bakers Special
- Powdered
- Sanding Sugar
- Con AA
- Brown Sugar
- Evaporated Cane Juice
- Organic Evaporated Cane Juice

Liquid Sugar
- Sucrose
- Water White Sucrose
- “Liqueur” Grade Sucrose
- Sur Sweet Invert Syrups
- Sweetener Blends
- Liquid Evaporated Cane Juice
- Inverted Evaporated Cane Juice
- Brown Rice Syrups

- Crystalline Sorbitol
- Sorbitol Solution
- Maltitol & Maltitol Syrup
- Mannitol
- Erythritol
- Xylitol
- Polyglycitol

High Intensity Sweeteners
- Aspartame
- Acesulfame potassium (ACE-K)

- Amber
- Light Amber
- Extra Light Amber
- Clover
- Organic
- Dry Honey

Corn Sweeteners
- Corn Syrup
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Corn Syrup Solids
- Dextrose
- Maltodextrin
- Crystalline Fructose
- Polydextrose

- Blackstrap
- Refiner’s Syrup
- Liquid Brown Sugar
- Cane Juice Molasses
- Coating Syrups
- Painting Syrups
Original Source: Sweetener Supply Corp

What is Sugar and how does it effect Humans?

Chemically there are different types of sugar: glucose, sucrose, and fructose.Table sugar (sucrose) is refined from its plant source of usually sugar cane or sugar beets (reference). Glucose is a simple sugar found in carbohydrates (refined) that is the primary source of energy for our cells. Fructose, on the other hand, can be found in refined sugars as well as in fruit. Refined fructose is almost always chemically bound to glucose, which induces insulin secretion. Insulin resistance is the stepping stone to chronic "Western" diseases like Heart Disease, Obesity, Diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Cancer. Fructose alone does not raise the blood sugar level which is why it is considered a low glycemic index sweetener. The food industry has made it common practice to refine the fructose from its natural state and combine it with glucose, turning it into the red-headed step child of sugar- introduce HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (Reference) . Our bodies were not intended to digest high fructose corn syrup (PUBLIC ENEMY #1), and as a result of its almost unanimous replacement of sugar in processed foods, the United States is as obese and unhealthy as it has ever been.

(This is what food propaganda looks like. Today we laugh at an ad like this, but 40 years ago when this ad, and others like it, was in circulation I'm sure people fell for it. I wish it was healthy to eat ice cream before lunch! Original Source: Diet Blog)

Dr. Mercola, a New York Times best-selling author and head of his Natural Health Center in Hoffman Estates, IL, has strong beliefs that the foods we eat effect the health of our bodies. This is what Dr. Mercola has to say about Fructose:
Fructose is a cheap form of sugar used in thousands of food products and soft drinks, which can damage your, or your child's, metabolism. More than any other form of sugar, heavy fructose consumption can cause dangerous growths of fat cells around vital organs and can trigger the early stages of diabetes, heart and liver disease.

While fruit does contain fructose, eating fruit in moderation is not the problem. The biggest culprit, by far, is the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, especially in the form of soda, fruit juice and other beverages, as that is now the number one source of calories in the U.S.
Fructose, usually derived from corn, is fueling the obesity crisis in a big way due to its heavy use by the food and beverage industry in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and crystalline fructose. If you or your child are consuming excess fructose daily, it can result in damage to your liver.
Food and beverage manufacturers began switching their sweeteners from sucrose (table sugar) to corn syrup in the 1970s when they discovered that HFCS was not only cheaper to make, it was also about 20% sweeter.
But HFCS is also in the vast majority of processed foods—even those you wouldn't think of as sweet, such as ketchup, soup, salad dressing, bread and crackers. Even "natural" foods often contain fructose as a sweetener. So even if you don't drink soda, if you eat processed or packaged foods at all, you're likely consuming fructose—and a lot of it. Fructose accounts for 10 percent of the calories in the average American diet.  Metabolically, it's the worst of the worst. Original Source: Dr. Mercola: They Say it's Safe - But it's Unknowingly Destroying Your Liver
How does sugar consumption relate to preventing cancer? 
It all depends on what type of sugar you are ingesting how fast the sugar is absorbed into the body. David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD is the author of Anti Cancer: A New Way of Life (one of the first books I read that I highly suggest you read). He writes that, "Today our bodies still expect a diet similar to the one we had when we ate the products of hunting and gathering. That diet consisted of a lot of fruits and vegetables and occasionally the meat and eggs of wild animals. It provided a balance between essential fatty acids (omega-6 and omega-3) and very little sugar and didn't include flour. (The only source of refined sugar for our ancestors was honey. They did not eat cereals.)"
His explanation of how refined sugar consumption effects cancer is quite simple. Dr. Servan-Schreiber writes that, "When we eat sugar or white flour- foods with a high "glycemic index"- blood levels of glucose rise rapidly. The body immediately releases a dose of insulin to enable the glucose to enter cells. The secretion of insulin is accompanied by the release of another molecule, called IGF (Insulinlike Growth Factor), whose role is to stimulate cell growth. In short, sugar nourishes tissues and makes them grow faster. Furthermore, insulin and IGF have another effect in common: They promote the factors of inflammation, which also stimulate cell growth and act, in turn, as fertilizer for tumors." (Anticancer: A New Way of Life pgs. 65-72)

So...what does that mean for me? (and you) 

It's simple. Fruits and veggies should take prominence on our plates over refined grains and sugary food products. How do I do that you might ask? Well, it took me a while (over a year) to change my eating habits to include more fruits and vegetables into my diet (and it still isn't perfect- but who is?). It's about making smarter choices when confronted with what to buy at the grocery store or what to order when out to eat at a restaurant. Order vegetables with your fish instead of potatoes or pasta. Buy whole grain bread instead of multi-grain, and never buy white bread, pasta, or rice!!

You may crave steak, potato chips, french fries, ice cream, or Oreos now (all of my favorite foods by the way), but I promise you once you start making those small changes and realize how much better you feel every day your body will start to crave natural whole foods. If you do not have cancer, you have the time to make these changes to give yourself the best shot at prevention. If you do have cancer, or have had it, unfortunately you do not have the luxury of time. What you do have however, is today, and tomorrow, and it is never too late to make positive changes in your life. 

By changing the foods you eat, you will improve your body and life. I encourage everyone (even those of you who think you will not get cancer, diabetes, or heart disease) to make the choice of being an informed consumer. Don't listen to the government or food advertisements (see picture above). Read what doctors, PhD's, nutritionists, scientists are saying.  Because I promise you that once you "open the door" to the nutritional information that is out there, you will be shocked at what you were feeding yourself before. 

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