Sunday, 22 June 2014

Bye to sugar

The bad press that sugar has been getting has not passed me by, but it has taken me a while to decide to cut processed sugar from my diet.

There is research that suggests a high sugar diet can affect memory and cognitive skills (an example in Huffington Post).

Diabetics are warned of the risk of too high or too low sugar levels on brain function (Diabetes UK).

Most processed food has added processed sugar, whether it is glucose, fructose, corn syrup or some other designation. While there are already warnings about the health risks of consuming too much sugar, there are suggestions that the Guideline Daily Amounts have been set too high, due to influence from the food industry (British Medical Journal article).

Even then, the current recommendation of limiting daily calories from added sugar to just 100 calories for women and 150 calories for men is blown away.

According to the US Center for Disease Control, the average American consumes 440 calories per day from added sugar – that's 156 pounds (70 kg) of sugar per year. Not far off your own body weight, unless you are already obese!

This statistic comes from an article on the Psychology Today website that goes on to suggest:

'Research indicates that a diet high in added sugar reduces the production of a brain chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Without BDNF, our brains can't form new memories and we can't learn (or remember) much of anything. Levels of BDNF are particularly low in people with an impaired glucose metabolism—diabetics and pre-diabetics—and as the amount of BDNF decreases, sugar metabolism worsens.'

Excess glucose in the blood triggers the pancreas to produce insulin as a signal to cells to absorb the glucose.

In the case of the liver and muscles, this is stored as glycogen. This process can be reversed when glucose levels fall too low in the blood.

But keep overdosing on sugar so that the liver has stored all the glycogen it can and the insulin signalling may break down, leading to uncontrolled glucose blood levels and the development of type-2 diabetes.

Our bodies are powered by sugar, of course. We need it.

Fruit, vegetables and milk contain sugars. Carbohydrates in vegetables and grains, and fat in meat, fish and other foods, are broken down into sugar.

Our brains run on sugar. In fact, as eHow summarises, 'more than 60 percent of the glucose streaming through our blood is consumed by the brain'

So how can we obtain the glucose we need without overdosing and the attendant health risks?

By obtaining sugars, carbohydrates and fats in an unprocessed and unrefined state. That means cooking meals from natural ingredients, using whole grains and eating fruit.

This gives us the glucose we need, but without the glucose spike and overdosing that comes from added sugar and processed foods.

There are guides on the foods to eat. A book I am reading at the moment is The GI Diet by Rick Gallop. This colour codes foods with traffic lights depending on their Glycemic Index, which 'measures the speed at which you digest food and convert it to glucose.'

Sugar has a rating of 100. Boiled potatoes 56. Oatmeal 42. An apple 38.

My memory tag for 16 June 2014 is visiting the library and bookshops to search for information on controlling sugar levels.

I'll tag any future blog posts on this topic with 'no sugar'.

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