Refined Sugar: The True Cause of Obesity, Type II Diabetes, and Other Health Problems
Sugar is a simple molecule comprised of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. It is the primary source of daily energy for most living things on this planet. Its natural source is from carbohydrates. A carbohydrate is a more complex molecule consisting of longer chains of simple sugars. In whole foods, carbohydrates and their building blocks, simple sugars, are bound to fiber, fats, and amino acids (proteins), minerals, and vitamin compounds. When we eat whole foods, enzymes are released into our digestive tract which break down these complex compounds into their individual components. The sugar component of the food (glucose, fructose, galactose, maltose, lactose, and sucrose) is used by the body for energy with any unused amounts stored for future needs. Our only storage mechanism is fat.
I would like to clarify any confusion that may exist about the types of carbohydrates. A simple carbohydrate is a simple sugar. A complex carbohydrate is 3 or more simple sugars attached together.
Both of these substances can be found in either in an unrefined (natural) state in whole foods or in a refined (unnatural) state. By definition, when a carbohydrate is found in a refined state it has been modified by man by removing all of the proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. Attention must be paid to the carbohydrate component of any food in order to assess whether it is refined or unrefined. Anything sold as sugar, or made from refined white flour, is a simple refined carbohydrate as far as your digestive system and body are concerned. Simple and complex carbohydrates also are found in whole foods. When simple sugars/carbohydrates are obtained from whole foods, the rate of absorption is slowed down dramatically by the other natural compounds to which the sugars are bound. When the same carbohydrates are obtained in a refined state large amounts of insulin are released to manage the sugar surge.
It is important to distinguish between refined and unrefined sugars in your food, and avoid the refined sugars (or carbohydrates). These are anti-foods that will actually deplete you of essential minerals and not give you one microgram of organic matter to make vitamins. So, while sugars in the form of carbohydrates are absolutely essential for energy in the human body, their state of refinementwill make the difference between health and illness. Read on and you will discover why refinement makes a difference.
The utilization of this sugar is managed by insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas. Insulin is only released when sugar is present in the digestive tract and only in its presence will sugar be stored as fat. Therefore, if we eat more refined carbohydrates than we can immediately use, the excess is stored as fat. If we increase sugar/carbohydrate intake insulin levels increase. Too much insulin circulating in the bloodstream and intracellular tissues creates inflammation. Inflammation is now being implicated as the cause of numerous health problems including heart disease, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). Inflammation is a cellular reaction to an excess of insulin. The real cause of the problem is the excess consumption of refined carbohydrates.
Something else very important happens when you eat refined sugars—you use up large amounts of essential minerals that you are not replacing because of your highly refined diet. These minerals are responsible for every metabolic function in your body. In their absence, you will slowly begin the process of cellular degradation eventually leading to cell death and then organ malfunction. In our society this is known as disease.
Two very important minerals for sugar metabolism arechromium and zinc. These two minerals play essential roles in activating the processes essential for the proper metabolism of sugars by stimulating the production of insulin and other digestive enzymes in the digestive tract. No refined foods deliver either of these minerals and in fact they can bind to the existing stores of chromium and zinc accelerating their rate of depletion. The same thing happens when you drink distilled water which naturally has the propensity to bind with all minerals. As these minerals are bound up by refined foods and water, their availability to cells for enzyme activation is reduced. Cellular function therefore slows down or stops. When cellular function slows or stops, illness and disease soon follow.
How Sugars are Metabolized
There is a fundamental rule in nutrition that is not well taught and very poorly communicated to the public. Energy is provided to our cells by the consumption of 3 different types of food compounds: Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates.
When protein and fats are eaten, the first use by the body is for tissue repair and to manufacture cells, enzymes and proteins. In fact, these compounds must be metabolized into our cellular structure before they can be subsequently broken down and utilized for energy in the absence of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are our only source of daily, easily accessible energy.
When consumed, carbohydrates are converted into simple sugars to provide a steady source of energy to all of our cells, especially in our brain. If one ingests carbohydrates in a whole natural form –organic fruits and vegetables — the release of simple sugars takes many hours as they are bound up with fats, proteins, and cellulose. This then slows down the production and release of insulin to a normal and useable level reducing inflammation to natural levels that the body is designed to handle. When our carbohydrate supply is from refined sugars and carbohydrates (white flour) the body converts them rapidly (within minutes) into simple sugars. In this process abnormal amounts of insulin are required to appropriately manage the high levels of simple sugars ingested. Insulin is responsible for controlling the level of sugar in the blood that regulates the amount of sugar (delivered as glucose) throughout the body, subsequently storing the rest for future needs when readily available food energy sources are scarce.
The Body has Only Two Places it Can Store Excess Sugar: the Liver, as glycogen, or as fat
Yes, that’s right. The unused sugar is stored as fat and the hormone that does this is insulin, and the pancreas always releases insulin when one eats carbohydrates/sugar. Therefore, if you are not very physically active when you eat refined carbohydrates, you will store any excess as fat. Additionally, the consumption of refined carbohydrates, by definition, means you are not obtaining adequate minerals to maintain normal cellular functions especially those associated with sugar metabolism and management.
The Natural Human Desire for Sweet Foods
Historically, during the summer and fall months when food is plentiful, all animals strive to put on weight as fat reserves to sustain them through the lean months of winter and spring. Eating sweet foods is the natural way to do this as they have higher levels of easily accessible sugar that the body can convert to fat stores. If this isn’t done to a sufficient degree, the animal may perish when food is hard to find. During the winter months, sugar rich foods, in fact most foods in northern climates do not grow. Man instinctively followed this eating pattern of storing fat for lean times. Over time though, we have learned how to preserve food and store it over the winter months without having to store it on our body. In fact, we have now taken the art of packaging foods to a new level. We now just don’t preserve natural foods in their original state; we now blend many different kinds of foods together and deliver them in many unnatural ways. The next time you go to the market try to identify anything in a box, bag, can, or jar that has been preserved in its natural state. It is hard to do. Next though, try to find how many of these foods do not have sugar added. This is even harder to do. Why is this? The reason is that the packager knows that the sweetness of their product is triggering a basic human desire. The sugar will make you crave the product and stimulate you to buy it again. This increases sales of the product as it decreases the nutritional value for you, the consumer.
The packaging of foods today is not to accommodate the consumer through the lean times of winter. It is for convenience to the consumer at any time of the year and to make money for the manufacturer by increasing sales. Manufacturing packaged food has become a very lucrative and competitive business that often forsakes the health of the individual in exchange for profit. In the process consumers are paying exorbitant prices for foodstuffs designed to save a few minutes of time and provide increased shelf life so that we do not have to shop as often as we would were we eating fresh whole foods. These time savers contain excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates (and unhealthy additives, stabilizers, dyes, etc.) that stimulate our sweetness senses and keep us coming back for more. Without the minerals in these packaged refined foods, as well as other natural compounds which are delivered by nature to properly manage sugar, we become susceptible to most of the health problems that our society is currently experiencing.
How to Overcome Your Basic Desire for Sweet Foods
When I was young I acquired a taste for iced tea and drank it daily in the summer months. I would always load it up with sugar. One day my father asked why I put sugar in my tea. I told him it made it taste good. He asked me to try the natural flavor of the tea without sugar. I did so, and to my surprise I liked the natural flavor of the tea. I can’t say that I was converted at that point to go natural with everything I ate, but the concept was logged into my consciousness. Why do we need to sweeten everything we eat? Is it because nothing in its natural state tastes good? Or, have we been programmed to think sweetness is the only taste that is truly satisfying because sugar has been increasingly added to most packaged foods? It is interesting that if you stop eating sugar laden foods you will acquire a more refined palate and when you eat something sweetened your tolerance will be diminished. Sweetened foods will seem to be too sweet.
To do this you must read all labels to avoid the hidden sugars in everything from potato chips to breaded fish. An effective way to begin weaning yourself from sugar is to experiment with healthy sugar substitutes such as xlitol, agave nectar or stevia. These sweeteners have a much lower glycemic index. This means they do not convert as rapidly as simple sugars.
We need to ask ourselves if the food we are eating is naturally sweet and if not, is it truly any good for us if the only way it is palatable is by adding sugar. We also must ask ourselves if the food we are eating is whole or have parts of it been removed by man. It is always optimum to consume foods in their whole state so that we have all of the nutrients nature provided to digest and utilize the nutrients it contains. This is the way we have evolved over the last many thousands of years we have been on this planet. It has only been maybe 100 years that mankind has had access to the commodity of sugar at very cheap prices. It has only been during this time that so many of the maladies we currently experience have begun to manifest themselves. This is not accidental. A majority of our current health issues experienced today are a direct result of an over consumption of refined sugar and white flour. If you are tempted to eat a food which is not whole, ask yourself if you are eating to nourish your body and quench hunger or are you just satisfying a psychological need for a particular taste sensation – notably the taste of sweetness. In order to stay healthy and vital in our current environment a discriminating knowledge of what we put in our bodies is crucial.