While a nanny who sings her lessons is a wise woman indeed, in one instance I simply must disagree with Mary Poppins. A spoonful of sugar does not help the medicine go down.
With Halloween approaching and the holidays around the corner now is a good time to talk about sugar. 17 teaspoons of it. 1/3 of a cup. About the size of a spice jar. This is how much added sugar the average American consumes in one day. For perspective, in the 1800s Americans consumed about 8 cups a year. Today we eat 8 cups every 25 days.
Have a sweet tooth? Here’s a bitter truth. Our overconsumption of sugar is contributing to a rise of diabetes among children, and some experts say this generation is going to be the first that does not outlive their parents in numbers of years. Sadly, young people today more likely to die from dietary diseases than smoking, alcohol, and drugs combined.
So what’s the deal with sugar? Here are some not-so-fun facts:
Refined sugar is more than empty calories. It actually robs your cells of vital nutrients in order to metabolize and contributes to mineral depletion. While the whole cane plant is a complex carbohydrate, the refining and bleaching process strips it of any and all nutrients. Because sugar requires nutrients to metabolize and since refined sugar is devoid of any nutritional value it pulls minerals from healthy cells, robbing the body of precious nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, thiamine, chromium, and zinc.
Mineral depletion is rampant in our country, due to poor soil quality, industrial farming practices, genetic modification, and processing, so this is indeed an added insult to the body. Mineral deficiency contributes to osteoporosis, arthritis, leg cramps, PMS, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, asthma, and more. It also leads to premature aging, and adrenal imbalances, an inability to cope with stress, digestive disorders, and sleep disturbances. According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of The Gut and Psychology Syndrome, metabolizing one molecule of sugar requires 56 molecules of magnesium, a mineral virtually all Americans are deficient in.
Mineral depletion is just the tip of the sugar cube. Here are some other physiological affects sugar has on the body:
1. A spoonful of sugar suppresses the immune system for 5 hours. (Someone should tell Mary Poppins, don’t you think?) Sugar consumption depletes zinc, which plays a significant role in immunity, and decreases the activity of white blood cells. Glucose competes with vitamin C, one of our main immune-boosting vitamins.
2. Too much sweet stuff leads to high blood sugar (the amount of glucose in the blood), a causal factor for type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
3. Sugar feeds tumor growth. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, tumors consume glucose at a rate 10 to 50 times higher than normal tissues. Several studies point to the strong correlation between high blood sugar levels and cancer mortality.
4. Sugar is inflammatory. Inflammation is an immune response, and if the immune system is busy quelling the inflammation brought on by sugar it is unavailable to protect the body in other ways. Chronic inflammation is linked to autoimmune diseases, allergies, asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, autism, depression, and anxiety.
5. Sugar affects brain chemistry by interfering with the production of serotonin, which is responsible for impulse control and staving off depression. With low serotonin levels you may feel anxious or angry, have more carbohydrate cravings, sleep disturbances, and PMS symptoms. Beta endorphins and dopamines are also affected by sugar consumption. Beta endorphins are the body’s pain-killers and affect a person’s response to both physical and emotion pain. Low beta endorphin levels are associated with low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. Dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, alertness, motivation, is released with sugar much as it is with opiates. Best to find other ways to stimulate the release of dopamine.
6. Sugar is addictive. Sugar addiction is children is an indicator for drug and alcohol addition later in life. We’ve heard about gateway drugs? Well, sugar is not only legal and easily obtainable, but is marketed directly to children without any over-site or consideration of the grave health consequences.
7. Sugar contributes to yeast overgrowth and candida, which then fuels cravings for more sugar.
8. Sugar leads to dental decay.