After the World Health Organization released their new sugar intake recommendations yesterday, it is important for people to understand why sugar is bad and the toxic effects that it has on the body. In the WHO’s research, one of their trials focussed on the relationship between sugar intake and body weight in adults and children. The WHO concluded that increased sugar intake was associated with an increase in ones weight. But, weight gain and obesity are not the only problems that result from high doses of sugar.
For years health experts have argued that sugar is highly toxic to the body and causes other problems within the body that promote dysfunction, ultimately leading to chronic problems like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. While weight gain may be the focus of the WHO’s research, gaining weight is actually only an outward physical manifestation of other problems that exist within organs of the body, like the liver, kidneys, and the heart. The dysfunction first occurs in those organs, and produce much more subtle symptoms that, if ignored, turn into more noticeable symptoms and physical diseases which may be more difficult to treat.
In 2009, a lecture from Doctor Robert Lustig called, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, went viral on Youtube. The highly recommended 90 minute video, that has since attracted more than 4.5 million views, has helped people understand why sugar is toxic to the body. Whether it is sucrose- beet or cane sugar, or fructose- high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), research shows that the body was not designed to process refined sugars in such high concentrations.
The most obvious reasons that people understand sugar to be bad are because it causes tooth decay and that, when consumed, are “empty calories” that encourage people to eat more because they feel less satisfied. But what is commonly less understood, is how sugar works in the body, and the ways in which it disrupts the natural biological mechanisms within it. In the most simple terms, refined sugar and H.F.C.S lack any sort of nutritional value such as protein, minerals, vitamins, fiber, or antioxidants, and when consumed prevent the body from absorbing essential nutrients which help the body feel satisfied, thus controlling hunger. Consuming sugar literally makes the body feel as though it is starved of nutrients, thus increasing hunger and encouraging people consume more, and more frequently.
Essentially it all boils down to metabolism. Every single part of the body possess metabolic functions; that is, that while metabolism is generally understood as the body’s ability to digest food and turn it into energy, all parts of the body undergo this process. When it comes to sugar, the body converts all forms of sugars into two simple sugars: glucose and fructose.
Refined sugar gets processed very rapidly in the stomach because it lacks nutritional substance and once digested, and is quickly sent to the liver where it is converted into fructose. The liver is one of the bodies detoxification systems and is essential for processing and distributing nutrients throughout the body. The body does not need or use fructose as much as glucose, as it can only be metabolized in the liver, thus it is stored in the liver in the form of fat. Overloading the liver with fructose by consuming too much refined sugars, weakens the livers ability to perform, reducing the body’s capacity to receive proper nutrients and discard toxins.
In other words the body is not able to hold on to the good stuff and is retaining more of the bad stuff, which is a major contributing factor to weight gain. Furthermore, overloading the liver with too much fructose and fat leads to fatty liver disease, which is most commonly attributed to alcoholism. In a sense, sugar and alcohol share some of the same metabolic consequences within the liver.
The kidneys are another vital organ that are affected by sugar consumption. The American Diabetes Associations explains that high blood sugar levels causes the kidneys to filter too much blood, thus burdening the kidneys filtration system. When toxins start to build up in the blood, because they are not being properly detoxed by the liver, the kidneys have a harder time filtering and discarding them through the appropriate channels. When the kidney’s capacity to filter out toxins in the blood is compromised, waste products start to collect in various places throughout the body which will cause the body to gain weight but also contributes to the deterioration of health overall.
Sugar has toxic consequences for the heart also. Research has found that high levels of sugar consumption raise cholesterol, which was previously thought to be associated with saturated fats. High cholesterol leads to heart disease which causes more deaths than any other disease world wide. Sugar has been shown to increase triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and raise blood glucose and insulin levels; all of which are responsible for abdominal weight gain and are major risk factors for cardiovascular and heart disease.
These are but a few examples of the how sugar consumption affects the body’s vital organs. The WHO’s new guidelines on sugar intake are not without good cause. While the problems associated with sugar consumption focus on tooth decay, obesity, or diabetes, the fact is that problems begin at the very basic metabolic levels within the body’s organs, and from there manifest themselves into dangerous diseases that become difficult to treat.
By Natalia Sanchez