Sugars & Its Dangers

By Audrey Marlene

Sugars & Your Skin

As a society at large we consume more sugars today than before. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) claimed that the average American consumes approximately 53 heaped teaspoons of sugar per person per day. Sugar contains no nutrients. When ingested daily in high quantities it can deplete the body of many essential vitamins and minerals. Sugars also creates an excellent medium for microorganisms to grow, which can cause fungal infections and increased bacterial infections.

A recent study in the British Journal of Dermatology claims that sugar ages the skin in a process called glycation. When any form of sugar is ingested, it is broken down into glucose in the body. According to the study, when glucose enters the bloodstream it seeks out certain proteins and combines with them to form a new molecule called AGE (advanced glycation end products).

As more sugar is consumed more AGE molecules are produced. As these molecules build up they begin to have an effect on neighboring proteins such as collagen and elastin, the proteins responsible for maintaining firmness and elasticity to the skin. Because collagen is one of the most widespread proteins in the body, when it becomes damaged, the skin begins to age showing signs of sagging and wrinkles. According to the study, the effects of aging can begin around age 35.

Before you invest more money in skin products or cosmetic procedures to remedy your skin, instead maybe it's time to look at your diet. Take an inventory of how much sugar you consume on a daily basis.

True, it's not easy to eliminate sugar completely from our diets but a conscious awareness can help to cut back on our sugar intake. Here are some tips that can help.

  • Start reading labels. Do you know the sugar content of your foods and drinks? Look for the sugar content listed in grams and divide that number by 4 (each teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 g) to convert it to teaspoons. For example, if the sugar content is listed as 16 g, you will be ingesting 4 teaspoons of sugar.

  • Be aware of the hidden sugars. They are disguised as high fructose corn syrup, molasses, dextrose, barley malt, maltose, fruit juice concentrate, or maple syrup.

    In addition to cutting back on sugar the following is recommendable to care for your skin:

  • Add a vitamin supplement your daily diet. Speak to your doctor about taking at least 1 mg of vitamins B1 and B6 a day. It is suggested that this can help to inhibit the AGE molecules.

  • Consume more foods rich in antioxidants.

  • Wear a good, broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen every day.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Get sufficient sleep.

  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol.

    Sugars and Your Immune System

    In order to stay healthy to achieve our goals, it is very important to maintain a strong immune system. The immune system defends the body against infections caused by bacteria, viruses and other parasites. Research shows that diet plays a significant role in supporting a healthy immune system.

    There is strong evidence that a high intake of sugar negatively affects the immune system. The white blood cells are the cells of the immune system, which protect the body from diseases. When high quantities of sugar enter the bloodstream, it enters the cells, weakening their capability to engulf bacteria and other potential infectious diseases. There are certain cells of the immune system that can recognize abnormal cells such as cancer cells and attack them. When the immune system is weak this capability is impaired leaving us more susceptible to diseases.

    So while you are taking your multivitamins or other precautions to boost your immune system, be aware of the dangers of sugar to the immune system. Is your sugar intake within healthy limits? Could it be undermining your efforts to stay healthy?

    Sugars and Weight Gain

    We are all aware of the growing problem of obesity today. With people living more sedentary lives and consuming more processed foods, the problem of obesity will continues to emerge. Processed foods have significantly higher sugar content in the form of high fructose corn syrup. With higher sugar content foods and less physical exercise there is bound to be an increase in obesity.

    Many people focus on the fat content of their food when trying to reduce calories. Fat-free or low-fat foods are consumed at high rates when trying to lose weight but what about the sugar content of foods? Many foods that have a reduced fat content are high in sugar content. If you are trying to lose weight more attention must be paid to the sugar content of foods. In a recent study at Harvard University, women who drank one or more sugar-sweetened soft drinks per day showed more weight gain than women who did not.

    Because food and drink manufacture deny the link between obesity and sugar, the responsibility lies on us to be more aware of the sugar content in the foods we consume. We must become more aware of the quantity of sugar we consume on a daily basis. At the same time we must begin to incorporate more physical activity into our lifestyle to offset the potential dangers of the sugar we intake.

    Ultimately the decision is ours to make. Do we want to take more control of our lives by paying more attention to the foods we consume or do we want to leave it up to the food manufacturers to do it for us? As long as the food and drink industry remains a big business, they will continue to produce high sugar content foods to entice our palates and keep us coming back for more. Do we want to continue to be used by big business for their financial gain or do we want to take control of our lives and make educated decisions about the amount of sugar we consume?

    The way we choose to live our lives is our responsibility. We cannot blame anyone for our health. Remember it is always a choice we can make. Make healthy choices and stay healthy. Staying healthy means having the capability to achieve all your goals in life.

    Sugar and Cholesterol

    Studies have shown a direct correlation between cardiovascular disease and sugar intake. When we consume foods high in carbohydrates or sugars, some of it is used as energy but the excess is converted to fat.

    Simple sugars such as refined sugars like table sugar and the sugar found in cookies, cakes and candy are the primary source of high triglycerides. Triglycerides are present in the body through the consumption of fats. Simple sugars are also responsible for increased levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

    Cholesterol and other fats cannot be dissolved in the blood. In order to get to the cells they use special carriers called lipoproteins. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is known as the “bad cholesterol”. This is because too much LDL cholesterol in your blood can combine with fats and other substances to form a build up in the inner walls of your arteries. This can cause your arteries to become clogged and prevent blood flow. If there is a blood clot that blocks the blood flow to your heart, it can cause a heart attack. If a blood clot forms that blocks an artery leading to or in the brain, a stroke will result.

    There is the "good cholesterol" called high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which helps to remove the harmful cholesterol from the arteries and helps protect you from heart attack and stroke. However, sugar is known to lower the lower the HDL levels.

    Begin to cut back the sugars intake from your diet to be able to reduce high levels of LDL's in your body. If you are unaware of your body's condition speak to your doctor and get a check up. And remember, one way to offset the sugar intake is to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activities on most or all days of the week.

    Reduce Sugars In Your Diet

    We are now more aware of some of the danger of sugars in our diet. Do the research to become even more informed about the many dangers of sugar, it's a journey that can restore your health.

    Let's take a look at some ways we can reduce our sugar intake.

  • Make the commitment to reduce sugar. Make a conscious decision to become healthier and write it down as a goal. This takes place in the mind and must be reinforced with great self-control.

  • Start reading labels. Be aware of the sugar content in your foods, especially in the drinks you consume. Drink more water.

  • Be ready to wean yourself slowly and lose the sweet tooth. Don't become too enthusiastic and make drastic changes overnight. You want this to be a lifelong change so take it slowly. If you are accustomed to eating 2 cookies per day, eat only one per day. Instead of having a dessert after lunch and dinner, make the decision to skip dessert at dinnertime.

  • You know your weakness. Try to avoid buying it and displaying it in your home. Remove the temptation.

  • Introduce more fruits in your diet. This is the healthiest form of sugar (fructose). Develop a taste for this instead of the refined sugars found in desserts.

  • Use sugar substitutes if you still feel a strong need for that sweet taste.

  • Avoid skipping meals. When you do, your blood sugar levels fall and give you a bigger craving for sweets.

  • Be aware of the sweet alcoholic drinks. Many mixed drinks are packed with sugar.

  • Introduce more cardiovascular activity. As you work to stay healthy trough exercise, the desire for sweets is slowly diminished.

    Use the knowledge presented in this article to become more aware of your sugar consumption. Don't allow your sweet tooth to become your demise.