Sugar and refined carbohydrates have become such a common part of the modern diet,even for people who think they’re eating healthy.
If you think it’s an exaggeration to say that something as common as sugar or refined carbohydrates can ruin your life, perhaps you should give more consideration to the excessive amounts of it that many people are consuming and the harmful effects that it can have on one’s health.It only takes a quick look through most major grocery stores to notice the overwhelming selection of processed and packaged foods and the much smaller selection of natural whole foods such as unrefined meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Much of this processed food contains unhealthy amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates as well as unnatural additives that are potentially harmful. Because processed foods are cheap to produce, have a long shelf life, and are specifically designed to taste good, they’re favored by both the food industry and the general public. The overwhelming abundance and availability of these foods is a clear indication that they’re a staple of the modern diet, and this is very likely to be a major factor in the prevalence of many life altering health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, depression, heart disease, and cancer.
Some Bitter Facts About Sugar
In the early 1800s, the average American consumed about 12 pounds of sugar per year.2 According to USDA statistics, the average consumption of sugar, including corn sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, increased to more than 150 pounds per person by the year 2000. As such, sugar represents a considerable portion of the calories that many people consume.
Statistics indicate that for every person who consumes 5 pounds of sugar per year, there’s another person who consumes 295 pounds.2 Someone who follows a truly healthy diet based mostly on natural whole foods can easily consume as little as 5 pounds of sugar in a year, even including occasional indulgences. For each person following such a diet, there are people who eat more sugar in a single week than they eat in an entire year. That’s scary!
How Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates Can Harm Your Health
If you consider how much sugar and processed food many people are eating on a regular basis, the prevalence of obesity and poor health shouldn’t be all that surprising. Sugar and refined carbohydrates are major ingredients in nearly all modern foods and they’re being consumed in record proportions. Many people are unaware of the associated risks and some people even believe that highly refined foods such as bread and pasta are healthy choices!
The following are some of the significant risks that are commonly associated with frequent consumption of sugar or refined carbohydrates.
Obesity and Weight Gain
Sugar is our primary source of energy, and when consumed, it can be converted to glycogen and stored in muscle or the liver for future use. However, many people consume an excessive amount of carbohydrates that significantly exceeds their storage capacity for glycogen, and when this happens, the sugar resulting from carbohydrate digestion is converted to body fat. This is especially the case with fructose34which is a significant component of the high fructose corn syrup that is found in many sweetened beverages and processed foods. Because of this potential for sugar and refined carbohydrates to cause weight gain, many of the people who consistently consume the processed foods that contain them are significantly overweight. In addition, these foods have been shown to encourage overeating which further increases their potential to cause weight gain.
Minimizing the consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates is truly one of the easiest ways to lose weight, but many people are unwilling to give up the convenience and pleasure of eating processed foods or simply don’t realize how much of a problem they are. Instead, they often choose to sacrifice their health even more by overexercising or excessively restricting their calorie intake.
Most people have experienced the brief elevation in mood and energy that can occur shortly after the consumption of sugar or refined carbohydrates. Likewise, most people are also familiar with the subsequent feeling of sluggishness that often follows. As such, it’s pretty obvious that sugar consumption can have a direct impact on mood. It has been shown that people tend to have stronger cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates than other foods and that these cravings are often associated with feelings of fatigue, anxiety, or depression. In fact, a strong association has been shown to exist between increased sugar consumption and an increased prevalence of major depression.
Extensive research on rats has provided scientific evidence that there is indeed potential for sugar to be addictive. Similar to recreational drug use, sugar has been shown to increase brain concentrations of dopamine and opiates which have a significant influence on mood. In addition, when sugar is consistently consumed in excess, it has been shown to delay the release of acetylcholine which can prolong appetite and encourage binge eating. Frequent sugar consumption has also been shown to reduce sensitivity to dopamine and opiates and produce withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and depression, all of which is consistent with the characteristics of drug addiction. In fact, one study has shown sugar to be even more addictive than cocaine.
Heart Disease and Cancer
Heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death in America by a large margin, and both conditions have been repeatedly associated with the intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates. In regard to heart disease, an association with the consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates has been shown for heart attacks, atherosclerosis, and heart disease in general. One of the primary factors that these associations have been attributed to is the potential for sugar and refined carbohydrates to elevate blood sugar, and in turn, provoke tissue damage and inflammation in the lining of arteries.
Sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption has also been associated with a number of different forms of cancer including lung cancer, gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer. This is mostly attributed to the potential for sugar to suppress the immune system which can increase the risk of cancer by as much as 10,000 times
How Sugar Can Ruin Your Life
Consuming sugar or refined carbohydrates in moderation is unlikely to have a significant effect, but as we can see from the overwhelming number of people who are overweight, suffer from type 2 diabetes, or are unhealthy in general, it’s obvious that many people are consuming more than they should. While it may seem drastic to say that sugar and refined carbohydrates can ruin your life, it should be much easier to believe after considering the many symptoms, conditions, and diseases that they’ve been associated with, many of which are debilitating and can indeed ruin your life.
Many people who regard themselves as healthy are still likely to be experiencing fatigue, moodiness, or a wide variety of other undesirable symptoms. However, because such problems have become so common, these people are unlikely to perceive their symptoms as a sign of compromised health or realize that they’re missing out on the greatly improved quality of life that optimal health can provide. Those who fail to recognize this and continue to eat excessive amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates will be more likely to succumb to poor health and disease. In fact, many of these people may already be gradually approaching the onset of major disease without knowing it, and this could eventually lead to significant discomfort and restriction. Although it’s true that some people are less susceptible to the negative effects of poor diet and other unhealthy habits, is it really worth the risk to assume that you’ll be one of the lucky ones? Even if you are less susceptible, it’s still likely that your quality of life will eventually be compromised in some way by such habits.
Because sugar and refined carbohydrates are such a large part of the modern diet, and because they have such a tremendous effect on our wellbeing, I consider them to be one of the most significant causes of poor health and disease. The work of Dr. Weston A. Price supports this and clearly shows how the excellent health of many native cultures rapidly declined once they were introduced to modern foods.
A Better Life Without Sugar
Because of the sweet taste and addictive nature of sugar and refined carbohydrates, many people have a difficult time eliminating them from their diet despite the damage they can cause. In fact, some diabetics end up losing their sight or having their feet amputated because they’re unable to control the very same cravings and eating habits that caused their illness. If you’d like to live a healthier and happier life, here are some practical tips for eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet.