Although there seem to be myriad “healthy” diets now — all claiming to restore your well-being and extend your life — the best of them share a few traits. One is an emphasis on whole foods, such as organic vegetables and low-glycemic fruits. Another is cutting out foods that don’t have nutritional value, and that includes sugar.
How did sugar get such a bad rap? Sugar brought its bad rap onto itself by causing chaos in the bodies of people around the world. As more and more countries ditch their traditional diets for fast, cheap, westernized convenience foods — loaded with sugars, trans fats, and chemicals — their rates of diabetes and obesity have skyrocketed, too.
Dana J. Rockey, DMD, experienced the ill effects of a poor diet on his own health. He then reversed his situation by adopting a healthier lifestyle, including better sleep and good nutrition. He now passes on his knowledge and customized solutions to his clients at South County Sleep Solutions in Newport Beach, California, and Prescott Sleep Solutions in Prescott, Arizona.
If you’re wondering if sugar is really as bad as “they” say, it helps to arm yourself with some information. Our Sleep Solutions team has outlined some of the ways sugar interacts with your body to affect your mood, energy, and risk for disease.
Sugar goes straight to your head
When you eat refined sugars — whether cane sugar, brown sugar, or high-fructose corn syrup — the sugar quickly enters your blood stream and travels throughout your body, including into your brain. Your brain needs a form of sugar called glucose to fuel its cells. However, too much glucose causes chaos.
When your diet is too high in glucose, your brain can’t work efficiently. You may experience brain-related deficiencies, such as:
- Depressed or anxious mood
- Memory problems
- Lack of focus
- Cognitive decline
In addition, eating sugar causes your brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is known as a “feel good” chemical because it reinforces the sense of pleasure with a particular behavior. So, if you feel good when you eat sugar, dopamine makes you crave that “high” again. Sugar is literally addictive.
Excess sugar triggers type 2 diabetes
When you have too much sugar in your bloodstream, your pancreas has to work overtime to produce the hormone insulin to transport glucose into your cells, which convert it to energy. Persistently high levels of blood sugar, however, stress your pancreas so that it can’t do its job anymore.
Eventually, your pancreas stops producing insulin or your body doesn’t use the insulin you do have properly. At the point you can develop type 2 diabetes, which can lead to vision loss, kidney problems, and other serious side effects, if not controlled. This condition is more commonly known as insulin resistance and is considered to be one of if not the major cause of obesity.
Sugar wears down your heart
Sugar in your bloodstream degrades the walls of your arteries, leading to the formation of dangerous plaques containing cholesterol and other substances. The plaques narrow your arteries and slow down your circulation, a condition known as atherosclerosis.
When your arteries are narrow, stiff, and inflamed by atherosclerosis, your heart has to work harder than it should. Adults who eat diets in which 25% or more of the calories come from sugar are twice as likely to die from a heart attack or other heart disease than are women and men who restrict sugar to 10% or less of their daily calories.
Sugar makes your joints ache and your skin sag
Too much sugar contributes to inflammation in your body. Inflammation is behind just about every chronic and many acute diseases that exist. When your tissues are inflamed, they start to degrade, and that includes skin and cartilage (i.e., the tissue that acts as a cushion between your joint bones).
Degraded cartilage causes osteoarthritis, where your bones grind against each other directly. But too much sugar can also trigger rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that forces your body to attack healthy tissue, including the synovial tissue that lines and protects your joints.
Other ill effects of sugar-induced inflammation include:
- Fatty liver disease
- Kidney damage
- Erectile dysfunction
In fact, too much sugar causes so much trouble in your body that if you do nothing other than eliminate it from your diet, your health improves.
Breaking your addiction to sugar, however, isn’t always easy. That’s why Dr. Rockey customizes a healthy lifestyle plan that helps you transition away from a high-sugar diet toward a nutritious diet and an exercise plan.
He also works with your primary care physician and other members of your healthcare team. Together, we turn down inflammation and turn up wellness in your body so you can function at an optimal level.
If you’re ready to trade in the sour effects of too much sugar for the sweetness of more energy, greater focus, and longer life, call Peggy Rockey, RN Healthy Inspiration Lifestyle and Nutritional Coaching at (949) 289-0409.