September 13, 2013
Is Sugar Really That Bad For You?

Is Sugar Really that Bad for you?

Yes. Yes it is.

When we talk about sugar, think of processed sugar. There are sugars in veggies, fruits, and other foods, but I am only really talking about mass doses of refined sweets. The amount of carbohydrates you get in fruits and veggies, and the accompanying fiber, is easily managed and appreciated by your body. If you strip all the fiber and break down the starches into simple sugars, this has a much different effect on the body. You can learn about how sugar affects cravings and weight loss in our Reward Center videos and Sugar and Carbohydrates videos. In this post, let’s focus on a couple of the ways sugar damages the body.

First, sugar causes extra free radical damage. You may have heard of free radicals before. A few years back (and before then) they were touted to be THE major contributor to disease and aging. While they do have an effect on aging cells and disease, they are also serve very important functions in the body. Free radicals are simply metabolic byproducts (molecules) that are missing an electron. They therefore like to steal the electrons of other molecules. These other molecules just happen to be proteins or other substances that are very important to proper cell function. If you damage a protein, it may not function as it is supposed to. Lots of free radical damage can indeed lead a cell to apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Apoptosis occurs when your cells commit suicide because they are so damaged they cannot (should not) replicate. Anyways, when you exercise your body created free radicals. These free radicals are necessary to stimulate an adaptation in your muscles. Your body creates its own anti-oxidants (to battle the free radicals) but too many free radicals can have a detrimental effect on your body. Too many free radicals will kill your cells. So how does sugar play a role? Your cells break down sugar using a specific metabolic pathway with particular enzymes. It just so happens that one of the reagents needed for breaking down sugar is also needed to create a powerful anti-oxidant, glutathione. If you flood your cells with sugar they need a lot of reagents to process it. This steals the same reagents needed to produce anti-oxidants, therefore decreasing their production. In a nutshell, sugar consumption leads to increased free radical damage because your body reduces production of anti-oxidants. Also, sugar consumption actually causes an increased production in free radicals. This is a nasty double whammy. More oxidative stress and fewer antioxidants is a recipe for cell damage.

Second, sugar causes chronic low-grade inflammation via increases in advanced glycation end products (AGE). AGEs are basically proteins or lipids with sugars stuck to them. This glycosylation of proteins changes their function. Many of your cells have a receptor for AGEs, which we call RAGEs for short. When an AGE binds to a RAGE it tells the cell, “There is a problem out here. Send out some inflammatory cytokines to get this fixed.” Your cells then release inflammatory proteins that can wreak havoc on your body. Remember that AGE’s and inflammation are a necessary function of physiology. But excess inflammation and AGE’s is not a good thing. It can lead to Macrovascular disease, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, and other vascular issues.

Third, lots of sugar = lots of fat. Fructose is highly lipogenic (fat forming). When you flood your body with sugar it has to go somewhere. Fructose will be turned into fat. Your liver will break it down and more often than not lead it down the metabolic pathway of fat formation. The end product of fructose metabolism is a VLDL. VLDLs are a large cholesterol whose job is to deliver triglycerides to the cells. So not only are you making more fat in your liver, but your body is sending fat out to the cells. Again, this process is necessary, but too much of this leads to your body storing a lot of fat in your fat cells and muscle cells, and can contribute to the development of type II diabetes.

Excess sugar consumption is a very bad idea. Most of us know this. So why do we find it so hard to drop sugar from our diet? This will be our topic for next week. Get ready to talk about the brain!

In the meantime, keep up your cardio and strength intensity. Crush those calories!

Written by Clark Masterson

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