It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not aiming for zero sugar in your diet forever. Our bodies actually must have a certain amount of complex sugars to give us energy and fuel for our brain. But on the side of evil, sugar causes a release of dopamine in the brain, the same chemical that makes cocaine addictive. Our brain recognizes sugar as a reward, we get a temporary feeling of euphoria, and we want more. And more. That’s when the problems start. So, while sugar is a necessary element of our diet, it should remember its proper place. Some experts suspect that sugar can be as addictive as cocaine or morphine, and studies on rats have actually resulted in withdrawal symptoms. Human studies, however, have at this point not provided sufficient data to show that there’s a connection between sugar and addiction, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to show that addiction is actually possible. Just ask anyone who has experienced sugar withdrawal.
How the body processes sugar?
When we consume an acceptable amount of sugar, it’s digested quickly, and converted to glucose, which our body uses for energy. Many people will often experience that famous sugar “high” or “rush.” Any sugar that is not used for energy right away is stored as fat in cells specifically designed for that purpose. They’re even called “fat cells.” The more sugar we eat, the more fat has to be stored, and the bigger the fat cells have to become to accommodate it.
To illustrate, let’s imagine a scenario where you over-indulge at a church social or office pot luck. For some of us, that’s not a huge stretch of the imagination. As always, more people brought desserts than anything else, and they all look absolutely delectable! You can’t be so rude as to only eat the healthy stuff and turn up your nose at the desserts that Carol and Abbie slaved so hard on (even a trip to Costco for a cheesecake is a form of slavery), so you have just a little bite of this and a little slice of that. Now your body has to deal with all that sugar.
Without diving into too much scientific jargon, what happens now is your pancreas is called upon to release insulin to act as a kind of escort to move glucose out of your bloodstream and into your cells. This controls the level of sugar in your bloodstream so that you don’t become hypoglycemic (blood sugar is too low) or hyperglycemic (blood sugar is too high).
When a normal person’s eating is under control, insulin’s job is to take the glucose molecules that the body doesn’t convert to energy and store them as glycogen in the liver and muscles. If there is
more glucose in the system than it can handle, the molecules become triglycerides and are stored in the fat cells. Although most of us have a finite number of fat cells in our bodies, the fat cells themselves are very elastic and can expand. As more and more fat is stored in them, the fat cells become larger, and so does our body.
When everything is performing normally, a surplus of sugar leads to an excess of insulin. In other words, insulin has to be released into the bloodstream proportionately to the sugar so that the blood sugar level doesn’t go too high. When
there is too much insulin at work taking the glucose out of the blood stream, the blood sugar level eventually falls too low, which causes that familiar crash and burn. Then our bodies tell us that we need more sugar, and we’re usually more than happy to submit to its demands.
When elevated insulin levels become chronic, there is a higher risk of getting heart disease, some cancers, acne, and other health problems. There is even evidence that there is a link between high insulin levels and near-sightedness.
If we get to the point where we’re continuously continuously over-indulging on sugar, the pancreas becomes exhausted, and it can’t produce enough insulin to deal with the overload. With no insulin escort, all that extra sugar stays in your blood stream, feeling lonely and unneeded. At that point, the sugar molecules look around for some place to go, and attach themselves to protein molecules, which carry them through your whole system so that they end up in every part of your body.
This combination of sugar and protein is the blueprint for inflammation. Now, inflammation is part of your immune system’s strategy to defend against injury and disease, so by itself, it is not the enemy. When you suffer an injury such as a cut or sprain, or an invasion of germs that give you a sore throat, white blood cells race to the site of attack and rally together to overpower the bacteria. It’s a battle at first, and there will generally be some heat, redness, and swelling around the area, but this is a sign that the immune system is working to heal tissue cells.
But when inflammation becomes chronic, it can be the source of many health problems, tissue damage, and premature aging. In the case of uncontrolled sugar consumption, the immune system senses danger when too much insulin or those glucose/protein cells start flowing through your system. This raises the alarm that unwanted cells are roaming around in the blood stream. The white blood cell soldiers speed to protect you from those supposed invaders, et voila! You have general, chronic inflammation.
When the inflammation goes on and on because of continued sugar consumption, you can easily end up with permanently damaged tissue as well as premature aging. To take the problem a step further, inflammation can occur anywhere in the body, restricting the walls of your blood vessels. When it occurs in the area of your heart, you have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.