Sugar consumption is associated with high calorie intake, weight gain, but also a number of other adverse health effects.
Sugar conflicts with the absorption of vitamin C, as a result of which less vitamin C may be involved in processes related to the needs of leukocytes. Sugar weakens their reactivity and thus, high blood glucose levels could have a negative effect on the immune system by reducing the reactivity of leukocytes. We know that leukocytes are another name for White Blood Cells, which are found throughout the body, in the blood and in the lymphatic system. They are produced in the bone marrow and are key components of the immune system. They have a number of responsibilities such as protecting the body from invaders and microbes as well as a number of diseases. Leukocytes absorb bacteria and die (phagocytosis) and are responsible for taking rapid action against parasitic infection, diseases of the central nervous system, allergic and antigenic reactions and more. According to research, refined sugar is able to immobilize them for between 20 minutes and 2 hours. That is why it is important to monitor reasonable consumption and avoid it if possible. BUT not completely - at very low values, the body still needs sugar. Knowing the source, we will be able to decide on our daily needs.
Why do we love sugar?
In addition to improving the taste of food, sugar releases the hormones dopamine and serotonin - in the brain activating the body's reward signalling system. It is an easy source of fast energy and good mood, but for how long?
When sugar intake is sharply reduced, it is possible to experience nervousness, anxiety, dynamic mood swings, which is completely normal and does not last forever! When the body is accustomed to a certain consumption of sugar and the fact that the more sugar you consume, the better you feel (albeit temporarily) when you stop taking sugar, the body goes through a "withdrawal" and this process is not pleasant for body, nor for your brain.
Who should be careful with sugar intake?
Sugar creates conditions for hyperbacterial growth, which is undesirable for people with sensitive skin, bone and joint diseases, chronic fatigue, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, as well as impairs dental health.
What are the alternatives to sugar?
I. Artificial sweeteners.
The most common in the food industry are artificial sweeteners. They are the perfect long-lasting and stable industrial solution. And although they are officially approved by the FDA, their effects on health have been the subject of much controversy and discussion:
Aspartame - the substance is a combination of 2 amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine. 200 times sweeter than sugar, carrying only 4 calories per 100 grams. Known as a neurotoxin, it has been approved by the FDA as a dietary supplement since 1981.
People who have phenylketonuria (PKU) should not consume aspartame. Their body cannot handle the processing of phenylalanine, one of the amino acids in aspartame.
Acesulfame K - white crystalline powder with a slightly bitter aftertaste, no calories and a bad reputation. Due to this specific taste, it is often further combined with other sweeteners such as sucralose or aspartame. A study (at the end of the article) looked at the consequences of frequent use of Acesulfame K and concluded that regular use of Ace-K in male mice was associated with possible changes in brain function over a period of 40 weeks.
Saccharin Saccharin is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners, used for more than 100 years as a substitute for sugar because it contains no calories or carbohydrates. People cannot break down the components of saccharin, so it passes through the body completely unprocessed. Its sweetness is about 300-400 times more than ordinary sugar. However, it may have an unpleasant, bitter aftertaste. That is why saccharin is often mixed with other low-calorie or zero-calorie sweeteners.
Sucralose Calorie-free sugar substitute, about 600 times sweeter than it. Sucralose is a chlorinated derivative of sucrose, which means that it is derived from sugar and has a chlorine content. Sucralose was initially discovered through the development of a new insecticidal compound and was not actually intended for consumption.
Some of the reasons why conflicts arise between claims about whether artificial sweeteners are harmful or safe are considered in the following points, which are the subject of constant research.
Effect on appetite.
Materials from 2013, published in "Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism" report a link between regular intake of synthetic sweeteners and increased food consumption.
The hypotheses under consideration suggest that sweeteners may increase appetite as they are able to disrupt the signaling process in the body, leading to confusion and the need for more calories.
When a person eats jam, the taste signals to the body that the food is entering the intestines. Then the body is ready and waiting to receive calories and signals, and there is a norm at which it will stop eating, making a person feel full. In fact, when consuming synthetic sweeteners, a person gets the same sweet taste, but the body does not get the expected calories, and much less. When this happens often, it is possible for the body to forget its principle of regulating the relationship between the need for sweets, the consumption of sweets and the calories to which this would be equivalent. It is likely that such a coup will make the body believe that high-calorie foods will no longer bring him what he needs and will not reach a feeling of satiety. Accordingly, this could lead to overeating.
Effect on metabolism
The same principle that appetite control is impaired can create conditions for the development of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
If the body has stopped expecting real calories in response to sweet tastes, then it is likely that the body will not cope with the real sugars that reach the intestinal system.
A hot topic is the potential link between aspartame use and glucose intolerance among obese people and whether regular aspartame intake could increase the risk of glucose intolerance, especially in overweight people.
Effect on the microbiome:
Another serious side effect of their use could be the imbalance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. As we know, we have many bacteria that play an important role in many processes in the body. Their balance is crucial and neither excessive bacterial growth nor deficiency is beneficial to health. Beneficial bacteria are known to protect the gut from infections, produce important vitamins and nutrients, and are extremely important for the health of the immune system.
Most artificial sweeteners pass through the digestive system without being processed and are eliminated from the body. But in recent years, research has focused on all the consequences of taking artificial sweeteners and the changes they cause in the balance of bacteria in the gut.
There are proven effects in animals fed artificial sweeteners, which has led to significant changes in the balance of their intestinal bacteria.
Numerous studies have examined the relationship between the use of artificial sweeteners and an increase in risk factors for heart disease, including heart attack.
There are not enough generalizations from research on whether there is a link between artificial sweeteners and dementia, but the issue is taken very seriously.
Type 2 diabetes
Frequent long-term consumption of artificial sweeteners is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
II. Sugar alcohols
Despite their name, sugar alcohols are neither sugar nor alcohol, but a matte chemical structure similar to sugar and alcohol, hence their name.
They are carbohydrates that can be found in certain fruits, as well as can be produced chemically. The body does not fully absorb sugar alcohols, so they do not affect blood sugar levels to the same extent as sugar and other carbohydrates. However, if you have diabetes, it is important to consider the amount of sugar alcohol and control your blood sugar level.
Although considered safe, sugar substitutes can have a laxative effect, so experiments are not recommended when traveling, important meetings, competitions, and a number of other situations. Side effects are a potential main risk in high consumption exceeding the recommended norms. Reasonable intake should not put you in such awkward situations.
By sugar alcohols in the food industry we mean:
• Erythritol - 0.2 calories per gram and about 60% to 80% sweetness like sugar
• Isomalt - 2 calories per 1 gram and about 50% to 65% sweetness like sugar
• Maltitol - 2.1 calories per gram and almost 90% sweetness like sugar
• Mannitol - 1.6 calories per gram and about 50% to 70% of the sweetness like sugar
• Sorbitol - 2.6 calories per gram and about 50% to 70% of the sweetness of sugar
• Xylitol - 2.4 calories per 1 gram and the same sweetness as sugar
III. Natural sweeteners:
Stevia - Stevia is 100% natural, contains zero calories and in addition to having no known adverse effects on health, it has been shown to lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels. It is about 200 to 300 times sweeter than white sugar. Stevia contains eight glycosides. These are the sweet components isolated and purified from the sweetness-bearing stevia leaves, namely: stevioside, rebaudioside A, C, D, E and F, steviolbioside, dulcoside A, Stevioside and rebaudioside A.
Studies show that stevia sweeteners do not contribute extra calories or carbohydrates. Which would potentially allow people with diabetes to consume more varied foods while adhering to their healthy eating plan.
Stevia also contains many sterols and antioxidant compounds, including kaempferol. According to some studies, kaempferol has a 23 percent reduction in the risk of pancreatic cancer.
According to a 2009 study, stevia leaf powder may be support for managing cholesterol.
In addition, the use of stevia can be a wonderful substitute for sugars in your child's diet.
Monk Fruit - a small fruit grown in Southeast Asia. A natural alternative to sugar, with zero calories and about 100-250 times sweeter. Fruits contain natural sugars such as fructose and glucose, but the sweetness comes from the antioxidant mogrosides.
Coconut sugar - extracted from the juice of the coconut palm. Rich in iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, as well as antioxidants. But it is important to keep in mind that it has a very high fructose content.
Honey - liquid gold, a gift from honey bees. Contains traces of vitamins and minerals, and large amounts of antioxidants. The phenolic acids and flavonoids in honey are the cause of its antioxidant activity, which may be involved in preventing diabetes, inflammation, heart disease and cancer.
Maple syrup - a sugar liquid that is obtained by making the juice of maple trees. It is rich in calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and manganese and antioxidants. The syrup is conventionally divided into Canadian and American based on its density and transparency. The type of sugar contained in maple syrup is also sucrose, but maple syrup has a glycemic index of about 40-45, while sugar (sucrose) - 70.
Molasses - is produced by cooking sugar cane or sugar beet juice. It is rich in antioxidants, iron, potassium and calcium. Although it is a better alternative to white refined sugar, its consumption should be limited, as it is still a form of sugar.
It is advisable to avoid:
Agave nectar - produced from the agave plant and often marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar, while probably one of the most unhealthy sweeteners.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) - a sweetener made from corn syrup. High in fructose, which is unfavorable for diabetes and other diseases.
Questions you can discuss with your GP or other professional:
• Which sugar substitute would be preferable to my health of all possible?
• Is it better to use white refined sugar in moderation than to substitute it?
• Is a sugar-free diet better for overall health?
• Are sugar substitutes safe during pregnancy?
• In diabetes, what are the sugar substitutes that should be avoided?
Sources and research on the topic: