For years we have been telling our patients about the negative impact sugar has on their health. Countless individuals have completely changed the trajectory of their health by removing sugar from their diets. In 2016, Dr. Scott Antoine and I and all of our staff at Vine Healthcare are focusing on VITALITY – ‘the state of being strong and active; with energy.’ We recognize the detrimental role sugar plays in achieving this goal.
Sugar is inflammatory and negatively impacts hormonal health leading to abnormalities in cortisol (stress hormone) levels that ultimately lead to unhealthy sex hormone levels. Sugar consumption is associated with the development of fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and ultimately type II diabetes. Other diseases and chronic health conditions can be found to be associated with regular consumption of sugar.
In 2008, Professor Bart Hoebel and his team in the Department of Psychology at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute presented evidence that sugar is addictive. In his report, Hoebel demonstrated that rats eating large amounts of sugar when hungry, a phenomenon he describes as sugar-binging, undergo neurochemical changes in the brain. These changes appear to mimic those produced by substances of abuse, including cocaine, morphine and nicotine. He stated:
“In certain models, sugar-bingeing causes long-lasting effects in the brain and increases the inclination to take other drugs of abuse, such as alcohol.”
Many years ago the only sugar Americans consumed was in the form of wild honey. Sugar is now found in almost all processed (anything in a box, bag or can) food and we are addicted. This is certainly fortunate for the processing ‘food’ plants in the US as we continue to purchase these items from grocery store shelves at alarming rates but certainly NOT fortunate for those of us doing our best to achieve and maintain optimal health.
The Federal Government has finally acknowledged the negative impact sugar has on our health and has updated their dietary guidelines to reflect and address these concerns.
These guidelines are updated every five years and their newest recommendations can be found here.
In an article published by the Harvard School of Public Health, the authors note:
• Downing just one 12-ounce can of a typical sweetened beverage daily can add 15 pounds in a year.
• In children, one sweetened beverage a day fuels a 60 percent increase in the risk of obesity—and American teenaged boys drink almost three times that much.
• This April, an HSPH study linked sugary drinks to increased risk of heart disease in adults. Scientists have long known that sugar reduces the “good” HDL cholesterol in the blood. Consistent with this effect, the April study showed that it wasn’t just weight gain that raised heart disease risk, but sugar itself—eating an otherwise healthy diet or being at a healthy weight only slightly diminished the risk.
• In 2004, the Nurses’ Health Study found that women who had one or more servings a day of a sugar-sweetened soft drink or fruit punch were nearly twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as those who rarely imbibed these beverages.
Our ultimate goal at Vine Healthcare is to educate and empower our patients to live the healthiest lives they can. Cutting out sugar is one of the important steps in this journey. Here are some simple ways to remove this addictive ‘drug’ from your life:
1. Read labels. If sugar is listed as one of the top 5 ingredients it’s a NO! Don’t eat it! (Ideally it won’t be on the label at all.)
2. Stop drinking sugary drinks, not just soda but including lemonade, tea, sugar with coffee creamer, etc. Drink more water and use a slice of lemon or lime for a bit of flavor. An occasional Le Croix (sparkling water with an essence of fruit) is acceptable.
3. Limit fruit intake to one serving per day of a non-tropical type fruit.
4. When you do eat fruit, don’t eat dried fruit. Choose the fresh, low glycemic type, such as a ½ cup of berries.
5. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and stop looking at eye level (‘addictive – advertising’) shelves.
6. Drink at least ½ your body weight in fluid ounces of filtered water per day. Being thirsty might make you feel hungry.
7. Eat whole, fresh foods. Half your daily food intake should consist of vegetables. Adequate protein and fat intake keep you satiated. Eat protein with fat at every meal and snack. If you’re not hungry you’ll be less likely to cheat with carbs and sugar containing foods.
8. Replace nutrient deficiencies. When you are nutrient deficient, cravings are worse. Take a multivitamin that has been third-party tested for safety and efficacy. These are the only type of supplements we offer at Vine.
9. Avoid ‘sugar in disguise.’ Don’t be misled and think you are eating ‘healthy’ just because you are eating complex carbohydrates. Breads, grains and starchy veggies convert to sugar in your body. Don’t believe the lie that you are eating a ‘low sugar diet’ just because you don’t add sugar to your food. Have awareness! Remember your protein and fats.
10. Practice mindfulness exercises. Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques as well as meditation can help you withstand the cravings.
Indulge in those things that will bring you health and vigor! Sugar is not one of them! Kick sugar to the curb….YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!
If you need help weaning from your sugar addiction, call our office and schedule a time to meet with one of our nutrition counselors for a comprehensive evaluation and the support you require to succeed. We do recognize the importance of having support. Our approach is to partner and support you along the way – it is a ‘partnership in health from the roots to the branches!’