Sugar - what we know and what we don't know about it

POur rhyming experience of "sweet" - a little ice cream on a parent's finger or a tablespoon of strawberry ice cream instead of the usual carrot puree - is a gustatory revelation slipped into the early childhood gap. Given that our cells depend on sugar for energy, it makes sense that we have developed an innate love for "sweet." However, how much sugar we consume - as well as how it enters the body and where we receive it - has changed dramatically over time.

Since “white gold” became accessible, we have added sugar, in one form or another, to most processed foods we eat - from bread, cereals, crunchy snacks, sausages and desserts to soft drinks, juices, dressings and sauces - and we are not stingy at all to use it in many raw and whole foods.

According to a group of doctors, nutritionists and biologists - one of the most prominent members of which is Robert Lustig of the University of California, famous for his viral video posted on YouTube "Sugar: The Bitter Truth”- consuming so much sugar, we show a weak will, we pamper our taste with sweet and we poison ourselves.

The sugar presents far greater dangers than the traps of caves and love; it is a toxin that harms our organs and disrupts the body's normal hormonal cycles. Excessive sugar consumption is one of the main causes of the obesity epidemic and metabolic disorders such as diabetes, but also a major culprit of cardiovascular disease. The argument that sugar is a toxin stems from the way the human body gets energy from sugar. A molecule of mass sugar (or sucrose) is a bond between a molecule of glucose and a molecule of fructose - two simple sugars with the same chemical formula, but different in structure. No matter where the sugar we consume comes from, our cells are interested in dealing with fructose and glucose, not sucrose. Glucose moves through the bloodstream to all of our tissues because each cell easily converts glucose into energy. And fructose charges the liver, which spends a lot of energy converting fructose into glucose, lipids and lactic acid. Because fructose metabolism seems to trigger inside the body, a chain reaction of potentially harmful chemical changes, some researchers have chosen fructose as the rotten apple of the sugar family. The claim is mainly based on studies with rodents that have consumed huge amounts of fructose - up to 300 grams each day, which is almost equivalent to the total sugar in eight cans of Coca-Cola. In recent years, leading biochemists and nutrition experts have challenged the idea that fructose is a threat to our health. The dilemma was solved by researchers who studied the metabolism of fructose in rodents, a mechanism that takes place in a very different way from humans - much different than initially anticipated. Studies that have looked at the fantastic journey of fructose through the human body suggest that the liver converts up to 50% from fructose into glucose, about 30% from fructose into lactate and less than 1% into fat. In contrast, mice and rats convert more than 50% from fructose to fat, so experiments with these animals have exaggerated the alleged disadvantages of fructose to humans, especially clogged arteries, fatty liver, and insulin resistance.

Pentru a înțelege în mod corespunzător metabolismul fructozei, trebuie să luăm în considerare și sub ce formă consumăm zahărul, așa cum se explică într-o lucrare recentă de David Ludwig, director al Centrului New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center din Boston Children’s Hospital și profesor la Harvard. Consumul de băuturi carbogazoase dulci sau de înghețată ne inundă intestinele și ficatul cu cantități mari de fructoză. În schimb, fructoza dintr-un măr nu ajunge la ficat dintr-o dată. Toate fibrele din fructe – cum ar fi celuloza pe care doar bacteriile noastre intestinale o poate descompune – încetinesc considerabil digestia. Enzimele noastre trebuie mai întâi să rupă celulele mărului pentru a ajunge la zaharurile sechestrate în interior. „Nu este vorba doar de fibra din alimente, ci si de structura ei”, spune Ludwig. „Ați putea adăuga Metamucil la Coca Cola și nu veți obține niciun beneficiu.” Într-un studiu mic, dar interesant, 17 adulți din Africa de Sud au consumat în primul rând fructe – aproximativ 20 de porții cu aproximativ 200 de grame de fructoză totală în fiecare zi – timp de 24 de săptămâni și nu s-au îngrășat, nu au dezvoltat tensiune arterială ridicată și nu și-au dezechilibrat nivelul de insulină și lipide.

conclusion: eat less sugar. Why? Because sugary foods, with energy density and low nutritional value, are one of the main ways we consume more calories than we need. Hard to accept, but many of our favorite desserts, snacks, cereals and especially sweet drinks flood the body with much more sugar than it can metabolize efficiently.

Avoiding sugar, however, is not a panacea. A healthy diet means much more than refusing that second sugar cube and keeping cookies handy or hidden in the pantry. There is a misconception that if we reduce sugar, we will fix obesity - obesity is more complex than that. The problem remains excessive consumption in general. Then there are other foods that we should eat more: whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish, low protein. And we can't stop here: a balanced diet is just one component of a healthy lifestyle. In order to make our hearts pump, to strengthen our muscles and bones and to maintain our flexibility, we need to exercise. Exercise, favoring unprocessed foods and balanced consumption sounds too obvious, too simplistic, but it is actually a much more nuanced approach to good health than qualifying a single molecule in our diet.

Yes, most of us should strive to eat less sugar - but if we are truly dedicated to staying healthy, we will have to do much more than that.

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