Too Sweet of a holiday? The risks of sugar and why we should all kick it once and for all!

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Since being diagnosed with PCOS I slowly learned that I have to eat like I am a diabetic even though I am not.  The reason being is that PCOS has a higher rate of insulin resistance than the average person. For the most part, we do not have the crashes as severely as a diabetic but we do process sugars and carbohydrates in general like them, turning the excess quickly into fat.  While I could write a whole post on that (and maybe will in the future) this article is about sugar in general and the dangers discovered because of finding out about the need to be careful about intake and through my nutrition studies.

In 2015 we received the new nutritional guidelines (choosemyplate.gov), which removed the limit on cholesterol intake. It now only states, “that people should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible” because more and more findings are showing that it is not the main culprit in Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). It further went on to particularly state why we need to limit our sugar intake to only 10% (also a new limit place in 2015):

“A large body of science shows that eating styles with less added sugars are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in adults, and some evidence indicates that these styles are also associated with reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer in adults.”(1)

Cardiovascular Disease should be a little frightening if you are an American as it is the number one killer in the U.S. However, it has multiple risk factors – its not just sugar- and they include:

  1. Dyslipidemias
  2. Elevated blood pressure
  3. An inactive lifestyle
  4. Obesity
  5. Diabetes; and
  6. Cigarette smoking (2)

As you can see many of these risk factors also contribute to each other (e.g.  obesity and cigarette smoking could lead to elevated blood pressure or obesity can lead to diabetes, etc.) as well as to CVD, especially when combined together. Consumption of sugar is also a proven contributor to many of these risk factors …do you see where this is going?

So what has me more worried? We all have seen the plaque on our teeth and how it can build up if we do not floss and brush correctly. It has been recently coming up in my podcasts and other articles that sugar is not only the main culprit of plaque on our teeth (hence why cavities form) but also in our veins and arteries (why CVD occurs).  While they are the pretty much the same plaque, unfortunately cannot brush our veins and arteries to make it go away and prevent CVD.

How does this build up occur? When we eat sugar, your body releases insulin to help process and store extra energy in the body.  Extra insulin causes skin cells in the arteries to keep multiplying as they are not insulin resistant and the skin tissue creates the plaque and the insulin will cause the blood to clot more easily.(3)

Yikes! But are all sugars bad? The long and short of it is: No! As with anything, the more naturally occurring sugars are, the better (e.g. fruits and vegetables, non-processed foods). Even better news: “When they are present in nutrient-rich foods (e.g., low-fat chocolate milk), sugars may actually contribute to improved dietary quality, while having no adverse effect on weight by displacing energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods.”(2)

So stick to plain dairy (yogurt, milk and cheeses), apples, berries, sweet potatoes, avocados, etc). Stay away from unfortunately stuff that we probably had a bit too much of this week/month (cookies, cakes, soft drinks, and processed carbohydrates).    I would like to give you other options but sadly I do not trust the no-calorie sweeteners at this time either (another post possibility!). Adding activity always helps if you are going to have sugar and do keep the levels to a min throughout your day.

While the sugar detox is tough – its for a great cause – you! We got this!

References:

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

2. Rippe JM, Angelopoulos TJ. Fructose-Containing Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease. Advances in Nutrition. 2015;6(4):430-439. doi:10.3945/an.114.008177.

3. Bradburn C. Sugar, Cholesterol, and Plaque Explained. Website. The Adventure. http://colebradburn.com/2011/10/19/sugar-cholesterol-and-plaque-explained/ Accessed 12.24.2017.

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