Hello friends! And welcome to my first blog post :) This month I'd like to focus on one of my pet peeve: sugar. And the single action you can take diet-wise that will have the most significant impact on your health: go sugar-free. I invite you to join the Sugar-Free February initiative by Cancer Research UK, supported by mounting evidence that excess sugar consumption underpins most chronic illnesses. But let's start by looking at some facts, shall we?
The CDC (Center for Diseases and Control) estimates that 60% of American adults and 30% of American children live with at least one chronic illness. National Institute of Health estimates that chronic medical conditions cause more than half of all deaths worldwide 1. Chronic illness encompasses a wide spectrum of syndromes. Their single denominator is a state of chronic inflammation. Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases (coronary heart disease/heart attack, stroke, heart failure...), arthritis and joint diseases, allergies, asthma, obesity, high blood pressure, dementia, depression are examples of chronic inflammation-mediated diseases 2 3. Then what is a contributing factor to chronic, low-grade inflammation?
Sugar has been recognized in numerous studies to “induce aberrant activation of the innate immune system, including inflammation” 4. By sugar, I mean dietary sugar intake and specifically sugar-sweetened beverages 5.
It is important at this point to differentiate between sugar (sucrose, fructose) and glucose, because the body metabolizes them differently. Glucose is derived from carbohydrates where starch is present (grains, vegetables, fruits, to some extent dairy, nuts and seeds) whereas sucrose and fructose are added (refined or not) sugars, high-fructose corn syrup and other syrups, fruit sugars from fruit juices, honey, alcohol, etc. Fructose is metabolized differently from glucose and exclusively by the liver. When in excess, it is quickly converted into fat and stored in the body. This metabolic process elevates uric acid which leads to chronic, low- levels of inflammation 6.
Sugar further contributes to low-grade inflammation by suppressing the immune system for up to 5 hours 7. Particularly important to remember in current context of viral infection... But it goes further. White blood cells need vitamin C to destroy bacteria and viruses - a fact well-known by folks, hence the common lemon juice or vit.C supplement when coming down with a cold. Because sugar and vitamin C are similar in chemical structure, sugar competes with vitamin C for absorption by white blood cells, thus weakening defence from infections 8.