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April 6, 2012

Sugar: the News Isn’t So Sweet

Soda and sugarWhy Sugar Isn’t Sweet

In our previous post “Sugar: Busted!” we reviewed the many dangers of sugar.  More and more studies are being done on this sweet ingredient and its health effects. In this 60 Minutes segment with Dr. Sanjay Gupta more of this research is revealed. We are learning that it contributes to heart disease, cancer, and dramatically affects brain chemistry.

Heart Disease

Though we have long been taught that increased fat consumption is responsible for heart disease, the fact is, limiting fat intake hasn’t reduced the incidence of heart disease. Replacing those calories with additional calories from carbohydrate and specifically sugar-related products has only increased the incidence of heart disease.

We now have an explanation as to why.  Sugar increases LDL cholesterol, but more importantly it increases the small dense LDL particles, the ones that lead to plague build-up in our arteries.


Cancer needs sugar to grow – that pretty much explains it.  Some cancers contain insulin receptors.  Insulin is what pulls sugar out of the blood and into the cell. Excess sugar in the blood makes it easier for tumors to grow.  Also, insulin prevents apoptosis of tumor cells.  Apoptosis is programmed cell death. So insulin helps to make cancer cells “immortal”.

Brain Chemistry

We also learn from the 60 Minute interview that this sweet molecule affects brain chemistry stimulating dopamine release much like drug-use. Dopamine release is associated with pleasure.  The problem though with sugar, is that over time people who consume excessive amounts of it may develop a tolerance to it, just like one might from persistent drug use.  This then leads to eating more sweeten foods to get the same effect or high.

What to Eat

The best advice base on all that we know thus far is to do what we’ve been telling our patients to do along – eat a balanced diet but one that is low glycemic. Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. This is a diet that does not lead to excessive elevation of blood glucose and insulin. Avoid processed foods as much as possible.

I suggest start reading the labels of everything you buy to eat.  You’ll be surprised how much sugar or high fructose corn syrup are in them. Sugar and sweeteners goes many other names including dextrose, fructose, lactose, maltose, mannitol, molasses, sorbitol, sucrose and others. Become familiar with those names.

Drink water when you’re thirsty and avoid soft drinks which are loaded with high-fructose corn syrup.

See related articles:

“Sugar: Busted!”

“Sweeteners: to Sweeten or Not Sweeten?”

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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