We all know the danger of alcohol and frequently overuse of it can lead to several liver diseases. Anyone who hasn’t had any alcohol or doesn’t know it is toxic can easily tell its side effects, without knowing how it affects your body inside, after a few drinks of it. You will notice how your heart rate increases and losing the ability to control your car. Those are symptoms of being drunk, or intoxicated. The hangover next day will surely confirm it is toxic if you still have any doubt about it. The reason you can feel the alcohol is that a small amount of the alcohol is metabolized by your brain, while most of it is processed by the liver. This is also why you will develop a series of serious liver diseases if you consume alcohol every day. Like alcohol, all sorts of toxic substances are detoxified by the liver, frequent consumption leads to all kinds of health problems. But what if there is a toxin that leads you to the same situation without affecting your brain, would it be more dangerous to you? This substance is sugar.
“Sugar is a poison. It is a chronic, dose dependent hepato/liver toxin” — Dr. Robert Lustig
Since we know alcohol is toxic, let’s first figure out how alcohol works in our bodies, and then compare it with how sugar works. Ethanol, which is called alcohol in everyday life, is not necessary for any biological processes, so it is primarily processed like a toxin in a liver. When we drink any alcoholic beverages, around 80% of ethanol will be processed by livers, making livers working four times harder than eating the same amount of meat because organs, like stomach, can’t handle it. Ethanol will be diffused into acetaldehyde in cells, leading to generating reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS damages proteins and causes cancers. It is also one of the key factors of ageing. Acetaldehyde will then be converted into acetate which goes into mitochondria. Acetate in mitochondria will then goes into TCA cycle and be converted into citrates. Part of these citrates will finally become VLDL, which is called bad fat causing visceral fat. Some citrate will become free fatty acids in your muscles, making you have muscle insulin resistance. Some fat that could not get out of your liver will cause the fatty liver disease. Ethanol, ROS and part of the fat stimulate JNK-1, causing more pSer-IRS-1. With more and more pSer-IRS-1 in your body, your pancreas needs to work harder to generate more insulin out. How about sugar? Like Ethanol, fructose in sugar is not necessary to the body so that it will be almost 100% processed in the liver. Except for the part about ROS as mentioned above, sugar follows exactly the same processes in your body. The only difference for sugar is that you will suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease instead.
Beside the toxification, sugar is addictive. According to American Psychiatric Association, addiction, AKA substance dependence, is defined as if you would have three or more symptoms or not when your body is constantly consuming the substance.
- Tolerance. Either you need to increase the amount of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect
- Withdrawal. Either the characteristic withdrawal syndrome or taking the same substance to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- It is often taken in larger amount or over a longer period than intended.
- A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the use.
- A lot of time spending in activities to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
- It is used continuously despite knowledge of having a persistent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
People who try to quit sugar consistently report symptoms like lightheadedness, headaches, anxiety, mood swings, general fatigue, and physical tremors.So what’re the benefits if you quit eating sugar. here are some major improvements:
- Better dental health. Sugar causes the bacteria in the mouth to flourish. excessive consumption of sugar increases the chances of tooth decay and other dental problems. Reduction of sugar intake promotes healthier teeth and gums.
- Better sleep. Excessive sugar consumption can not only cause a drop in your energy levels but can also cause sleep disruption. Reducing sugar intake helps to improve sleep quality and relief from insomnia
- Improve digestive health. Reducing the sugar consumption will improve the ability of the digestive system to process foods. It also helps to avoid constipation and other problems associated with the colon.
- Healthier heart. According to the American Heart Association, reduction of sugar intake reduces the risk of suffering from a heart attack, because sugar poses many dangers to heart health.
- Healthier skin. sometimes sugar causes acne and cracking of the skin. Some people have reported a clear skin after quitting sugar consumption in researches
- Improve energy levels. Excess consumption of sugar hinders the body’s ability to keep its energy reserve as high as possible. Studies have proven that having too much sugar in the body can cause a crash in one’s daily activities.
- Reduce cancer risk. Studies have shown that sugar provides nutrients to cancer cells. Therefore reducing your sugar consumption may help prevent various types of cancer and the replication of malignant cells throughout the body.
- Stable weight. Sugary foods have a high amount of fats, calories and carbohydrates which are causes of weight gain. Reducing sugar intake will make it easier to achieve a healthy and balanced weight.
- Protect the liver. Excessive glucose and fructose can lead to a toxic build-up in your liver. This is similar to what happens when you consume too much alcohol. Medical experts have recommended a liver detox to reduce the risk of developing liver problems that are caused by excessive sugar consumption.
- Become happier. Excess sugar consumption can cause resistance to leptin, the hormone that is responsible for sending signals to your brain that you’re full.
If you read carefully, you would notice the phrase “excess consumption”. You might accept the fact I listed above, but you would think your daily sugar intake is lower than your health recommendation. The truth is, you can still overdose even if you don’t use any sugar when you cook.
What if we literally quit sugar? Or will the problem be solved if we don’t eat anything called sugar? The answer is simply no. The problem we are facing right now is that we could be overdosed without even realising it. With growing awareness of the importance of diet, many people are trying to lower their fat and calorie intake in order to achieve greater health. At the same time, more and more companies are adding sugars to their products in order to maintain their physical and psychological attractiveness while still marketing them as healthy food. An estimated 80% or more of our food has unnecessary added sugars. The taste of food may become bland and weird when the fat has been removed.
Companies want to ensure their products appeal to customers to maximise their profit. Thus, food companies use extra sugars to compensate for any lose of taste or texture. Since sugar is on our blacklists, food companies won’t directly list it on the ingredient lists. High fructose corn syrup has rightfully gained a bad reputation. However, as well as items we might easily identify as sugar, such as: golden sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar, grape sugar etc.. We may not realise dehydrated cane juice, honey and rice syrup are also forms of sugar.
There are more than 50 names of sugars, and this is how the companies make us feel better while keeping the sugar in. In the film The Sugar Film, Damon Gameau planned diets with plenty of so-called healthy low-fat foods, like yoghurt, whole grain cereals and fruit juice. His goal was to eat foods marked as healthy while reaching the average sugar intake of a typical Australian. By swapping a part of food with sugar while maintaining the same calories everyday for a month, he gained 18 kg and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. He also suffered from consistent fatigue and lethargy. This result perfectly demonstrated how bad it could be if you put your trust in those healthy but sugary foods. I strongly suggest everyone watching it. Taking a spoon of sugar or overdosing yourself a week won’t kill you, but a disease doesn’t happen with one meal, but it happens with a thousand. But that’s what we have because now sugar is with every meal.
The more you learn, the more you’ll want to stop eating sugar. This is your rational thinking, but sugar seems a magic to lure you, and you can’t resist it. Let’s start fixing this with your brain. Sugar keeps you consuming it regardless of the amount of food you have eaten. The first reason of it is its biological addiction, which gives you a sense of pleasure by stimulating particular hormone when you eat it. When you constantly eat sugar, you create tolerance of it just as drug addicts have tolerance after taking drugs for a long time, which makes you crave more if you want to maintain the same level of happiness when you consume it. The second reason is sugar keep you feel hungry. Excessive intake of sugar leads to excessive insulin. When there is too much insulin in your body, your brain will stop receiving leptin signal, which makes your brain think you’re starving. Our body has built up a series of reactions to save energy when the food is scarce in the environment. If you continuously feel hungry, your brain will turn your body into a power saving mode, which makes you feel lethargy. We will also feel less happy when we’re trying to quit sugar, but we should persuade ourselves that it’s a fallacy and keep trying it for at least one or two weeks. By the end of it, I believe you will feel happier and more energetic. After tuning your brain, we also have to fight against the environment.
We are bombarded with colourful advertisements of food which contains vast amount to sugar. Instead of trying to resist from seeing, thinking, eating industrialised and deeply processed food, we could change our internal routines of eating food. If your routine is going to a supermarket, finding something that is pre-made and beautiful, taking off the package and eating food, the advertisements have a significant influence on you. But if you deconstruct the routine and change it to see real food, check freshness and nutritiousness, cook food and eat it, then you probably stop noticing anything from advertising and become much easier to resist sugary food. Furthermore, you could try to make the new routine as a habit. Our brain always tries its best to save energy, so it builds up tonnes of autopilot routines. Those are called habits by us. If we repetitively follow healthier eating procedures, it helps our brains reinforce the new program as a new habit to replace the older one.
We have researches about what is a healthy food. For any scientific supported health food, no matter it’s low carb, high carb, vegetarian, etc., they all lack deeply processed food. Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Mediterranean food are great, but the deeply processed food inside a package from them are as bad as others.