Where is Sugar Hiding?

18 Oct 2019
Where Is Sugar Hiding?
Read time: 6 min
Category: Diet

Where Does Sugar Hide?

By far the largest source of added sugars (which includes both table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup) in the North American diet comes from sugar-sweetened beverages—soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and tea and coffee to which sweeteners have been added. Statistics paint a large part of this disturbing health story. According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 1980 to 2011 the diagnosed cases of diabetes in the U.S. increased 167% for people below 44 years of age, though almost comparable increases were recorded for all age groups. During that same period, obesity prevalence increased nearly three-fold until by 2010, 35.5% of U.S. adults were classified as obese. It is certainly no coincidence that during the same time frame that diabetes and obesity became a documented contagion, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages increased 135% among all age groups. Consider how closely the statistics track each other: a 167% diabetes increase during the same general time period as a 135% increase in sugar-sweetened beverage intake. Studies reported over the past decade further sealed the direct connection between sugar consumption and diabetes risk. This was true worldwide. European researchers studying hundreds of adolescents in 2013 found that markers for diabetes, such as insulin resistance, became measurably elevated in those who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages five times a week versus those who drank them two or so times a week. The frequency of consumption was directly linked to an increased risk for diabetes. Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, a team of scientists examined medical studies from dozens of countries in 2014 and compared the results, finding an unmistakable pattern of both sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened beverages sharply raising type 2 diabetes risks. More intensive analysis of the study literature in the journal Obesity Review turned up more specifics about the risks: just one to two servings a day of sugar-sweetened beverages raises the overall type 2 diabetes risk by 26% compared to drinking just one such beverage a week.

Hidden Sugars in Alcoholic Drinks Are Often Overlooked

Some of the self-professed ‘healthiest’ eaters, people who are vegetarians or vegans and believe they are effectively managing their sugar intake, make a serious mistake by drinking alcohol in any form and thinking this is not having an impact on their risk for developing diabetes and other health problems. Most people have absolutely no idea how much sugar lurks inside those alcoholic drinks. And despite what some of you may choose to believe, it’s not just beer that provides the highest sugar content and calories to inflate your waistline. A March 2014 report released by the World Health Organization advised adults to consume no more than 25 grams of sugar a day from all sources, about six teaspoons. Many people absorb more than that in the alcohol they consume on a daily basis as a so-called ‘social’ drinker.

• Apple cider (alcoholic): 20.5 grams of sugar in a pint. (0.72 ounce)

• Port wine: 20 grams of sugar per glass. (0.70 ounce)

• Bailey’s Irish Cream: 19.5 grams per 100 ml. (0.68 ounce)

• Sherry: 9.5 grams per 100 ml. (0.33 ounce)

• Gordon Gin: 14 grams per 250 ml. (0.49 ounce)

• Ale beers: 5 grams per 500 ml. bottle. (0.17 ounce)

• Merlot wine: 2 grams per glass. (0.07 ounce)

• Champagne: 1.5 grams per glass. (0.05 ounce)

The human body treats the presence of alcohol as if it were a nasty chemical toxin; that helps to explain why inebriation produces headaches, fatigue and other symptoms in the body after this alcohol has been absorbed. After drinking an alcoholic beverage, your blood sugar levels drop. This can be particularly dangerous if you exercise before drinking alcohol because exercise also lowers blood sugar levels. What this effect does is to produce cravings for sugary and carbohydrate-laden foods, making alcohol a trigger for repeated cycles of overeating and addictive sugar consumption.

Finally, I want to share with you the abstract of a report by Dr. Robert Lustig, one of the pioneers in warning about the dangers of sweeteners, who has drawn a link between fructose and alcohol in their related effects on the body. Fructose: it’s alcohol without the buzz. Lustig RH1. Advances in Nutrition. 2013 Mar 1;4(2):226-35. doi: 10.3945/an.112.002998. “What do the Atkins Diet and the traditional Japanese diet have in common? The Atkins Diet is low in carbohydrate and usually high in fat; the Japanese diet is high in carbohydrate and usually low in fat. Yet both work to promote weight loss. One commonality of both diets is that they both eliminate the monosaccharide fructose. Sucrose (table sugar) and its synthetic sister high fructose corn syrup consist of 2 molecules, glucose and fructose. Glucose is the molecule that when polymerized forms starch, which has a high glycemic index, generates an insulin response, and is not particularly sweet. Fructose is found in fruit {and yet it} does not generate an insulin response, and is very sweet. Fructose consumption has increased worldwide, paralleling the obesity and chronic metabolic disease pandemic. Sugar (i.e., fructose- containing mixtures) has been vilified by nutritionists for ages as a source of “empty calories,” no different from any other empty calorie. However, fructose is unlike glucose. In the hypercaloric glycogen-replete state, intermediary metabolites from fructose metabolism overwhelm hepatic mitochondrial capacity, which promotes de novo lipogenesis and leads to hepatic insulin resistance, which drives chronic metabolic disease. Fructose also promotes reactive oxygen species formation, which leads to cellular dysfunction and aging, and promotes changes in the brain’s reward system, which drives excessive consumption. Thus, fructose can exert detrimental health effects beyond its calories and in ways that mimic those of ethanol, its metabolic cousin. Indeed, the only distinction is that because fructose is not metabolized in the central nervous system, it does not exert the acute neuronal depression experienced by those imbibing ethanol. These metabolic and hedonic analogies argue that fructose should be thought of as “alcohol without the buzz.”

By Brian Clement, PhD, LN

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