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Why Sugar is Bad for Health

Updated on June 30, 2013

In the book Suicide by Sugar, the author Nancy Appleton lists 140 reasons why sugar is ruining our health. Although it is true, the traditional notion that sugar cause tooth decay is trivial compared to the much more dangerous conditions that sugar can cause.

The primary reason is that excessive sugar throws off the homeostasis balance of the body and causes metabolic syndrome which leads to insulin resistance, obesity, and eventually diabetes. Sugar decreases the immune system and increases the risk of dementia and cancers. Excessive sugar depletes minerals from the bloodstream, causes inflammation, and production of AGE's (advanced glycation end products). And by the way, sugar also causes wrinkles.

It is true that our bodies contain sugar, it uses it as fuel, and it breaks down carbohydrates into sugars that cells can use. The problem is excessive sugar. And we do consume excessive sugar. Read how much more sugar we are eating. Sugar is almost ubiquitous in our modern processed diet. The body has all the sugar it needs from the natural fruits and vegetables. And our body can generate glucose from the protein that we eat in a process known as gluconeogenesis. We would do well to eliminate as much other refined sugar from our diet as we can.

In fact, the book Primal Body, Primal Mind writes ...

"Excess consumption of sugar, starch, and cereal-based carbohydrates is eaily the most destructive dietary tendency today." [page 26 of the 2011 edition]

Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens wrote the featured article "Sweet Little Lies" in the December 2012 issue of Mother Jones magazine. The article writes ...

"For 40 years, the sugar industry's priority has been to shed doubt on studies suggesting that its products makes people sick."

According to the article, diabetes and obesity soared in the same time period in which sugar consumption has increased. In 1980, 2.5% of Americans have diabetes. In 2010, 6.8% have. In 1980, 15% of Americans are obese. In 2010, its 35.7%. That is over one-third of Americans being obese.

In 1980, we consume 120 pounds of added sugar per capita. This includes sugars, corn sweeteners, honey, and syrups. In 2010, we consume a whooping 132 pounds of added sugar per year per person.

The take-away point from the articles is ...

"a growing body of research suggests that sugar and its nearly chemically identical cousin, HFCS, may very well cause diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, and that these chronic conditions would be far less prevalent if we significantly dialed back our consumption of added sugars."

Sugar Causes Obesity

Many authorities believe that sugar is the primary cause of the obesity epidemic.

  • Suicide by Sugar by Nancy Appleton
  • Why we Get Fat by Gary Taubes
  • This is Why You're Fat by Jackie Warner which says "The biggest reason people get fat is sugar." [page 27]
  • Dr. Robert Lustig talk "Sugar: The Bitter Truth"

Sugar is half glucose and half fructose, with fructose being the bigger problem. The high fructose corn syrup that you often find in processed foods is more fructose than glucose.

The book, The Happiness Diet, says ...

"Fructose, a sweetener found in most processed foods, blocks leptin, a hormone that tells your brain you are full" [page 67]

Avoid Sugary Drinks

Avoid products with ingredients containing high fructose corn syrup, especially beverages with high fructose corn syrup. See paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition titled "Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity".

See video on the right where Dr. Tara Dall explains why people should not drink sugary drinks. As you consume more sugar, you are drive triglycerides up which leads to small dense LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and to insulin resistance, atherogenic state which lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Fructose is primarily metabolized in the liver. The liver converts fructose into fat in the form of glycogen. Excessive fructose can lead to the fatty liver syndrome. When the liver's capacity to handle the fat is reached, it expels the fat in the form of fatty acids.

Another problem with fructose is that it does provide the satiety signal to the body. Fructose does not trigger the hormone leptin which turns off hunger.

Studies after studies comparing low-fat diet with low-carbohydrate diet shows that people lose weight faster on low-carb diets. [reference: Andreas Eenfeldt MD at the Ancestral Health Symposium 2011]

It is true that there are good carbs and bad carbs. Complex carbohydrates are better than simple carbohydrates. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate and sugar is one of the worst carbs. Most vegetables are complex carbohydrates and hence good carbs.

Sugar Causes Metabolic Syndrome and Leads to Diabetes

Excessive consumption of simple sugar (especially fructose) is a contributing factor to insulin resistance.[7] This has also been mentioned by many authorities including Dr. Robert Lustig on YouTube. You can watch video on the right where Dr. Lustig explains in details the dangers of sugar.

Insulin resistance is a condition where your cells no longer responds effectively to insulin. In the normal condition, insulin is pumped out by your pancreas after a meal in order to tell the cells to open it gates and let sugar in as fuel for the cells. But when a person is insulin resistance, the sugar can not get into the cells. The person now has high blood sugar which over time leads to metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome (formerly known as Syndrome X) is a combination of medical disorder which leads to increase risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Sugar is Toxic?

In his book Fat Chance, Dr. Robert Lustig writes in black and white and partially bold text ...

"Sugar is a toxin. Plain and simple." [page 127]

Dr. Lustig was featured on a segment of 60 Minutes reported by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Lustig considers sugar to be a toxin that is contributing to a public health crisis, and therefore sugar should be categorized in the same category as cigarettes and tobacco.

The 60 Minutes segment also mentions other experts who believe in the harmful effects of sugar. Another harmful effect of sugar is that it feed certain types of cancers that have insulin receptors.

Sugar's Effect on Cardiovascular Health

Eating a lot of sugar and a high-carbohydrate diet increases blood sugar, causing the pancreas pump out more insulin. Too much insulin in the bloodstream is not a good thing. Insulin causes fat to be stored. Insulin constrict blood vessels which may increase blood pressure. High insulin levels causes the liver to produce more cholesterol, makes the blood vessel contract causing high blood pressure, and increase triglycerides.

Other studies have shown that sugar increases cardiovascular risk by raising the bad cholesterols LDL and VLDL (ver low-density lipoproteins) as well as triglycerides.

Dr. Mirkin writes that ...

"If your blood sugar rises too high, sugar sticks to cells. Once sugar is stuck on a cell membrane, it cannot be released and is converted to a poison called sorbitol which destroys that cell."[5]

All of these contributes to cardiovasular disease and aging. Professor Kenyon, an expert in aging, is convinced of the benefits of a low-carb diet and is following it herself.[4]

Sugar Decreases the Immune System

Sugar throws the body's chemistry off balance. Sugar depletes your body's store of vitamins and minerals. Sugar can lead to chromium deficiency and copper deficiency and interferes with the absorption of calcium and magnesium by the body.[2]

When you consume excessive sugar, your body compensates in an attempt to maintain homostasis. It pulls minerals out of the bloodstream. Since minerals work in conjunction with other minerals, the remaining minerals is not able to do its job effectively. The immune system is one such system that requires minerals in order to work. Hence that is one of the reasons why sugar hampers the immune system.

Sugar Cause Inflammation

In addition, enzymes work in conjunction with minerals. With mineral deficiency, enzymes cannot work effectively. Then enzymes can not aid in digestion, resulting in undigested or partially digested proteins making its way into the bloodstream. Non-functioning digestive enzymes can also leak into the bloodstream itself. This is known as the leaky gut syndrome.

Since undigested / partially digested proteins and digestive enzymes are not supposed to be in the bloodstream, the immune system sees them as invaders and causes inflammation.

Sugar Produces AGEs

Heating foods at high temperatures such that there is a "browning effect" causes production of Advanced Glycated End Products (AGEs for short) -- which is bad for the body. This is also known as the Maillard reaction. This can be seen when food discolor or toughen during cooking. Think of the browning of toast, the toughening of barbecued meats, the brown crust of baked products. AGEs also occurs during the high temperatures used in the production of processed foods.

AGEs form because heat causes sugar to bind to proteins. In particular, cooking proteins with sugar in the absence of water can produce AGEs. Better to steam foods, cook them with some water, and to not over-cook foods.

Just as AGEs can form in our foods, they can form on their own inside our bodies as well. When there is excessive sugar in our bodies, the sugar binds to proteins randomly without the aid of enzymes. This produces un-natural proteins that the body considers toxic and calls on the immune system to remove them.

Accumulation of AGEs damages nearby proteins. Especially vulnerable are the collagen and elastin proteins that keeps the skin firm and flexible. Damaged collagen and elastin produces wrinkles.[3]

It is true that the body has a normal process of combining sugar to proteins to form glycoproteins which are essential for health. However, this normal process should occurs only under the strict control of enzymes in specific locations and for specific purposes -- not the random production of AGEs due to excessive sugar.

AGEs have also been linked to many diseases of "old age" such as hardening of the arteries, stiff joints, arthritis, cataracts, and even Alzheimer's disease.

Sugar and Dementia

The Advanced Glycated End Products are also very damaging to the cells in the brain.

The paper Nutrition and Alzheimer's disease: The detrimental role of a high carbohydrate diet suggests that ...

"a diet high in high-glycemic index carbohydrates, particularly fructose, and relatively low in fats and cholesterol, leads to a destructive process that begins with glycation damage to blood serum lipid supply"

and that this is one contributing factor to Alzheimer's Disease. It also says that the fructose form of sugar is 10 times more glycating than glucose form of sugar.

In the book The UltraMind Solution, Dr. Mark Hyman writes, "Sugar causes crusting in your brain."'[1] This leads to dementia.

Sugar leads to diabetes and people with diabetes has a higher risk of dementia. Some believe that diabetes and high blood pressure constrict blood flow to the brain -- affecting brain cells and possibly killing them.

High C-Peptide in the blood is indicative of high insulin. Some studies show that high C-peptide is associated with worse cognition.[8]

Sugar and epilepsy may also be somehow related. Since people with epilepsy is told to eat no sugar.

Sugar And Cancer

People with diabetes have higher risk of depression. And people with long-term depression is associated with have a higher risk of cancer.

Drinking sugary drinks is associated with higher risk of pancreatic cancers. [reference:] One of the points oncologist Dr. Donald Abrams says to reduce risk of cancer is to avoid sugary drinks.[6]

The link between sugar and cancer is that sugar causes obesity. Obesity increases the risk of getting certain cancers such as colon, esophagus, kidney, and breast cancers. [reference]

Even in a healthy person, we are always getting tiny malignant cells. But our healthy immune system gets rid of them and they do not become cancerous. As mentioned, sugar decreases the immune system.

Sugar feeds cancer cells. Nancy Appleton, author of Suicide by Sugar says that ideally cancer patient should eat no sugar, eat no fruit, and drink no fruit juice. This would help to starve the cancer.

Beside feeding cancer cells, sugar also feeds bad the bad bacteria in our gut. Our gut is the seat of the immune system. It consists of good bacteria and bad bacteria. To be healthy we can not let the bad bacteria dominate our gut flora. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria such as Candida.

Sugar - the white menace

The book UltraPrevention calls sugar "the White Menance" and tells us to "Eliminate the White Menance" as part of step one in Ultraprevention.

There are dozens and dozens of health books pointing out the dangers of sugar. Some of which has scary titles such as Pure, White, and Deadly by John Yudkin and Suicide by Sugar by Nancy Appleton.

Tax on Sugar

Other experts believe that there should be societal control of sugar, just like there is control over alcohol and tobacco. This can be in the form of an added tax, limiting sales to minors, etc.

Watch the video on the right where Dr. Lustig says that

"We are in the midst of the biggest public health crisis in the world."

and that is why sugar should be controlled.

Denmark taxes food with more than 2.3% saturated fat -- known as "fat tax" or "sin tax". Many argue for similar tax on sugar in the United States. It has been talked about it on HuffingtonPost,, BBC, CNN,, and others.

Sugar presents the same dangers as alcohol when consumed in excess and chronically. These effects includes hypertension, cardiovascular effects, dyslipidemia, pancreatitis, obesity, insulin resistance, and liver dysfunction. [reference]


Article written December 2012 and is only opinion at time of writing. Author is not a medical profession and this is not medical advice..



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