Sugar: What is it good for?

Americans consume more sugar per capita, by far, than any other country in the world. By some estimates we consume as much as 33 percent of the world’s sugar consumption per year, even though we comprise only about 5 percent of the world’s population.

Americans consume more sugar per capita, by far, than any other country in the world. By some estimates we consume as much as 33 percent of the world’s sugar consumption per year, even though we comprise only about 5 percent of the world’s population.

by Justin Petersen — 

The shiny glaze of hot, dripping frosting on a fresh doughnut. The warm and inviting scent of chocolate wafting through the air in a local fudge shop. The way our stomachs growl when we see a fresh piece of cheesecake or slice of pie. What do all of these have in common? Refined sugar.

Americans consume more sugar per capita, by far, than any other country in the world. By some estimates we consume as much as 33 percent of the world’s sugar consumption per year, even though we comprise only about 5 percent of the world’s population. Americans are more obese, have more heart attacks and contract some forms of cancer as many as 300 times more often than people living in other countries.

Of course, many factors are involved in these pathologies. However, the individual American’s consumption of sugar-containing foods and beverages plays a large role in the decline of our health, nationwide.

Our bodies are so bombarded by sugared substances at young ages that even type II diabetes is now found in children. This is a syndrome that until recently was considered to be a disease of middle age (especially for those of us who could stand to shed a few pounds), and it is still being taught in many medical schools as such. Certain statistics indicate that diabetes is increasing in children by as much as 30 percent.

Yet, everywhere we look there is sugar, sugar and more sugar.

Would you be willing to try a little experiment? The next time you are in the grocery store, take a few random items off the shelf and see if you can find something without sugar in it. Or, better yet, find something that doesn’t list sugar in some form within the first five ingredients. Things like sucrose, dextrose, fructose, maltodextrin, corn syrup, etc. all are sugar products or byproducts. Believe me, you will be amazed at the myriad of foods that contain sugar, in one form or another.

And what about all those different forms of sugar and sugar substitutes? Are they really healthier than plain, white, refined sugar? Let’s take a look at a few of them — you be the judge.

Splenda®, also known as Sucralose, is promoted as a good substitute for sugar, with fewer calories than its purer twin. But is it? The processing of this particular substance includes a form of chlorine which becomes part of its molecular structure, at three chlorine atoms per molecule. While only about 15 percent of this substance is absorbed, how much of that absorbed portion contains chlorine?

Aspartame®, used for years in the manufacture of the artificial sweetener Equal®, has been linked to decreased thyroid function, among other things. It is also believed to pass through the blood-brain barrier, with ramifications on proper neurological function.

So what is a person to do when they feel the need to satisfy a sugar craving? In actuality, those sugar urges often are triggered by a lack of other nutrients in the body, resulting from improper diet. As people modify their food intake and start eating healthier whole and organic foods, they likely will find their cravings for sugar diminishing. Additionally, as the body reaches a homeostatic balance through adequate water intake and good nutrition, its ability to process the sugar we do consume will be enhanced.

The success of our diets really comes down to balance. The body, in all of its biochemical functions, is always striving for homeostasis, or balance. In life and in our diet, obtaining that kind of equilibrium is of paramount importance. So rather than eating half a container of sugar-free cookies, ice cream, soda, potato chips, etc., look for a better, more nutritious substitute like bananas, apples, plums, mangos, tomatoes, etc. And, on occasion, a regular soda, cookie or ice cream cone will not be as ravaging to our health as some of the chemicals found in the sugar substitutes can be — though the less you eat them, the less likely you are to want them at all.

 

Dr. Justin Petersen is a doctor of chiropractic who focuses on functional healthcare with attention to nutritional biochemistry and muscle testing as a somatic window into the nervous system. He also has a massage therapy background. drjustin@earthlink.net.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 1, February/March 2006.

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