Transcript: Here's What Your Body REALLY Thinks About Sugar and Sugar Alternatives
Today, I want to talk about one of the most dangerous substances on our planet. Ok, so perhaps not quite in the same category as botulinum toxin or ricin, but I would bet your bottom dollar it has caused more human deaths.
That’s right, we’re talking about sugar.
While it has revolutionised the taste of food, unfortunately, sugar is not as sweet to our health as it is to our taste buds.
Of course, unless you still believe in Santa Claus, I’m sure you know this about sugar, but what I really want to focus on in today’s video, is what sugar does to our gut and all the little bacteria that live there. And hang out till the end if you want to learn about what are the best alternatives for sugar and if there is such a thing as having too much fruit.
Now there’s really nothing beneficial about sugar — obviously besides the fact that you’re giving your taste buds a party - but most of us eat way more of it than we should.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and nine per day for men.
But how much do you think the average American, Australian and many Europeans consume per day?
Yeah it’s a bit scary…Anywhere between 18-25 tsp per day! That’s about 4 times as much as the recommended amount (and even that’s being generous!)
Now I’m not talking about sugars naturally found in fruits and vegetables. I’m talking about added sugars — the white-collar criminals of nutrition- mainly plain ‘ol white sugar and its sly accomplice, high-fructose corn syrup.
You don’t have to search hard to find added sugars. You could pretty much walk into any supermarket and pull the closest packaged food off the shelf, and you’d find them. Added sugars are in most processed foods, including products that companies advertise as healthy such as cereals, granola bars, crackers, and juices.
And if you think you’ve found a product that doesn’t contain added sugar, have you checked for all the 61 different names for sugar- from cane juice to anhydrous dextrose?
Sugar of course, does taste good and that’s why we have a problem on our hands. There’s no issue in enjoying naturally occurring fructose in whole, fresh fruit, the problem is in eating sugar as a food.
Now eating a cookie or piece of cake can seem like a harmless indulgence, but it's really just spooning disguised sugar straight into your mouth.
Within minutes, your bloodstream is flooded with sugar.
Then the proteins in your tissues- the elastic fiber of your skin, the haemoglobin in your blood, the inner lining of your blood vessels, even the lenses of your eyes- start getting "sticky" - kind of like when you spill honey, and it goes everywhere in your bag.
On top of that, in the 98.6° F metabolic “oven” of your body, the sugars and proteins melt together and oxidise. Technically called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), these damaged and congealed proteins actually cause us to age.
They cause protein fibers to break, muscle fibers to weaken, skin to crack, eyes to become less permeable to light, and even brain function to decline- all very real signs of getting older (so Matt tells me anyway).
Consuming excessive sugar is also going to skyrocket your risk for obesity and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. Researchers have even called sugar a weapon of mass destruction as it causes excessive amounts of fat build up in the liver, also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Now, scientists have known for some time that sugar can throw metabolism and insulin responses out of whack, which can lead to these kinds of diseases. What they didn’t know until somewhat recently, however, is how sugar affects the hordes of bacteria doin’ their thang in our gut.
One study involved mice who were fed high-fructose and high-glucose diets. The researchers found that both groups of mice experienced humungous changes in their gut microbiomes. Their microbiomes also shifted towards more pro-obesity bacteria and less types of bacteria that prevent inflammation and weight gain. This led to an increase in inflammation, and then to increased gut permeability aka leaky gut.
And leaky gut, well that contributes to a plethora of diseases, even diseases of the brain! But that is a big topic, and it’s a fascinating one so if you want to learn more about that, click on this link here.
Studies in humans have shown similar results. Researchers found that obese teenagers with higher fructose intake actually don’t have all the key microbes that they should in their gut. Without these beneficial bacteria, which are essential for healthy carbohydrate metabolism, people are more likely to pile on those unwanted pounds – as well as increase their risk for diabetes-like issues.
So high sugar intake increases the number of bad bacteria and decreases the number of good bacteria. It disrupts the entire balance of the microbiome, increases the permeability of the intestine, and causes the infiltration of unwanted bacterial toxins into the body.
Now, if you think that you are exempt because your sugar intake is pretty low, (maybe you only have it on the weekends), I’m sorry to burst the bubble…But a study done by the University of Alberta showed that just two days of a high-sugar diet could alter the microbiome, increase the risk of inflammatory bowel disease and have a significant impact on our health.
The best thing that you can do is to avoid sugar altogether (whispers: again, I’m not talking about fruit).
The next best thing is to significantly reduce the amount that you’re putting into your mouth. That includes cakes, candies, chocolate, desserts, juices, sauces, biscuits, chips even. Packaged foods in general- check the ingredient list before you purchase.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of great alternatives to sugar.
What about high fructose corn syrup or brown rice syrup?
Ba bow. Definitely stay away.
High fructose corn syrup is one of the worst for your health. Most of the corn used is genetically modified and is completely void of nutrients. It’s also been linked to numerous diseases, such as an increased risk for metabolic syndrome, obesity, liver disease, and insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes and cancers.
And brown rice syrup, which is essentially pure glucose has a very high glycemic index of 98 — higher than even table sugar. It’s also prone to arsenic contamination.
Agave nectar is another sugar substitute which is often applauded as a natural sweet alternative. However, although it does come from a plant, the manufacturing process pretty much destroys any potential nutrients and health benefits. And while agave has a low GI score, it can contain up to 90% fructose which, as we’ve already seen, could lead to weight gain and elevated triglyceride levels.
And then you’ve got the no-calorie or artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, acesulfame, neotame, sucralose, and of course, we cannot forget aspartame. These are obviously synthetic. Some popular brands you have probably heard of are Splenda, Nutrasweet, and Sweet’N Low.
Now although they’re sugar-free and are considered “suitable” for people with diabetes, they’re not so good for your heart, and there’s plenty of evidence to support that. In fact, in a 2014 study which tracked 60,000 women over 10 years, they found that women who drank two or more diet drinks per day had a 30% higher risk of a cardiovascular disease event. They were also more than twice as likely to die from the disease.
And, if you want to know a secret (well it’s not really that secret since there are published studies about it) but research tells us that people who drink diet sodas are actually also more likely to gain weight. What?! I know! But researchers believe it’s because these non-calorie sweeteners in diet sodas trick the brain into expecting a sugar hit, but when that doesn’t come, the brain is stimulated to crave food, which then leads to overeating and gaining those killos.
So, in reality, diet sodas, weight loss- don’t go together.
And then there are sweeteners such as brown sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and honey. Which, ok, may contain some good compounds such as antioxidants, some fiber and vitamins, however, at the end of the day, these are still high in sugar.
For example, maple syrup is made up of ⅔ sucrose and supplies 50 grams of sugar in just ¼ cup and coconut sugar consists of around 70- 80% sucrose. And the nutrients these sweeteners contain aren’t enough to write home about anyway.
Ok so are there any good options?
I’d put my vote on stevia. This one is a little controversial, I’ll explain why in a second.
But stevia is 100% naturally sourced and contains no calories. Studies suggest it may prevent metabolic syndrome and other related conditions and lower blood pressure (maybe even too much in some cases!)
The controversy with stevia is to do with its effect on the gut. Some people (even some studies) say it may create a minor change in the microbiome. However, looking and comparing all the studies that have been done on stevia and the gut, overall seem to indicate it actually has beneficial benefit on the diversity in your gut microbiome and may mimic probiotic action. So far, I think it’s one of the best options and hopefully, more research is done in this area.
And then you also have the sugar alcohols like erythritol and xylitol. They do sound like they’ve been conjured in a lab, but they’re actually natural and, despite the name, they don’t contain alcohol either.
They are low GI and contain no calories.
Besides being a no-calorie sweetener, xylitol can prevent tooth decay, reduce infections, and may also prevent osteoporosis. However, as a polyol, for those with IBS or SIBO (especially if you suffer from always having to run to the loo), it can lead to more problems as it can pull water into your intestines. But, if it isn’t an issue for you, then xylitol is a great option.
But beware, keep your doggy away. Xylitol is toxic to dogs and may even have life-threatening consequences so keep your any gum, candy, or even toothpaste that contains xylitol out of reach of your pooch.
Erythritol occurs naturally in many fruits as well as mushrooms and foods derived from fermentation. It can also be man-made. The good thing about erythritol is that it doesn’t seem to cause the same digestive issues as xylitol and might be a preferred option for people with diabetes. It’s also not as sweet as sugar, and so sometimes it's added to artificial sugars. So just be careful of that. Oh and look for non-GMO for both xylitol and erythritol.
Then you’ve got monk fruit which is also one of the more natural sweeteners and has been used for longer than your grandparents have been alive. It’s around 150-200 times sweeter than table sugar BUT contains zero calories. It doesn’t affect your blood sugar and even acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s also very safe for your grandpa, your baby, your neighbour, your pet rat even.
Unfortunately, it is one of the more expensive sugar alternatives to buy, and you need to watch for products where other compounds, such as dextrose are added.
And then there’s date sugar which is a whole-food sweetener as it’s made by simply grinding whole dates down into powder. This makes it highly nutritious, rich in fiber, protein, B vitamins and certain minerals. You could also just use whole dates without grinding into a powder or even make a paste. The problem is, date sugar doesn’t melt well so it does limit where you can use it. The price also can be daunting.
And that brings us to THE BEST sugar alternative on the market. Civilizations have been using this sweetener for thousands of years, and there is so much scientific evidence supporting its health-promoting benefits. It’s also not very expensive.
Yes, I’m talking about blueberries, raspberries, bananas, oranges, in other words, whole fruit. These win hands down. They’re full of gut-friendly fiber to slow down the release of sugar into your bloodstream, and they are full of antioxidants, polyphenols and other amazing nutrients.
You can eat them whole, mash them, or purée them. Versatile. Just try to buy organic, and voila, you’ve got a fuss-free, ready-to-go, delicious dessert.
But isn’t fructose which comes from fruit, bad for us?
The simple answer is no. The harmful effects of sugar are limited to industrial fructose, meaning table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, with no evidence of a negative effect of the fructose in whole fruit. And there’s a lot of evidence supporting fruit’s health-promoting benefits.
And what’s more, the research even shows you can’t really have too much fruit. According to Harvard, “the nutritional problems of fructose and sugar come when they are added to foods. Fruit, on the other hand, is beneficial in almost any amount.” Hmm, maybe your sewerage system won’t agree!
Well I hope you’ve learnt something from this video. I’m very passionate about this topic because of the damage sugar is doing to us and unfortunately, marketing and well, money is drowning out to a large extent, the voice of healthy eating. It would do your health a LOT of good if you were to cut out sugar.
Please, share in the comments what you are going to change up to cut sugar out of your diet. And while you’re at it, we would really appreciate if you could give us a thumbs up and subscribe to our channel. It helps us more than you could know in getting this information out.
Now I already mentioned the video about leaky gut so here’s a reminder now to head over and watch that video. And if you want to learn about the role leaky gut plays in autoimmune disease, then you may also enjoy this clip.
It’s been a huge pleasure spending this time with you. I will see you in the next video.