“Sugar-holics may be spared blood and electrolytic disorders and an enlarged heart. And they are not malnourished, at least as that term is generally defined. But they suffer from all the other maladies, including the tendency to pass their craving onto their offspring, which has led to an epidemic of obese, sugar-craving, and diabetic babies and toddlers.”—Sanford Rose
Dolors & Sense
By Sanford Rose
That these effects may be similar to those of alcoholism is not surprising since both sugar and alcohol are carbohydrates, the latter made by fermenting the former.
But it was surprising to most of the country when Dr. Robert Lustig, the high priest of the anti-sugar movement in the US, made a celebrated video a few years ago alleging that excess sugar resulted in eight of the twelve diseases commonly acquired by alcoholics.
Alcoholics get blood disorders, electrolytic abnormalities, hypertension, cardiac dilatation, cardiac myopathy, fatty livers, pancreatic dysfunction, and malnutrition. Plus, they deposit fat in other inappropriate places besides the liver; they become generally obese; they get addicted, and they pass their addiction on through the fetus to their offspring.
Sugar-holics may be spared blood and electrolytic disorders and an enlarged heart. And they are not malnourished, at least as that term is generally defined. But they suffer from all the other maladies, including the tendency to pass their craving onto their offspring, which has led to an epidemic of obese, sugar-craving, and diabetic babies and toddlers.
The problem begins with our livers, and, at first pass, it is just a question of overload. When we ingest glucose, the good sugar, it gets metabolized by all the cells in the body, leaving only a small residual, about 20 percent, to be disposed of by the liver, which stores all but a tiny fraction of that as glycogen.
But when we consume sucrose, which is half glucose and half fructose, the liver gets in trouble because fructose can’t be metabolized anywhere else in the body.
The liver just has too much to handle. To metabolize the sugar, it has to give up too many phosphates, converting molecules of adenosine triphosphate into adenosine diphosphate, then adenosine monophosphate and, finally inosine monophosphate. Along the way, it produces as a waste product, uric acid, which inactivates a substance called endothelial nitric oxide synthase.
Too much uric acid causes gout, and too little nitric oxide prevents the blood vessels from dilating or relaxing.
Thus, bingeing on sugar, whether by choice or because we fail to notice that nearly all processed foods now contain great gobs of it, has contributed to the current epidemics of gout and high blood pressure.
A liver overloaded with fructose will also generate too much citrate during metabolism. The citrate in turn will unleash three enzymes that are responsible for what is called de novo lipogenesis—read: forming new fat cells. These, which are the bad kind of fat (very low-density lipoproteins), either remain in the liver or get expelled into the muscles. In either area, they do no good.
When the liver gets fatty, it can’t perform its function of regulating the body’s glucose usage—a job that it performs in cooperation with the pancreas, which contributes needed insulin. Detecting that the liver is not utilizing insulin efficiently, the pancreas responds by secreting more insulin. This eventually leads to a sensitization problem, dubbed insulin resistance.
The pancreas then goes into overdrive, producing so much insulin that it exhausts itself. We call that condition type 2 diabetes.
Right now, it is I who am exhausted—and probably you, too, Gentle Reader—so I will resume the narrative in my next posting.
Time for a candy bar.
Note: The image used to illustrate this column derives from http://envisioningtheamericandream.com/2013/10/28/candy-is-dandy/, which link will take you to an interesting photo-essay on the role of candy (and, indeed, sugar) in 20th-century America and, specifically, in mid-20th-century media and advertising: “Candy is Dandy,” by Sandy Edelstein.