The Bitter Facts of Sweets by Dr. Milton Bastidas

Posted by Alexander Harper on

The Bitter Facts of Sweets

It is no secret that too much sugar is bad for your health, but this doesn’t seem to deter over-consumption in the US. We have seen consumption of sugar rise in the past 50 years at alarming rates. Perhaps we are not aware of the actual damage we are doing to our bodies as we sip down that refreshing cola or we gobble down that sweet cake.

Consuming 100 grams of sugar actually suppresses your immune system by 40%, leaving you vulnerable to infections and disease. As a matter of fact, not only do we weaken our immune cells, but certain pathological conditions like diabetes are driven by high amounts of sugar. With so much sugar stacked into everyday foods such as cereals, boxed snacks, juices, sports drinks, energy drinks, etc, it is not hard at all to arrive at this lucky number of 100 grams a day.

The American Heart Association recommends women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day (24 grams) and men no more than 9 teaspoons a day (36 grams). To put this into perspective, a 12 ounce can of soda gives about 8 teaspoons of sugar (32 grams). On average, Americans consume 2 to 3 pounds (908 grams to 1362 grams) of sugar a week, which is approximately 130 to 195 grams per day. This is clearly over 5 times the amount recommended on a daily basis.


It’s bad enough that we inundate our bodies with sugar, but even worse is the kind of sugar we are consuming. Most of our carbohydrate consumption comes by way of processed and refined sugar from denatured grains that are devoid of their essential nutrients, thus making it difficult to metabolize and ultimately leading to inflammation. For example, when you eat too many processed and refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, they are converted into palmitic acid which is a long chain saturated fatty acid that creates an inflammatory response. The palmitic acid circulates in the blood and is stored in the muscle tissue and your organs, leaving you at risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes to name a few.

As this inflammatory cascade continues for days, weeks, and years, the amount of free radical formation surpasses your antioxidant status leaving you in constant state of oxidative stress and an inability for your cells to fully recover. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that contributes to maintaining the redox integrity of cells and thereby protects them against reactive oxygen species (a by-product of oxidation which is harmful to the cells). Unfortunately, sugar’s molecular structure is similar to that of vitamin C and therefore competes for its entry into the cells, further delaying their recovery.

In addition to sugar having the potential to be converted to highly inflammatory fatty acids, it can also be formed into Advanced Glycated End Products. AGE’s are the end-products of glycation reactions, in which a sugar molecule bonds to either a protein or lipid molecule without an enzyme to control the reaction. This can occur during the cooking process when sugars are cooked with proteins in the absence of water (giving baked goods their brown color) and in our body as sugars circulate in our blood. Fructose and galactose undergo glycation ten times faster than glucose, and your body is very slow to deal with these end products.

AGE’s affect extracellular and intracellular structure and function as well as contribute to a great deal of microvascular and macrovascular complications. They form cross-links between molecules in the basement membrane of the extracellular membrane and they engage the receptors for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) which ultimately results in the upregulation of NFK-beta (a transcription factor for inflammation) and its target genes.

There is a big body of research that exist which points to sugar as a major player in inflammation and many of the disease processes encountered in our society. If we make better choices for ourselves and our children and we limit the amount of sugar and better yet eliminate processed and refined sugar, we can make a huge leap into our well being and optimum health. It is imperative for our health that while dining out and when grocery shopping we choose foods that are dense in nutrients and low in sugar. So think again when you sip down that refreshing cola or gobble down that sweet cake.

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