LCHF, Physiology

Sugar – A Dangerous Love Story

Sugar is a big controversy. Everyone knows that eating candy, cakes, ice cream, loads of white bread and pure sugar and drinking sodas is not good for you. Most of us try to moderate our intake and many times we struggle with it. There’s always that donut with delicious icing that someone at work treated you, the ice cream with your friends, the tasty dessert cake after the nice restaurant dinner.

And then there’s the sugar in the syrup they put in your morning coffee  at the coffee shop, the hidden sugars in processed food that you have for TV dinner, the sugary breakfast flakes.
If you start looking at the labels of the food you buy you are gonna be chocked. All the carbohydrates that aren’t fibers, are becoming sugar in your body. If there is 40 grams of carbohydrates, they become 40 grams of glucose after being digested. No matter how slow they are.

Everyone know that you should avoid sugar, and still we seem so helpless when it comes to staying away from it. I’ve had countless encounters and discussions where the person I’m talking to states something in the realm of “I just can’t get of it, it tastes so good!”
It has nothing to do with education, IQ levels, knowledge or even common sense. It’s all in the habits and habituated feelings and thoughts around food. We feel like we deserve that extra piece of candy, cookie, cake or ice cream. Or we’ll tell our selves that the exercise we did/are going to to do gives us room for it. It’s deceptive, that white powder.

Maybe you won’t notice what it does to you. If your body is healthy enough and your systems are adaptable, you will have enough insulin to store away the sugar load and keep your glucose levels in check. The more sugar (of any kind) you eat, the more insulin is needed. The more insulin you have in your blood, the less sensitive your insulin receptors become, that’s the natural see-saw reaction in your body. When the receptors become less sensitive, you need to produce more insulin to lower your bloGlycosylation - Sugar, a dangerous...od sugar, and so on. As long as your pancreas is healthy, this process is going to work fine, even though you will have blood sugar spikes and lows all day long. You might notice them, or you might not, since we all differ in sensitivity. The day your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to keep the blood sugar in check your on your way towards diabetes.

“Well, why does that matter?” you might say. There’s medications and I’m certainly not there yet….
The big problem with diabetes is the high blood sugar levels, because the sugars tend to react with proteins and fats in the body, a process called glycosylation. When this happens it renders the molecule useless, because it’s chemical properties changes. As for proteins, which many times are receptors, enzymes and identification tags for different molecules, it can change how hormones, cholesterol and signal molecules are taken up and the effects they have. So you might change how sensitive you get to a hormone, and hence the body sees that as needing to produce more of it since the desired effects didn’t happen with the normal amount. This can lead to a downward spiral, exhausting the gland producing the hormone as an end result.
In the case of cholesterol the protein on the bearer molecule (LDL/HDL), can suffer changes and not be recognizable when arriving to the cells and thus not be taken up, which leads to higher cholesterol levels in the blood but cholesterol deficiency in the cells. If you are unlucky enough to take a blood test assessing your lipids at that point, you might end up on statins, lipid lowering drugs, just because they are on the wrong place.

The body recognizes the faulty proteins and the immune system cleans them up, so new ones can be made. Having a lot of glycosylated proteins means a higher demand for cleaning and pumps up the inflammatory process needed for cleaning, keeping you in a overall higher state of stress.
It’s a good idea to keep the inflammation in your body as low as possible, since it triggers a lot of reactions that can be damaging for the cells.

You can also experience joint and soft tissue problems because of the glycosylation of proteins. The changes in the proteins in your connective tissuTrigger finger - Sugar - a dangerous...e render it less flexible and the subsequent inflammation can produce fibrous scars that are difficult to heal. The faulty proteins also work less efficiently in your cartilage and can result in arthritic changes.
One not uncommon problem among diabetics is trigger finger (it can happen to people without blood sugar issues as well, but the risk are much higher with poor blood sugar control). This is a disease where the flexor tendon to a finger, usually the third or fourth gets inflamed and swollen, so it can’t pass through the structures holding it and the finger gets stuck in a flexed position. No fun at all.

For me this means getting of the sugar, all of it. No candy, cakes, cookies, ice cream, breakfast cereal, bread, pasta, rice, sodas etc.
Of course there’ll still be some cabohydrates in my diet, through bell peppers, tomatoes, leafy green and cruciferous vegetables, with the meat I eat and the little fruits I consume. But compared to a normal diet (whatever that is nowadays) my sugar load is minimal.

We are all different and some people tolerate higher levels of carbohydrates than others and it is dynamic. It changes with age, hormones, stress etc.
But I’m sure that keeping away from sugar is beneficial for you. Start with getting of the white sugar. Have a sugar free month where you don’t eat cookies, candy, ice cream, cakes and go low on the fruit (especially bananas), choose low sugar alternatives to pasta and  potatoes (you can find some tips here) and make sure to cook your own food so you know your sugar load.
See what happens.
I was surprised by all the tastes that were coming back to me, after the sugar was gone. Heavy whipping cream is sweet!

Sugar is an addictive substance, it’s actually in the same realm as heroine, giving the same pleasure response in the brain, so expect some heavy resistance to start with. There might be withdrawal symptoms, cold sweats, nausea, bad sleep, tremor. No fun.
That doesn’t mean it’s bad for you to stay away from it, does it?
What would you tell a smoker that’s weaning off cigarettes? “Are you feeling bad? You better start smoking again then.” Probably not.

It’s all about getting to a point where you can choose what to eat, and enjoy the occasional sweet things you eat. Remember, I’m not talking about loosing weight, even though that might be a “side effect” of keeping away from the sugar. I’m talking about staying healthy and feeling well – hopefully throughout your life.
And don’t forget to add in the good fats as you take away the sugar/carbohydrates, you still need the energy. One gram of fat has double the energy of one gram of carbohydrates.
Here‘s a little go to list of how you can get started.

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Other diets - discussion.

Stop eating?

A friend of mine sent me this article and asked for my opinion on the subject.
Apparently Robert Heart has found a way to expel everything that has with food and cooking out of his life by making a soy-based mix, with a calculated amount of the essential nutrients (http://robrhinehart.com/?p=424). The content has changed a bit since he started drinking the mix, since he has added some more nutrients when symptoms of deficiencies started to occur, but the essentials are there.
According to him, drinking this three times a day keeps him satisified, in excellent physical and mental condition and he also feels he’s contributing less to environmental problems through this diet.

I haven’t gone through his recipe thoroughly and checked the amounts of each nutrient, but when having a quick look it seems most of the essentials are there.
From my perspective I find that there are way to much carbohydrates and to little fat. I would change the content of these so the carbs would be 5-10 % or less and the fat make up approximately 75 -80 %.  Olive oil is a good fat to use, even if I prefer coconut oil or butter.
The rest would be protein and I would recommend having at least 1-1,5 gram/kilogram body weight, more if your training a lot. And now were talking about the pure protein amount, not the whole meat, which also contains supportive structures, fat and water.
I wouldn’t recommend going without the cholesterol. Even though the body can synthesize it, getting deficient in cholesterol can be really troublesome, since it has so many important tasks in the body – keeping cell wall stability and having anti-inflammatory characteristics to mention a few. Read more here.

It’s true that your brain needs glucose to function, it can’t run on anything else, but you don’t need to eat carbohydrates to keep your brain satisfied.
Your liver will regulate your blood glucose tightly and make glucose out of protein and fat when you don’t get it through your food. In fact, carbohydrates is the one thing you can take out completely from your food without any adverse effects. Your body runs fine on fats and proteins.

The protein source is what concerns me most. I haven’t found exactly what he’s using, but from the name of the product I guess it’s soy protein. It is indeed a full protein source, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids – the ones that your body can’t make and thus needs to be ingested on pretty much a daily basis.
Soy contains a lot of phytoestrogens (molecules that look like the human hormone estrogen and binds to these receptors in the body), that we don’t know the long term effects of. The medical society recommends this source of protein because of it’s lipid lowering properties. Since there is no compelling evidence that the blood lipids actually are the culprits in heart disease and more and more evidence is pointing towards general inflammation, with carbohydrates and insulin as driving forces I wouldn’t recommend this as your only protein source.
The phytoestrogens might disrupt the hormonal system and some research suggests that they can increase the risk for some sorts of cancer.

The environmental issue still remains, however you chose to eat. The soy protein must be processed quite a lot and the beans are many times grown on rain forest areas. If you grass-feed cattle and pasture-raise them you’ll get around many of the issues that the industrialized meat production faces, like the need for feeding the cattle growth hormones, taking care of their manure and so on.
All the different nutrients, vitamins and supplements that are used needs to be processed and you have to make sure that you get pure products. Depending on how they are made you can get quite different amounts of actual active substances and if they are impure you might get intoxicated. This might of course happen with real food as well, but is less likely because the substances are less concentrated.
If you use krill oil, you of course have to kill some fish to get it. You will always be having an impact on the environment, because y0u’re  a part of the ecosystem.

Lastly I find food interesting, fun and enjoyable to cook and eat. I love sharing dinner with friends, learn new reipes, and I find eating food a rewarding experience, enjoying the texture, tastes, smells and sight of it. I have exchanged a meal or two for a high fat protein shake sometimes, but not because I didn’t want to eat but because I wanted to get more fat into my diet and that was the easiest way to do it.
If you want to exchange your food for drinks like the one Rob offers that’s up to you. I would recommend some more reading into the subject though, here on my blog and find other sources.
In my opinion we know way to little about the actual needs of nutrients to be sure you get everything you need in the long term.
I’m also concerned for the health of the cells lining the bowels, since they get most of their nutrients from the food that’s passing and not from the blood. And what happens to the gut flora in your large intestine? Will the fiber intake in the shake be enough to supply you with short chain fatty acids that the bacteria make from it? Will it change your immune system that largely resides in the gut? Is the basic nutrients enough, or is there something else in the food we eat that interacts with our alimentary tract and gives signals to the body how to act?
There is also evidence that how we eat signals to our genes, or rather which genes is being turned on and off, called epigenetic signalling. It’s difficult to say how this diet will effect those signals.

Many questions and really not any straight answers. I’ll get back to you with more discussions on this topic. Next time I’ll dig into why he started feeling better when going over to this way of eating.

Please feel free to comment and keep the discussion going!

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean#Uses