Friday, April 6, 2012

Is Sugar Toxic?

Living as I do, in an area where diabetes is epidemic, controlling sugar intake has been a habit for a long time. I have never considered it a "poison" to be avoided entirely, but I have been careful to minimize it's use in my diet. As time passes, it is easy to see the results of this increased sugar intake here in the U.S.A.  For example, here on the Navajo Nation, diabetes was virtually non-existent prior to the 1960's. Since then there has been a steady increase in both the availability of processed foods (and the accompaning sugar) and diabetes along with a marked decrease in the amount of physical activity needed to sustain life. To misquote scripture, "Exercise covereth a mutlitude of sins" at least so far as nutrition is concerned.
The taste for sugar is a developed taste. Back in the late 70's when many Cambodian refugees were coming to the United States and being sponsored by American families, I had the opportunity to work with a group of Cambodian children teaching them english. While many had endured great hardship and even atrocities to arrive here, they were bright and eager to learn. Towards the end of my internship, I wanted to do something nice for them so with my wife's help we planned an "American style" party for them with cake and ice cream. We prepared and they looked forward to it. When the day came we were quite suprised that they didn't like our party food. They would have much rather had fish and rice. The sweetness was foreign to them and it wasn't pleasant. I imagine by now their children are "Americanized" and enjoy candy and sweetsbut it taught me that such tastes are aqquired, not inherent. We can learn to like good stuff just as easy as sugar.

(CBS News) The amount of sugar consumed by Americans today is unprecedented, and is contributing to heart disease and high blood pressure, a dietitian said on "CBS This Morning."
Cynthia Sass, a nutritionist and registered dietitian, was on the broadcast to discuss a "60 Minutes" report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta which explored studies indicating that sugar - more than any other substance - is linked to obesity, type-2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Sass explained that the average American today consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. "In a year's time it's about 17 four-lb. bags of sugar per person per year," she told Charlie Rose. "We need to change our habits."
When asked why sugar may be considered toxic, Sass compared one's blood to a glass of water: "Now think about pouring sugar into that water. The more sugar that's there, the thicker and more syrupy that water gets.
"When that's happening in your body - in your blood - your heart has to work harder to pump that thicker fluid through your system," Sass said. "It puts stress on the heart. It puts stress on the arteries. It Increases blood pressure. It attacks the kidneys, the liver. So it's really the amount that we have that's really causing these problems."
Sass said the source of sugar is also an important consideration. "The sugar that's healthy is the kind that comes from Mother Nature - the sugar that's in fruit, that's in yogurt, that's naturally occurring," she said. "So when you think about blueberries, a cup of blueberries, that has about 7 grams of fructose, but it's bundled with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber."
A can of soda, by comparison, has about 25 grams of fructose - about three times more - with no nutrients.
When asked by Erica Hill how people can avoid sugar, Sass replied, "You need to read the ingredient list. That's the only way to know if the sugar that's in the product is added, manufactured in, processed in, or it's coming from nature."

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