Is Sugar Killing Us…….

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My wife pointed out this title to me recently on a local fashion and lifestyle blog and , naturally, it grabbed my attention.  “Killing” is pretty strong language, after all- not a word that’s blithely bandied about.  Fortunately, I think we’re all still safe from this new menace.

First off, let me be clear that excess sugar consumption is a huge part of the national obesity epidemic.  Per capita consumption was actually fairly stable from 1920-1980 or so and since that time it has increased by 50%.  Too many sweets, sugary treats and soft drinks bear a large part of the blame.

But this is not what this article claimed.  Rather, it portrayed sugar as a toxin that was responsible for a litany of maladies ranging from Alzheimer’s to allergies to arthritis to even cancer.  To call this a controversial notion would be to give it too much credit.  Rather we should call it bunk.  I’m not saying excess sugar is healthy, but it’s not a poison.

Calorie for calorie, sugar is more apt to make us fat than foods like complex carbohydrates or proteins.  Sugar has a very high glycemic index, which means that is will rapidly increase one’s blood sugar level, which, in turn, causes the release of insulin.  Insulin helps glucose get into muscle cells where it is used as fuel.  It also promotes the absorption of fats into fat cells.  So, foods which trigger more insulin release also give us more belly fat, which is bad.

So that’s really the gist of it: excess sugar promotes obesity through hidden calories and a high glycemic index.  Obesity, in turn, leads to numerous health problems like diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, heart disease, and arthritis.  A person who carries a reasonable weight and who eats a reasonable diet is probably eating a reasonable amount of sugar and that person needn’t fixate on counting the grams of sugar in a ketchup packet.  If, however, your weight is an issue, try cutting back on the amount of sugar in your diet.

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