June 1, 2017

Take a cup of water, add sugar to the brim, let it sit for five hours. When you return, you’ll see that the crystals have settled on the bottom of the glass. 

 “Why is it that one-third of adults [worldwide] have high blood pressure, when in 1900 only 5 percent had high blood pressure?” he asked. “Why did 153 million people have diabetes in 1980, and now we’re up to 347 million? Why are more and more Americans obese? Sugar, we believe, is one of the culprits, if not the major culprit.” 

In the 1960s the British nutrition expert John Yudkin conducted a series of experiments on animals and people showing that high amounts of sugar in the diet led to high levels of fat and insulin in the blood—risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. But Yudkin’s message was drowned out by a chorus of other scientists blaming the rising rates of obesity and heart disease instead on cholesterol caused by too much saturated fat in the diet.

As a result, fat makes up a smaller portion of the American diet than it did 20 years ago. Yet the portion of America that is obese has only grown larger. The primary reason, says Johnson, along with other experts, is sugar, and in particular fructose.

Sucrose, or table sugar, is composed of equal amounts of glucose and fructose, the latter being the kind of sugar you find naturally in fruit. It’s also what gives table sugar its yummy sweetness. (High-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is also a mix of fructose and glucose—about 55 percent and 45 percent in soft drinks. The impact on health of sucrose and HFCS appears to be similar.)

Johnson explained to me that although glucose is metabolized by cells all through your body, fructose is processed primarily in the liver. If you eat too much in quickly digested forms like soft drinks and candy, your liver breaks down the fructose and produces fats called triglycerides.

Some of these fats stay in the liver, which over long exposure can turn fatty and dysfunctional. But a lot of the triglycerides are pushed out into the blood too. Over time, blood pressure goes up, and tissues become progressively more resistant to insulin. The pancreas responds by pouring out more insulin, trying to keep things in check.

Eventually a condition known as metabolic syndrome kicks in, characterized by obesity, especially around the waist; high blood pressure; and other metabolic changes that, if not checked, can lead to type 2 diabetes, with a heightened danger of heart attack thrown in for good measure.

As much as a third of the American adult population could meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome set by the National Institutes of Health.

According to Johnson and his colleagues, this misses the point.
Excessive sugar isn’t just empty calories; it’s toxic.
“It has nothing to do with its calories,” says endocrinologist Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco. “Sugar is a poison by itself when consumed at high doses.”

1. Sugar makes your organs fat.
2. Sugar primes your body for diabetes.
3. Sugar hammers your heart.
4. Sugar creates tense blood vessels.
5. Sugar promotes cholesterol chaos
6. Sugar leads to type 3 diabetes.
7. Sugar turns you into a junkie.
8. Sugar turns you into a ravenous animal.
9. Sugar makes you an energy-starved zombie.
10. Sugar turns your smile upside down.
11. Sugar wrecks your face.

TOXICITY: The degree to which a substance can harm humans or animals. 
  • Acute toxicity involves harmful effects in an organism through a single or short-term exposure. 
  • Subchronic toxicity is the ability of a toxic substance to cause effects for more than one year but less than the lifetime of the exposed organism. 
  • Chronic toxicity is the ability of a substance or mixture of substances to cause harmful effects over an extended period, usually upon repeated or continuous exposure, sometimes lasting for the entire life of the exposed organism.  Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine.

 “Is sugar toxic?” it seems to me the answer is, “yes, sugar is probably chronically toxic to many people.” The goal should be to figure out your toxic dose, then stay well below it. But with sugar, at least for many of us, the toxic dose is easy to consume, especially in a world where sugar resides in almost everything we eat.

The difference between the digestion of honey compared to the digestion of sugar lies in the composition of enzymes in each of these products. Sucrose (table sugar) passes through the stomach without any digestion happening because of its disaccharide (a sugar composed of two monosaccharides) composition.

This means that the enzymes in the stomach cannot break down the glucose-fructose structure of table sugar until it reaches the small intestine. Then the liver utilizes a few enzymes to convert the molecules into glucose that is able to enter the bloodstream for further use.

Honey is different because of the enzymes that are added to the nectar by bees that divide the sucrose into two simple sugars, fructose and glucose. These sugars are directly absorbed by our bodies and are easier to digest.

This is why the glycemic index is lower for honey than sugar and a viable substitute for sugar, and limited consumption.