Is Sugar A Toxin?

By Dr. Elizabeth Fleming
December 31, 2013
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As a dentist, I have always been concerned about the consumption of sugar, and the correlation to the amount of decay present in my patients.

With the recent proposal of New York City Mayor  Michael Bloomberg to ban sodas and sweetened beverages over 16 ounces, do you wonder if that is a smart measure, or do you feel it is extreme?

In relation to health, over consumption of sugar leads to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.  An obese citizen’s health care costs are 40% higher than a normal weight citizen’s.  Let’s work at reducing the amount of sugar eaten.

In sodas and other sports drinks, there is a type of sugar called High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  It provides calories, but they are empty calories, meaning no nutritional value.  This HFCS also sends your blood sugar spiking because it is quickly absorbed, and then your body is looking for another energy source quickly.  This fluctuation of energy highs and lows can create insulin resistance as your body works to keep blood sugars in balance.  Insulin resistance can lead to diseases such as heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer and others.  Give your body the fuel it needs, rather than the empty calories from soda.

Processed foods, such as sugar, fat and salt-laden foods,  are also addictive.  You can binge on an entire bag of chips, or a quart of ice cream, but can’t see your self eating a bag of baby carrots.  Sugars stimulate the brain’s pleasure center, just like addictive drugs, and people can develop a tolerance which requires more and more to feel satisfied…just like a drug addict.

Liquid sugar calories like those in soda are the most addictive “food” in our diet, and account for up to 10-15% of daily calories consumed by the average teenager.  The American Medical Association has recommended less than 6 tsp sugar/day.  Soda has 10 tsp in one can!  Teens consume 34 tsp/day, so you can imagine the health and dental consequences these teens will have as they become adults, if they do not get educated on the deleterious effects of their sugar consumption.

Are diet sodas better, you ask?  Diet drinks have artificial sweeteners which disrupt the normal signals that control the hunger and “feeling full” mechanisms in your body. This will slow down your metabolism and not allow you to lose weight.  It is counterproductive to have a “diet” soda if it slows down your metabolism!

The sugars and acid in sodas can erode the enamel  on your teeth. An occassional soda is fine, but drinking 50 gallons of soda/year over many years is a problem! (Sarah Weir, author of Health Risks of Soda: Is it really so bad?)

Since Americans find it difficult to self regulate, maybe government taxation would help.  A soda tax would reduce soda consumption by 23%/year and save in healthcare costs $50 billion in 10 years according to Mark Hyman, MD, the author of The Blood Sugar Solution.

Is NY Mayor Bloomberg out of line for restricting the size of sodas in his city?  Not in my mind, if you look at the deleterious health effects of the overconsumption of sugar on a person’s body!  What do you think?

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