23 February 2012

Sugar's Charlatan: A Safe Alternative?

Having studied the materials from my last post on the toxic nature of sugar and HFCS, most of you should be inclined to, at a minimum, reduce your sugar intake (if not completely eliminate it) within your diet. (I use diet here, not in the restrictive sense, rather, the kinds of food that you habitually eat; this is not a quick-fix or fad, it is a change of habit).

So, now that your rituals of sugary-debauchery have been proscribed, how might you get that sweet fix you just “need.”  Notwithstanding the fact that you will see health benefits from simply reducing your sugar intake (and by more than a few grams a day), I would strongly recommend that it be eliminated completely, for health and safety’s sake. Your next propensity, then, may be one of three notions: a) Cry, because I “stole” your candy, b) eat an abundance of fruit (which, in reality, is just alcohol without the buzz; but that’s for another post), or c) use substitutes for sugar (or as I call them, Sugar’s Charlatans). I will continue now with the latter of your options.

Aspartame, sucralose, stevia, and the like, are familiar alternatives for a sweet additive without the calories. However, if it actually were true that the accumulation of fat (adipose tissue) was due to an over-consumption of calories directly, then the answer would be simple: zero calories, perfect solution! However, this long-standing belief that fat loss or gain are dependent variables of energy in versus energy out is a great irony. We are not overweight because we eat too many calories, per se; rather, obesity is a disorder of fat accumulation – it is that your fat cells are storing too much fat. [Peter Attia explains this idea more in a short video] So, this begs at least two questions:
1)   Are non-sugar substitutes safe?
2)   Will they make me amass fat?

Well, let’s look at how they work: Artificial and natural sweeteners add sweetness without the “burden” of calories – why? Chiefly, because they are so sweet – up to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar – consequently we need only a tiny amount to achieve the same sweetness. Additionally, the body does not fully break down or absorb them; so the few calories they would contain do not fully contribute to our energy taken in; nor do most of these arouse the secretion of insulin from our pancreas, thus, not directly promoting fat storage. However, this is not true for every individual and every non-sugar substitute sweetener. Other sugar substitutes, such as sugar alcohols (e.g., sorbitol, xylitol), are not actually “sweeter” than sucrose, they just “have different metabolic and digestive properties,” as quoted by Dr. Attia. Although you are consuming non-zero calories (e.g., a stick of gum contains 1-2 grams of sugar alcohols and 5 calories), in most people, unlike sugar, they do not cause secretion of insulin due to their distinct chemical structure. Just note that an excess of sugar alcohols will most likely cause gastrointestinal distress, not limited to bloating, tenderness, and even diarrhea – YUCK!  [See figure below for chemical structures] On this account, it is reasonable to believe that non-sugar substitutes will not cause an accumulation of fat if ingested, however, this cannot be said for everyone; we would be wise to experiment for ourselves.

On the matter of safety, the American Dietetic Association has approved the use of products such as, NutraSweet/Equal (aspartame), Splenda (sucralose), Sweet ‘N Low (saccharin), Sweet One (acesulfame), and Truvia (stevia) for people with diabetes, pregnant women, and children. Although these sweeteners are “generally regarded as safe,” as is sugar, experts remain wary. In moderation, however, they can satisfy cravings for sweets while limiting your insulin response. If you must add something sweet to a beverage or meal, you are better off using a substitute for sugar than sugar itself. Still, if you are looking to kick the habit of needing a taste of something sweet, you’re best to avoid sugar and it’s Charlatans altogether. In time, your cravings will subside and you will not miss a thing!

 Until next time..... M

10 February 2012

Step One: Cut it out!

One quick update: Giving you all full disclosure, I have made available to you, my food logs online; so go ahead and feel free to see what M eats. Please note that I have digestive diseases and allergies that prevent me from a multitude of foods. That said, I try to be very methodical about what I am consuming, while always experimenting to find what works best for me. If you have questions about what I am doing, do not hesitate to ask. Click here to access my foods logs.

Now, on to the point at issue. It should not come as a surprise to you that sugar and all products that pretense to be [namely, High Fructose Corn Syrup and sucrose, our main offenders, but also, dextrose, cane sugar, beet sugar, corn syrup solids, etc] are more than a sinful indulgence and not only toxic, but chronically harmful. 

I will be honest with you - it was not long ago that I had a terrible diet. I was very fortunate, at that time, to be very sensitive to insulin, thus I was able to control weight easily. However, as I aged, I realized that our bodies change and we may not always be able to keep the habits we once had. 
For example, while in high school, I had a very high carb diet, moderate in fat and low in protein. (And by high carb, I really mean high sugar... so what! I had a sweet tooth... I don't think I was alone). It was not until I was 18 that sugary habits started to become a problem: I was gaining weight and it was not muscle (yes, fat baby). I wasn't overweight, nor have I ever been. However, I went from a slender 123 lbs to a whopping 135 lbs, which was the heaviest I'd been in my life. Now you're thinking: "Morgan, 135 is skinny! You weren't overweight!" This is true, but was I healthy? Definitely not. My lean mass was only 95 lbs, so I was carrying 40 pounds of fat, YUCK! I only need 20, so I was lugging around an extra 20 pounds of fat I didn't need. Something had to change; however, you'd have to kill first before taking away my precious sugar ;-) Thus, I took the "skinny" way out: I kept eating the same things, just less. I was hungry, tired, irritable, sickly, but I lost weight! I could not, however, easily maintain my old weight and the five of the pounds I did lose was my lean mass, and I already did not have much! It was at this point that my passionately curious nature emerged in biochemistry and nutritional sciences. I wanted to know how to gain muscle, lose weight, feel good, without being hungry or tired. "Don't hold your breath!" was a phrase I often heard; but you bet I did. In fact, for the last several years, I have been researching and experimenting (encountering a few medical obstacles along the way) with my diet to find the right combination of nutrients to accomplish the goals I set out achieve. It has not been as simple as I hoped, in fact I have foremost learned that the fields of nutritional and public health sciences have a long way to go. However, in my research, I can say with steadfast faith that sugar is the #1 enemy! CUT IT OUT and your overall health, fitness and physique will be much better for it. I will not go into scientific detail as to why, rather, I will let the front running expert in the field, Dr. Robert Lustig, of UCSF, explain it to you in the video below - it may be 90 minutes - but is well worth the time. Dr. Lustig is a very engaging speaker - not to mention how fascinating the subject is as well. Enjoy viewing :) 

Also, for those more interested in supplementing this video with additional information, may I direct you to a blog post by a favorite doctor, author, and researcher of mine, Peter Attia, called Sugar 101. 

All that being said and learned - your first step is to CUT SUGAR OUT. Be careful, it is everywhere; start reading those nutritional labels, and get interested or get fat and sick! Up to you. 

With all my love....M.