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home : lifestyle : health   May 24, 2016

1/31/2013 2:48:00 PM
This is your brain on sugar ... it's all in the details

A pretzel can be a healthy snack, but extra flavorings such as cheese, salt or cinnamon and sugar can boost the calories and sodium into undesirable levels.NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
+ click to enlarge
A pretzel can be a healthy snack, but extra flavorings such as cheese, salt or cinnamon and sugar can boost the calories and sodium into undesirable levels.
NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
NewsTribune photos/Genna OrdFruits such as grapes are a source of natural sugars.
+ click to enlarge
NewsTribune photos/Genna Ord
Fruits such as grapes are a source of natural sugars.
What to do

- Cook more at home.
- Limit processed foods containing fructose and high-fructose corn syrup.
- Limit intake of sugar-sweetened beverages by controlling their size and how often they are consumed.
Source: The Associated Press

Jeff Dankert
NewsTribune Reporter

In many ways, sugar is sugar, regardless of the kind. Every sugar is a simple carbohydrate. It is in fruits, vegetables and milk. It contains the same number of calories.
Consumers and companies also add sugar to food. That’s where health problems arise. Foods with added sugars, like soft drinks, generally have fewer nutrients than foods with naturally-occurring sugars, like fruit. Adding sugar adds calories without nutrients. Foods with naturally-occurring sugars, like fruit and milk, have more nutrients than soft drinks.
At first glance, sugars appear complicated. There is sucrose, glucose and fructose. Table sugar is sucrose (half fructose, half glucose). High-fructose corn syrup is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. Fructose and glucose are monosaccharides. Sucrose is a disaccharide and is broken into a monosaccharide before the body absorbs it.
Good news: for a healthy diet, you only need to remember that too much added sugar, any sugar, is bad for you.
“They all break down pretty similarly and they all provide the same amount of calories,” said René Ficek, registered dietitian and nutrition consultant at Illinois Valley Community Hospital, Peru.
Foods that have naturally-occurring sugars are good for you in spite of the sugar, not because of the sugar, Ficek said. Calories and nutrients are best consumed from the same foods. Macaroni and cheese and an apple both provide calories but “you get many more nutrients with less calories with the apple,” Ficek said.
It makes no difference if the sugar is added in processing or at the table, said dietitian Elizabeth Baker of St. Margaret’s Hospital, Spring Valley.
“Added sugars are adding extra calories to the diet and leading to excessive weight gain,” Baker said.

The F word
Increases in diabetes, obesity and heart disease has come with increases in calorie intake, often calories supplied by sugar, Ficek said. She pointed to a statistic: About 100 years ago Americans consumed a daily average of about 15 grams of fructose, mostly from fruits and vegetables. Today they average 55 grams per day and 73 grams for adolescents.
Further, fructose is broken down in the liver and too much can damage the liver and build up fat in the body. In the 1970s and 1980s, campaigns to eliminate fat (even healthy fat) often found a substitute in sugar. Low-fat, high fructose diets are really also high-fat diets given how the liver converts fructose, according to Harvard Health Publications.
Some nutrition experts say high-fructose corn syrup may pose special risks, but others and the industry reject that claim. Doctors say we eat too much sugar in all forms.
High-fructose corn syrup is manmade and is virtually identical to refined sugar, Ficek said. There is no evidence that fructose or any sugar is inherently toxic or unsafe. But evidence is mounting that high doses are unsafe and more long-term studies are needed to determine how high levels affect us, Ficek said.
Magnetic resonance imaging of the human brain on sugar shows for the first time that fructose can trigger brain changes that may lead to overeating. After drinking a fructose beverage, the brain doesn’t register the feeling of being full as it does when simple glucose is consumed, researchers found.
This one study does not prove fructose or high-fructose corn syrup causes obesity but experts say it adds evidence. Fructose is often added to processed foods and beverages. Their consumption along with obesity has risen dramatically since the 1970s.
Concentrated, elevated levels of sugar are linked to causation of type 2 diabetes, said Dr. Martin Faber of Princeton Family Physicians. Health professionals are concerned that concentrated sweets in the intestine enter the bloodstream rapidly and overtax cells.
“The theory is these cells get exhausted and you are no longer able to make insulin as necessary,” Faber said.
Any sugar in excess can be the culprit. But it happens that fructose is the industry choice because it is cheapest. Once in the body it is like any other sugar and gets broken down to glucose, he said.
“Unfortunately we are consuming huge amounts of fructose because that is in corn syrup, soft candies, soft drinks,” Faber said.
Consuming these foods alone doesn’t satisfy our hunger.
“What I tell my kids, if they’re going to have a can of pop, drink it with your food,” Faber said. “If you take your concentrated sweets and you mix it with protein and fat and complex carbohydrates then you don’t absorb glucose as rapidly. You slow down the impact on the pancreas. That’s the way several of our diabetes drugs work, they slow the absorption of sugars out of the intestine and slow the spikes in blood sugars. The second part is, these simple sugars tend to make you fat and fat people tend to get diabetes.”

Don’t drink calories
The first place to check for excess sugar is beverages. Baker said fruit juices and soft drinks account for much of the excess sugar. Ficek agrees.
“A lot of extra calories are coming from what we drink,” Ficek said. Stay with whole foods. Avoid juices. Opt for an apple instead of apple juice,” Ficek said.
“I think we should let our bodies be the blenders,” she said.
Why is an orange less harmful than orange juice?
“It’s different because the fruit fiber makes you fuller than the soft drink,” Baker said.
Even if a person is not diabetic, the extra sugar is going to add calories and weight if this energy is not burned off, Baker said. Many people don’t pay any attention to how much sugar they are consuming, said Sally Voice, diabetes educator at St. Margaret’s.
“They’re just loading it on,” she said.
Humans are not like hummingbirds, which sip flower nectar and sugar water at feeders. Humans are not designed to sip sugar-laced liquids.
“Our bodies are not made for dousing with this much sugar,” Voice said. “By drinking it you actually take in more than if you’re eating a cookie. Don’t drink your calories.”
Sweetness can be addictive. Studies have shown that sugar can behave like a narcotic, like heroin, Voice said.
“If you think about sugar as a narcotic, everybody thinks narcotics are bad,” Voice said. “It’s bad for our bodies. I think education is so important.”
Focusing on sugar alone misses the big picture, Ficek said. Smaller portions will accomplish the same thing.
“There’s no bad food, just bad portions,” she said. “The more sweet things you eat the more sweet things you crave.”

All about sugar

Added sugar comes in many disguises. Check labels. Ingredients on labels are always listed from most to least abundant.
Sugar, corn syrup, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, invert sugar, corn sweetener, lactose, maltose, dextrose, malt syrup, molasses, fruit juice concentrates, raw sugar, glucose, sucrose, honey, syrup.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Here is a selection of sugars in processed foods at a local grocer.
Sugar in frozen spinach soufflé and frozen baked lasagna, cranberry juice cocktail, canned mandarin oranges, canned potato salad and salad dressings.
Corn syrup solids in non-dairy creamer.
High-fructose corn syrup in ketchup and barbecue sauce, English muffins, canned tomatoes and fat-free pretzels.
Sugar and corn syrup solids together in battered fish fillets and reduced-fat peanut butter.
Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in canned soup.
Source: News Tribune

“Sugar-free” means there is a half-gram or less per serving. “No added sugar” means sugar was not added during processing, but the product might contain sugar. And “fat-free” doesn’t mean “sugar-free.”
Source: Elizabeth Baker, dietitian, St. Margaret’s Hospital

Sweet’N Low contains saccharin; Equal and NutraSweet contain aspartame; Splenda contains sucralose. This sweetener is heat-stable. It can be measured one-to-one for real sugar; Truvia contains a sweetener taken from a plant called stevia. One packet equals two teaspoons of sugar.
Source: Elizabeth Baker, dietitian, St. Margaret’s Hospital

Related Links:
• Center for Disease Control

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013
Article comment by: CRobinson

I suggest, that in the future, all articles appearing in the NewsTrib be edited by Metalworker because he knows everything.

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013
Article comment by: METALWORKER

A good start, no, a start but so much lacking, so much missing.
I know, space is a premuim , however this is something where no infomation is better than a little or misleading.
I am not a doctor or dietitian and so I can only use what little common sence God has blessed me with.
The artical starts off with"In many ways, sugar is sugar". No, in all ways.
Ethenal is a product of sugar. Beer ,wine, whiskey, vidka. tequila and such are made from sugars and as such contain calories.
Common sence tells me that if I wolf down a large Pizza and wash it down with a six pack of beer or I eat three or four Tacos and wash them down with a couple Margarettias and I do some thing like this a couple of times a month I will get fat.
I would bet the farm that in the Il valley, the adult pop. spends far more on alchohol than on soda. I whiskey high ball made with diet coke is not keeping the inches off of your rear.
Pleas, Miss Ficek, Miss Baker, in any futture articals extol the dangers of social drinking.
A glass of wine or a beer with a meal, fine. A six pack or a bottle of wine nightly while being social is far worse than a big mac and a 32oz coke.
Would you do that?
Many plants, today contain HFCS as a by product of organic farmig, along with a myrid of medications. These things are consumed by humans and are eliminated by them. they go to a local sweage treatment plant and are treated and the sludge is spread on farm land as fertlizer. These wasts are taken up by plants which we then consume.
No foods are truly one hundred percent safe unless you raise them yourself.
You can, however be smart about what you eat and feed your kids.
It ain't all in this artical though. It is just a small start in the right direction.
Just be smart.

Posted: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Article comment by: MotherEarthSpeaks

Great article. We have eliminated HFCS from our diet for about 4 years now and have experienced wight loss, memory gain, higher physical energy levels, more strength, no illnesses and more joy.
Additional sources of information can be found at:

Other ingredents can be contained in HFCS, and others have found that the effects in the brain can create a stonger desire for more, ie. addiction.
These corporations are in business for profit, not your health.
We drink pure water, and over time, it has tasted sweeter and more satisfying than any other beverage.

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