Category: Diet

Sugar Toxicity and 8 Natural Sugar Substitute

Published:27 Feb, 2017     By: Salan Khalkho     15 min read

Obesity is increasing at an epidemic rate, globally. That's because people are consuming way to much sugar than they should. If you are also consuming too much of sugar lately, its time you should learn about the long term ill effects of consuming too much of sugar.

sugar consumption in India

According to a report presented at Sugar Conference in Fiji 2012, sugar consumption in India has gone up from 5 percent to 13 percent of sugar produced globally. There are more than 65 million people suffering from diabetes in India. The country rank second only to China worldwide in terms of diabetic patients.

According to a survey by the National Family Health Safety, there has been a steep increase in the percentage of overweight or obese women in India. The percentage grew to 14.8% in 2005-06 from 10.6% in 1998-99.

There is no dispute that sugar is the single worst ingredients that you may find in any modern kitchen.

    From obesity to heart disease and from diabetes to cancer, sugar is at the crux of many serious health ailments.

    people are consuming way too much sugar

    Obesity is increasing at an epidemic rate, globally. That's because people are consuming way too much sugar than they should. If you are also consuming too much of sugar lately, its time you should learn about the long term ill effects of consuming too much of sugar.

    Eating too much of sugar is bad and may take toll on your health. In fact eating too much of sugar may even kill you.

    Negative effects of eating too much of sugar is not hidden from anyone. Here are some of the consequences of eating too much refined sugar:

      There are long term and short terms adverse effects of consuming sugar on your health.

      Short term effects of eating too much sugar

      • Consuming too much sugar may make you feel dizzy, tired, sleepy or sick
      • Eating too much sugar at night may keep you awake
      • Eating too much sugar is linked to yeast infections
      • Too much sugar consumption may prevent your body from getting enough calories
      • Too much sugar consumption cause diarrhea
      • Eating too much sugar causes headaches
      • Eating too much sugar causes worms
      • Eating too much sugar may cause sugar hangover
      • Eating too much sugar may lead to early pregnancy

      Long term effects of eating too much sugar

      • Eating plenty of sugar may lead to weight gain
      • Eating too much sugar may cause hypoglycemia
      • Consuming too much of sugar is linked to diabetes
      • It may lead to late pregnancy
      • May lower your immune system
      • Consuming sugar lead to gestational diabetes
      • Eating too much sugar raise blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels

      But fortunately, if you have a sweet tooth, there ways you can sweeten your food without adding sugar.

      Here are 7 natural healthy substitutes to sugar that you can add to sweeten your food.

      stevia contains no calorie

      1. Stevia

      Stevia is a natural ingredient that is obtained from the leaves of a shrub, native to South America, Stevia rebaudiana. Unlike sugar, stevia contains no calorie and is also not linked to weight gain.

        Recent studies on human have shown that stevia has no adverse health effects. In fact it is found to have some potential health benefits. Studies have found that stevia can lower the blood pressure and insulin levels and thereby fight diabetes.

        There are two compounds (Stevioside and Rebaudioside A) extracted from the stevia plant. One is sweeter than the other. Stevia which is typically available in powder form may contain either or both in varying amounts. That's the reason why some variety tastes sweeter than the other. You may be needed to try few varieties to find the one that best suits your taste buds.

        Xylitol does not lead to alleviated sugar levels

        2. Xylitol

        Xylitol is a sugar alcohol and tastes similar to sugar. It is extracted from corn and is also found in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol contains 2.4 calories per gram which is approximately 40 percent lesser than sugar.

        Good thing is that Xylitol does not lead to alleviated sugar levels or insulin levels. It contains zero fructose. Xylitol on the contrary is linked to several health benefits, such as improved dental health. It also helps your body absorb calcium better and thereby provide protection against osteoporosis.

        Eating too much Xylitol can lead to unpleasant health issues such as gas, bloating and diarrhea. It is highly toxic to dogs, so if you have a pet, make sure you don't offer your pets any food that contains Xylitol.

        Erythritol is directly absorbed into the blood stream

        3. Erythritol

        Similar to Xylitol, Erythritol is also sugar alcohol and contains just 0.24 calories per gram or in other words contains only 6 percent of the regular sugar.

        Since our body does not produce any enzyme that can digest Erythritol, it gets directly absorbed into the blood stream and is excreted through urine, unchanged. Obviously because of this reason, it does not have any harmful affect that one experiences by consuming regular sugar. It does not raise blood sugar, insulin level or triglyceride levels.

        Yacon Syrup can cause significant weight loss

        4. Yacon Syrup

        Yacon Syrup is obtained from Yacon plant. The plant is native to South America and is scientifically known as Smallanthus sonchifolius.

        Yacon Syrup is thick in consistency, dark in color and tastes sweet. It looks very similar to molasses. Studies have found that Yacon Syrup can cause significant weight loss in overweight women.

        It contains especial type of sugar which human body can't digest and provides juts one third of the calorie that you get from table sugar or to be precise about 1.3 calories per gram.

        Studies have found that it is effective in decreasing the hunger hormone ghrelin and thereby reduces appetite and you tend to eat less. It also feeds healthy gut bacteria. Healthy gut bacteria decreases risk of diabetes, obesity, improves immunity and leads to better brain function.

        Although Yacon Syrup is considered safe, yet eating large amount may lead to excess gas formation, diarrhea or general digestive discomfort. You can also not use Yacon Syrup for cooking or baking since it easily breaks down in high temperature. It is good to sweeten your coffee, tea or salad dressing.

        Coconut sugar is not purely empty calories

        5. Coconut sugar

        Coconut sugar is obtained from the sap of the coconut plant. Technically speaking it's not exactly the substitute of sugar. It is a sugar but the only difference is that it contains few more nutrients than sugar.

        That means it is not purely empty calories.

        It contains iron, zinc, potassium and calciu m, along with antioxidants. It also contains lower glycemic index than regular table sugar. This is partially because of its inulin content which is a kind of fiber that slows down glucose absorption process in the body.

        Coconut sugar is very high in calories and contains almost same amount of calories as regular sugar per servings. Unfortunately coconut sugar also contains high amount of fructose, the main ingredients that makes regular sugar bad for health.

        Though coconut sugar comes packed more nutrients, it contains same amount of calories and fructose content as regular sugar and so should be used sparingly.

        honey lowers the amount of bad cholesterol and triglycerides

        6. Honey

        Honey is a light golden color thick liquid that is collected by honey bees from the nectar of the flowers. It contains rich amount of antioxidant and trace amount of minerals and vitamins.

        Antioxidants are good for our body and provide protection against several kinds of diseases by fixing free radicals in the body. Studies have found that honey significantly lowers the amount of bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the individuals with diabetes.

        Honey is also found to increase the amount of good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) in the body.

        But you should be cautious about the amount of honey you consume, since honey consumption increases a marker of blood sugar levels called HbA1c which is not good news. Studies have also found that honey lowers the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) which indicates inflammation, again not a very good thing.

        In another study it was found that honey lowers homocysteine, a blood marker that associated with disease. Honey contains lesser amount of fructose, but still it contains some amount which can lead to various health problems.

        Though honey may bring in some positive health benefits, you should be careful about the quantities you consume.

        maple syrup is very high in sugar

        7. Maple syrup

        Maple syrup is also a sweet liquid with thick consistency and golden in color just like honey. It is prepared from the sap of maple tree.

        Maple syrup supplies minerals such as potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. It also contains at least 24 different types of antioxidants. In one study maple syrup was found to have anti-cancer benefits. However the study warrants further research to establish findings as fact.

        Though maple syrup contains hosts of beneficial nutrients and minerals, it still is very high in sugar, which is not very good news and high consumption can take a toll on your health. Maple syrup has a slightly lower glycemic index compared to regular table sugar and so it doesn't raises blood sugar level as sugar does.

        Nevertheless, it still is raises your blood sugar levels.

        Just like coconut sugar and honey, maple syrup is slightly better solution than regular table sugar. The key is to consume it in moderation.

        Molasses contain higher amount of sugar than honey

        8. Molasses

        Molasses is a thick, brown, sweet liquid. It is prepared by boiling either cane sugar or sugar beet juice. Molasses contains few vitamins and minerals and array of antioxidants.

        Molasses contain higher amount of sugar than honey or maple syrup. Nutrients found in molasses are very important for bone and heart health.

        Although molasses can be considered as an excellent replacement for refined sugar, you should still use it carefully as it is a form of sugar.

        Sugar substitute that you should avoid

        In the above examples of sugar substitute, we have seen that they are less harmful than regular sugar or are better in terms of their vitamin and mineral content. However, not all sugar substitutes available in the market are healthy.

        In fact some sugar substitute can be downright harmful and you should avoid it in all circumstances.

        Here are some sugar substitutes that you should avoid:

        Agave nectar is the unhealthiest sweetener

        Agave nectar

        Agave nectar is obtained from agave plant. It is usually marketed and promoted as healthy alternative to sugar, but it is one of the unhealthiest sweeteners available on the market.

        Common sugar (table sugar) is bad for health because of its high fructose content. Agave nectar consists of 85 percent fructose which is much higher than regular sugar and making it more harmful than the regular sugar.

        High fructose consumption in any form is linked to obesity and other serious health issues.

        High fructose corn syrup

        This is made from sweet corn syrup and is heavily used in food processing industry. It is used to sweeten processed food and soft drink.

        The name itself suggests that it contains high percentage of fructose making it obviously unhealthy and root to array of health issues.

        High fructose corn syrup is linked to weight gain, obesity, blood pressure, and certain type of cancer. This sugar substitute should be avoided in all cases.

        Since high fructose corn syrup is not available normally in a grocery store, it is less likely that you may add them to food you cook at home. But they may still end up in your home cooked food through sauces, salad dressing and other condiments you may use during cooking your food.

        Harmful effects on your body if you eat too much sugar

        Most of us start our day right with sugar through a morning cup of coffee or tea. It is also present in most of the breakfast items we consume, such as pastries, cakes and cookies. Many of us also consume sweet sugary fizzy drink, juices and ice creams throughout the day. Unfortunately it is one of the most damaging substances you can consume.

        Sugary foods for large chunk of population mean tasty, satisfying, and irritable treats. But what many don't realize that it is toxic, addicting and deadly, yet abundantly found in every day diet. Severe effects of consuming too much of sugar includes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It is the same disease that is also caused by excessive alcohol drinking and is caused by excessive sugar or more precisely fructose intake.

        Diseases caused by sugar

        • Liver metabolizes sugar in the same as it metabolizes alcohol � Both sugar and alcohol serves as substrates for converting dietary carbohydrate to fat.
        • Fructose plays key role in Maillard reaction with proteins � The reaction paves way for the creation of superoxide free radicals which is known for causing inflammation. This is also a condition caused by metabolite of alcohol.
        • Fructose is reputed for stimulating the brain's "hedonic pathway." This causes same kind of addiction and dependency as caused by alcohol consumption.
        • Sugar causes obesity and diabetes � Studies have found that sugar is the primary dietary factor that causes obesity and chronic disease development.
        • Sugar feeds cancer cells � Cancer cells feed on fructose to increase their proliferation. It helps cell division and speed up their growth and thereby helps cancer cells to spread faster.
        • Sugar causes Alzheimer's disease � Studies have found strong connection between high sugar (fructose) consumption and risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The disease development follows the same pathways as type 2 diabetes.
        • Sugar also causes other diseases � Regular consumption of sugar may also lead to development of other diseases including hypertension, lipid problems, heart disease, dementia and Polycystic ovarian syndrome

        How much is too much sugar for a day?

        Since sugar is not an essential nutrient, Institute of Medicine has not issued any direction on recommended daily allowance (RDA). You should keep your total sugar (fructose) consumption below 25 grams per day. This is including the whole fruit you consume.

        According to US Food Pyramid, you should consume no more than 12 teaspoon of sugar for a 2200 calorie diet. That means no more than 10 percent of your total calorie intake should be from white table sugar. Consuming more than this should be considered as too much sugar for the day.

        Though fruits are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, they are also heavily packed with fructose and if consumed in excess quantity, may worsen your insulin sensitivity and raise your uric acid level.

        How does sugar affect the brain?

        Negative effects on brain health from high sugar consumption ranges from cognitive function to psychological well-being! Little amount of sugar is fine, but anything 10 percent of your calorie coming from sugar is not good.

        According to a research published in the journal Nature, it is toxic and should be regulated just like tobacco or alcohol. It gives your initial high and leaves you wanting more by impairing your brain function.

        Here are some of the ways sugar adversely affects your brain:

        • Initiates a viscous cycle of intense cravings - when you consume sugar, taste receptors are activated and the signals are sent to the brain. In the process it lights up reward pathways leading to surge in feel-good-hormone such as dopamine. In short sugar hijacks brain's reward pathways. Over activating this reward system has its own inherent disadvantage, which is loss of control, increased tolerance to sugar and cravings.
        • Impairs learning skills and memory � High fructose diet inhibits learning and memory skills. Fructose damages synaptic activity in the brain. That means communications within various brain cells are impaired. High fructose diet also creates insulin resistance which can impair cognition since insulin regulates function of brain cells.

        • Causes depression and anxiety � Sugar rich diet causes sudden peaks and drops in the blood sugar levels. This can cause symptoms such as irritability, brain fog, mood swing and fatigue. So sugar laden food may leave you feeling anxious, moody and depressed when you experience sugar crash. Sugar rich food also fiddles with your neurotransmitters that keep your mood stable. Over-activating response-reward pathways can deplete limited supply of neurotransmitter and lead to symptoms such as depression. Chronically high blood sugar level is also linked to inflammation in the brain.

        • Age related brain decline such as dementia � Growing body of research suggest that sugar rich food may increase risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. In one study conducted in 2013, it was found that insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels are linked to greater risk for developing neurodegenerative disorder. How does sugar affect your body?

        • Over loads and damages liver � High sugar consumption or fructose consumption causes same effect as caused by alcohol consumption. Liver processes fructose before it is transported throughout the body. High fructose consumption taxes liver severely by overloading it or even damaging it.

        • It causes your body to gain weight � High sugar consumption interferes with insulin and leptin signaling. Fructose tricks your body into gaining weight by inhibiting your body's appetite control system. As a result, it fails to stimulate insulin and thereby fails to suppress ghrelin the hunger hormone. This has a trickling affect, in the sense; ghrelin fails to stimulate leptin, known as satiety hormone. As a result you end up eating more and develop insulin resistance.

        • Causes metabolic syndrome � Eating too much of sugar causes metabolic dysfunction. It's a barrage of symptoms that include weight gain, decreased HDL, and increased LDL, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and elevated blood sugar levels.

        • Increase uric acid level � Increased level of uric acid is marker of heart and kidney disease. Studies have found strong connection between high fructose consumption and elevated uric acid. In fact uric acid can now be used as a marker for fructose toxicity.

        Sugar is inherently not bad as long as it is eaten in moderation. But limiting sugar intake to moderation can be tricky proposition since refined carbohydrates and grains also break down to simple sugar in your body and leads to insulin spike and consequently insulin resistance.

        That means if you want to limit yourself to eat sugar in moderation, you will also have to limit the amount of refined carbohydrates you consume.

        Diabetes in the US (Infographic)

        Diabetes in United States



        Important Note: Medical and health related information given in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. This article is intended for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment.

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