Categorized | Primary, Ultra Running Races

REFINED SUGAR – there is only one choice: Forget it!

Posted on 01 April 2011

Guest post from RaceTwitch Pro-Team member Katalin Gémes

If one had to choose the most dangerous nutrient in modern diet, I think white sugar can be in the top 10.

White, refined sugar can cause much more damage in your body than any type of fat. Our physiology was developed when sugar was as rare as gold.  It was available only in a very limited amount and in special forms. Our ancestors could eat sugar only as an ingredient of fruits, roots and sometime as the form of honey. However in these foods, sugar was available in several forms like glucose and fructose combined with plant fiber and other micronutrients.  Therefore, the physiological effect on the human body was more favorable then eating refined sugar (sucrose) alone.

But what is the main problem with the consumption of sugar, especially white, refined sugar? The main fuel of human brain, glucose (and sucrose which can transform into glucose quite easily) was only limitedly available in our ancestor environment, the human hormonal system learned to react intensively to sugar intake in order to utilize it as effective as possible. Right after sucrose or glucose consumption, the level of glucose in the blood starts to increase and insulin is extracting into the blood stream. Insulin makes the cells to pick up as much glucose as they can so they can refill their glucose deposit located in the liver and the muscles. When the body cannot obtain sugar from the food (during fasting) these deposits will provide sugar for the brain and if necessary for the muscles. While muscles can utilize fat for fuel, the brain has no chance; it can utilize only glucose.

The function of the deposit in the liver is to keep the level of glucose in the blood stable just to provide enough sugar to our hungry brain. Utilizing sugar from its deposit, the hormone called glucagon is responsible. Both insulin and glucagon are extracted when the blood sugar level is changing, but while glucagon is extracted when blood sugar is decreasing insulin is extracted for the opposite stimuli as it is increasing.

The amount of how much of these hormones are extracted are commensurable to the change of the blood sugar. As this system is quite sensible, a small amount of sugar intake can cause a remarkable elevation of the insulin level.  Therefore, the usual high intake of sugar will cause a high level of insulin extraction. Causing our cells to take up as much glucose as they can, causing a rapid fall of the blood sugar concentration (that is why we feel hungry soon after consumption of a cake or candy).

Of course the process is a little bit different if you consume sugar during physical activity.  In this case the elevation of blood sugar is smaller as the muscles intake the consumed glucose intensively. During endurance activity the recommended form of sugar intake is also not sucrose…. (more about it later).

When high levels of sugar are consumed there a lot of insulin is needed to normalize it.  If high insulin level is regular (as big amount sugar intake is regular) it can cause the body tissue to develop resistance against it.  More and more insulin will be required to obtain the same blood sugar decreasing effect. This physiological state is called insulin-resistance which is the first step toward diabetes mellitus.

This is just one way that high sugar intake can harm your body, so try to avoid it. If you need some sweetness you can use like xylitol or stevia which are the best choice instead of refined sugar (I will write about them later).

In my next blogs I would like to discuss what other nutrition can cause high insulin response, what is GI and GL and why is it important.

So have a less sweet day!

~Kata

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