Last night CBS show “60 Minutes”, did an good job at starting the national conversation asking the question, “Is Sugar toxic”. Sanjay Gupta reported on research showing that beyond weight gain, sugar can take a serious toll on your health, worsening conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer.
Atkins followers are well-versed in the dangers of refined carbohydrates and sugar. As they lose weight by restricting such foods, most also notice enhanced energy and improved cholesterol levels. A study conducted at the University of Buffalo found that sugar can also accelerate aging , leaving you more vulnerable to conditions such as Type II diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Fourteen healthy men and women fasted for 12 hours, then consumed a sugary drink consisting of 75 grams of glucose, or simple sugar, about equal to the amount in two cans of cola. Six control participants drank an artificially flavored water solution. Researchers observed that when participants had excess sugar in their bloodstream, they also produced more free radicals. These destructive agents increased significantly one hour after the subjects consumed the sugary drink and more than doubled after two hours. Control subjects showed no change in the number of free radicals.
Consuming foods and supplements high in antioxidants effectively keeps free radicals in check. Antioxidant vitamins and minerals neutralize free radicals, preventing damage to other cells. But to make matters worse, researchers noticed that subjects who drank the sugary drink had decreased blood levels of vitamin E.
So sugar causes a double whammy not only by causing free-radical damage, but also by lowering our natural defenses against these harmful particles. Following a sugar-restricted eating plan can boost your chances of keeping conditions such as heart disease, cancer and other age-related diseases at bay—while allowing safe weight loss.
Sugar and Age – Inducing Glycation
In the last 20 years, science has also discovered that elevated blood-sugar levels appear to play a significant role in the aging process itself.
When people have diabetes, their organs and tissues mimic those of much older individuals, meaning the disease appears to cause the body to age at an accelerated pace. Why should high blood sugar damage skin, nerves, eyes, joints and arteries?
Part of the answer appears to lie in glucose’s propensity, as it floats around in your bloodstream, to attach itself to proteins. That attachment is called glycation (or glycosylation). Scientists at Rockefeller University and other research centers have demonstrated that the process leads to irreversible cross-links between adjacent protein molecules. Cross-linking significantly contributes to the stiffening and loss of elasticity found in aging tissues.
If you want to know whether your blood sugar is generally elevated, ask your doctor to order a Hemoglobin A1c (glycosylated hemoglobin) laboratory blood test for you. It measures your blood glucose control over the last two to three months.
Anthony Cerami, M.D., the pioneer in this field, gave the new protein structures formed from this chemical collision an appropriate name: advanced glycosylation end-products, or AGEs. Collagen, the flexible connective tissue that holds your skeleton together, is one of the first proteins to be affected. As collagen’s flexibility is destroyed, your skin sags and your organs stiffen. Your arteries also take a major hit, which explains in part the connection between diabetes and heart disease. AGEs attach themselves to LDL, or ”bad” cholesterol, and these LDL molecules then become more oxidated, causing severe damage to any arterial surface to which they become attached.
AGEs are truly a main contributor to aging, so keep your blood sugar within the normal range so those glycating sugar molecules don’t gain a foothold on your body. High levels of blood sugar can also be present in pre-diabetes and in the metabolic syndrome.