(Edit: Before you read this (or after, either is acceptable), please read my updated opinions on the matter)
I just want to be clear, that my intention is not to lose weight or to live forever. I have long since gotten over my body image issues, and I can’t even imagine what I’ll do with my life if I get older than 80. However, I do have a concern for my quality of life, because I, like many people, enjoy being happy. And while I know that we don’t always have control over our emotional well-being, we are completely in charge of our physical well-being (unless a meteor falls on my head or something. That would totally not be my fault).
When I gave up refined sugar, I expected to maybe fell less sluggish, maybe need more coffee to get me going, maybe lose a little weight. Not only did I feel more energized, but I completely lost the need for any kind of caffeine. I slept great, all the time (except after the Tuesday Night Scramble to finish my condensed matter homework, but Tuesdays have never set well with me). I didn’t lose weight, but I did gain some impressive (in my opinion) muscle definition and got in pretty good shape. That may have been in part because I exercised a lot more to keep my mind off of the chocolate I couldn’t eat, but I’ll take it regardless.
But I still haven’t explained why I gave up sugar. Why not fat? Or processed food? First of all, I don’t eat a lot of fat in the first place, because I find it makes me sick to my stomach, which was more prevalent when I cut out refined sugar. And, since I’m a poor college student, cutting out processed food would mean I would have to severely limit what I could eat (which I did anyway) or I would have to buy better food, which I have limited funds for. Finally, refined sugar is so bad for you that you might as well take up smoking and become an alcoholic while you’re at it…
I recently watched a lecture titled Sugar: the Bitter Truth. I only watched about half of it, because it’s over an hour long and focuses mostly on the causes of obesity, but it was beautifully informative. The speaker is Robert H. Lustig, an extremely well-spoken man with a pretty decent sense of humor. I highly recommend watching.
Lusting explains that the current rise in obesity is caused by the influx of fructose (or “fruck’tuss” as Lustig pronounces it) in our diets, which comes in the form of high fructose corn syrup and the refined white sugar we’re all familiar with. As an example, if you drank one can (12 oz.) of soda a day, you would gain about 15 pounds a year. Yikes! Lustig goes on a bit about a “Coke Conspiracy,” but in the interest of conciseness I’ll let you watch that on your own time.
One of the big things from Lustig’s lecture is: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP AND SUCROSE (table sugar) ARE THE EXACT SAME THING AND THEY ARE BOTH BAD FOR YOU!!! Fructose is slowly taking over our diets. But why?
There was a point in time when the USDA, AMA, and AHA were calling for a decrease in fat consumption to decrease heart disease (there are pretty solid arguments showing that fat actually doesn’t cause heart disease, but we’re talking about sugar here). In processed foods, removing fat from the food decreases the taste, so you need additives to make it palatable. What better to add than sugar (Seriously, look at the ingredient list on foods in the store and look for “sugar,” “high fructose corn syrup,” or “sucrose”)! The amount of fiber in food was also decreased to improve flavor and increase shelf life. Soon we’re all going to be horses, munching on straight sugar cubes.
So what exactly does refined sugar do? Well I’m glad you asked. Even though you didn’t.
Refined sugar is responsible for the lovely browning that goes on in a lot of cooking, but this browning is actually a process called advanced glycation end-product (say that…one time…slowly). This process lead to inflammatory diseases such as asthma, arthritis, and periodontitis. As a person who has suffered from joint pain since I was 12, this was definitely a “WHAT?!” moment.
Refined sugar also does not suppress the ghrelin, which is the hormone that tells your body it’s hungry. In other words, when you eat refined sugar, your body can’t tell, so you eat more. Similarly, refined sugar does not stimulate insulin and leptin, which has to do with the receptors in these hormones not being able to process fructose.
When sugar is refined, it’s processed and purified to remove all the nutrients that are needed to help your body digest it. When these nutrients are removed they become….molasses. This makes brown sugar the ultimate identity crisis, since it is refined sugar with molasses added to it (blogger say what?).
Since refined sugar is so bad for our bodies, why refine? The answer is I HAVE NO IDEA. None. I have asked Mother Internet, but she’s not giving up her secrets. It’s like the Bermuda triangle. or Area 51. Or North Dakota.
I’m sorry if this was too much science to throw at you all at once. I promise I’ll give you something better next time. I’m going out for $2 margaritas later this week to celebrate my recent 21st birthday, so that should make a good story.
ALSO. I want to make it clear that I have absolutely nothing against North Dakota. I’m sure it’s a very lovely state. I was making a reference to Jimmy Newton, a TV show that you’re likely either too old for or too young for, and in either case makes me sad.