Sugar, the real enemy

Sugar, the Real Enemy

What does make us fat?

People are drawn to foods that say 'low fat' on their labels, yet they do not see the intended results and continue to gain weight. This means there must be something in these products that prevent us from shedding the pounds. But what substance is that? The answer is... sugar. 

What is sugar?

There are three different forms of sugar that occur naturally. These are; glucose, fructose and sucrose. Refined sugar is made up of sucrose and when it is consumed, it is broken down by the body into glucose and fructose. Glucose is used for energy and stored in cells for later use, but fructose is not dealt with quite so well. It is not metabolised by our muscles or brain for energy and sadly has many fat gaining properties. 

Problems of Fructose

Store more fat:
Insulin is secreted by the pancreas in order to remove glucose from the blood stream. When we eat a high sugar diet, our body cells start to become resistant to the effects of insulin. In order to have the same effect, we need to secrete more insulin to remove the glucose from the body. This now means we have extra high insulin levels in the blood, which is a problem. Insulin not only removes glucose from cells, it also tells fat cells to pick up and store fat from the bloodstream. Over time, the more sugar we eat, the more fat we begin to store.

Doesn't satisfy your hunger:

The hypothalamus is an area in the brain that regulates food intake. Glucose appears to decrease blood flow in the hypothalamus, meaning it is less active and does not need as much energy. You therefore feel full and satisfied and don't need to consume more food. Fructose on the other hand increases blood flow and brain activity. You need more energy to do this and so continue to eat. Also, fructose stops the ghrelin levels decreasing. The more ghrelin in the body, the hungrier you feel. Therfore, consuming a high fructose diet leads to a higher daily calorie consumption.

Causes resistance to leptin:
Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells that informs your body on how much fat is being stored. When your body is told it has filled it's reserves, it sends signals telling you to stop eating.  Frucose causes a resistance to leptin so your body cannot sense how much leptin is being secreted. This means we cannot tell when we have enough fat stored and so we continue to eat more. Leptin also increases our metabolic rate to burn the fat we are consuming. This means that if we cannot detect the leptin, we overeat and do not increase our metabolic rate to compensate. Ultimately this will lead to weight gain.

Leads to fatty liver disease
Fructose cannot be used by muscles or the brain and is only metabolised by the liver. Firstly, this makes it a totally useless substance for the body and secondly it puts extra pressure on the liver. When it is metabolised, it is turned into activated glycerol. This is a substance which is directly used to turn free fatty acids into triglycerides. These are stored as fat in the liver and skeletal muscle tissues. In excess, this can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Fruit and Veg

Fruit and vegetables are extremely important in our diets because of all the vitamins and minerals they contain. However, fruit and veg can be high in sugar and so when it comes to consuming our 'five a day', there are choices to be made. Here is a short list of fruit and veg that contain more than half of their sugar in the form of fructose. These are the ones to avoid: 

Sugar snap peas 
Any dried fruits 
Fruit juice

Any other vegetables are ok and fruit such as bananas, blueberries, strawberries, kiwifruits and citrus fruits are much lower in fructose and so are a better choice.

Healthy options? I think not...

As we have learnt, glucose can be metabolised and used by the body for energy, whilst fructose cannot. Considering sugar is an unavoidable substance, when we do consume it, we should try to stick to substances that are higher in glucose than fructose. Despite them being played off as 'healthy alterntaives', Agave nectar and corn syrup are actually extremely high in fructose. This means that they are worse for you than maple syrup, golden syrup or honey and should not be bought despite their 'healthy' advertising. 

Also, we have all heard of the classic fruit and nut mix. However healthy this may seem, it is actually a really bad combination of food. As the dried fruit are high in fructose, our body becomes more likely to store fat, as we have learnt about above. Nuts of course are high in fat, meaning that when consumed together, we are more likely to store this excess fat. 

Fat v Sugar

I hope after my last article about fat and this one about sugar, you feel more knowledgeable about where to get your calories from. Fat is an essential part of our diets, whilst consuming high levels of fructose is not good for us at all. Clearly it is impossible to remove sugars from our diets altogether as we need it for energy, but there are healthy decisions to be made which keep fructose to a minimum. 

So next time you look at the food label of a product and see the words 'low fat', just be aware that this is not necessarily a healthy option. Low fat foods are usually higher in sugar to compensate and as we have learnt, sugar is definitely worse than fat! 

If you like this article, check out Top Fitness Mag Very similar articles to read!

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