It is rightly said that ‘sugar is the new tobacco’. We have about 10,000 taste buds in our mouths and also taste receptors down to our oesophagus and these all respond to sugar and sweeteners. One effect of eating sugar is that those parts of the brain linked to pleasure are stimulated by these receptors’ response to the sensation of sweetness. Add to that the further facts that when the sweet taste receptors on the tongue are triggered by endocannabinoids the appetite is increased (e.g. Margolskee, 2009 and Tordoff – sweetened drinks) and that the body does not recognize the calories in glucose intake (e.g. Teff, 2006) and you have the perfect nutritional storm. It is not surprising that the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported by the American Heart Association (not my favourite institution) found average daily consumption of sugar to be 22 teaspoons! Worse, the attacks on saturated fat and cholesterol have added to the number of ‘low fat health foods’, in which sugar replaces fat. Fats in processed foods, especially hydrogenated fat, are themselves a menace, but I must not digress. The western world reduces its consumption of saturated fat and by statins reduces cholesterol and yet the ‘experts’ are surprised that cardiovascular disease is still the major killer.
British Celebrity Chef, Jamie Oliver, is rightly waging “absolute war” on sugar. Recent research (Van Rompay et al., Journal of Nutrition) shows that sweet drinks were linked with triglycerides and lowered HDL cholesterol. Dr Van Rompay is quoted as saying, “A clustering of risk factors including high triglycerides, low HDL-C, insulin resistance and obesity, especially if begun in childhood, puts one at higher risk of future cardiovascular disease.” (“The Times” 3rd September, 2015).
The key point is still being missed by many researchers and reporters alike, which is that sugar is a major cause of oxidization in the arteries. It is not poor old LDL cholesterol that causes its own oxidization, but rather it is factors such as sugar, smoking, stress, excessive exercise, obesity, diabetes, air pollution, heated oils (other than coconut) etc., which are the precipitators of oxidization of cholesterol. Clearly one important factor in maintaining good health is to avoid sugar in the diet, save as it appears in whole fruit and vegetables. Sugars in sweet drinks and processed food not only directly cause oxidization, but they also cause obesity and diabetes, which in their turn cause oxidization. The other factor is a nutritional one, which is to maintain a healthy diet and to maintain a high level of antioxidant supplementation. It was once possible to obtain sufficient anti-oxidation from diet, but please do not believe that dwindling number of nutritionists, who still say it is possible. Palaeolithic hunter-gathers were free from cardiovascular disease, cancer and many other common afflictions, but even those pursuing a ‘Palaeolithic diet’ cannot recreate the nutritional quality of our ancestors’ food (http://bit.ly/1bNkdv6).