Sugar

I have some hopefully good, deep stuff I am working on, but in the meanwhile, here is a quick, VERY SPECULATIVE thread on my theory for why refined sugars are probably bad for you:

First, refined sugars are evolutionarily novel. Unless you’re a Hazda, your ancient ancestors never had this much sugar.

Pick up a piece of raw sugar cane and gnaw on it. Raw sugar cane has such a high fiber to sugar content that you can use it as a toothbrush after chewing it for a bit.

According to the internet, a stick of raw sugar cane has 10 grams of sugar in it. A can of Coke has 39. Even milk (whole, skim, or fat-free) contains 12 grams of natural milk sugars (lactose) per glass. Your body has no problem handling the normal amounts of unrefined sugars in regular foods, but to get the amount of sugar found in a single soda, you’d have to eat almost four whole stalks of sugarcane, which you certainly aren’t going to do in a few minutes.

It’s when we extract all of the sugar and throw away the rest of the fiber, fat, and protein in the food that we run into trouble.

(The same is probably also true of fat, though I am rather fond of butter.)

In my opinion, all forms of heavily refined sugar are suspect, including fruit juice, which is essentially refined fructose. People think that fruit juice is “healthy” because it comes from fruit, which is a plant and therefore “natural” and “good for you,” unlike, say, sugar, which comes from sugar cane, which is… also a plant. Or HFCS, which is totally unnatural because it comes from… corn. Which is a plant.

“They actually did studies on the sugar plantations back in the early 1900s. All of the workers were healthy and lived longer than the sugar executives who got the refined, processed product.”

I don’t know if I agree with everything he has to say, but refined fructose is no more natural than any other refined sugar. Again, the amount of sugar you get from eating an apple is very different from the amount you get from a cup of apple juice.

Now people are talking about reducing childhood obesity by eliminating the scourge of 100% fruit juice:

Excessive fruit juice consumption is associated with increased risk for obesity… sucrose consumption without the corresponding fiber, as is commonly present in fruit juice, is associated with the metabolic syndrome, liver injury, and obesity.

Regular fruit is probably good for you. Refined is not.

Here’s another study on the problems with fructose:

If calcium levels in the blood are low, our bodies produce more parathyroid hormone, stimulating the absorption of calcium by the kidneys, as well as the production of vitamin D (calcitriol), also in the kidneys. Calcitriol stimulates the absorption of calcium in the intestine, decreases the production of PTH and stimulates the release of calcium from the bone. …

… Ferraris fed rats diets with high levels of glucose, fructose or starch. He and his team studied three groups of lactating rats and three groups of non-pregnant rats (the control group).

“Since the amounts of calcium channels and of binding proteins depend on the levels of the hormone calcitriol, we confirmed that calcitriol levels were much greater in lactating rats,” said Ferraris.  … “However, when the rat mothers were consuming fructose, there were no increases in calcitriol levels,” Ferraris added. “The levels remained the same as those in non-pregnant rats, and as a consequence, there were no increases in intestinal and renal calcium transport.”

You then have two options: food cravings until you eat enough to balance the nutrients, or strip bones of calcium. This is what triggers tooth decay.

Sugar not only feeds the bacteria on your teeth (I think), it also weakens your teeth to pay the piper for sugar digestion. (Also, there may be something about sugar-fed bacteria lowering the pH in your mouth.)

The second thing that happens is your taste buds acclimate to excessive sugar. Soon “Sweet” tastes “normal.”

Now when you try to stop eating sugar, normal food tastes “boring” “sour” “bitter” etc.
This is where you just have to bite the bullet and cut sugar anyway. If you keep eating normal food, eventually it will start tasting good again.

It just takes time for your brain to change its assumptions about what food tastes like.
But if you keep sweetening your food with “artificial” sweeteners, then you never give yourself a chance to recalibrate what food should taste like. You will keep craving sugar.
And it is really hard to stop eating sugar and let your body return to normal when you crave sugar.

If artificial sweeteners help you reduce sugar consumption and eventually stop using it altogether, then they’re probably a good idea, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re going to get just as much cake and ice cream as always, just it won’t have any consequences anymore. No. Nature doesn’t work like that. Nature has consequences.

So I feel like I’ve been picking on fructose a lot in this post. I didn’t mean to. I am suspicious of all refined sugars; these are just the sources I happened across while researching today.

I am not sure about honey. I don’t eat a lot of honey, but maybe it’s okay. The Hadza of Tanzania eat a great deal of honey and they seem fine, but maybe they’re adapted to their diet in ways that we aren’t.

So what happens when you eat too much sugar? Aside from, obviously, food cravings, weight gain, mineral depletion, and tooth decay…

So here’s a theory:

Our bodies naturally cycle between winter and summer states. At least they do if you hail from a place that historically had winter; I can’t speak for people in radically different climates.

In the summer, plant matter (carbohydrates, fiber,) are widely available and any animal that can takes as much advantage of this as possible. As omnivores, we gorge on berries, leaves, fruits, tubers, really whatever we can. When we are satiated–when we have enough fat stores to last for the winter–our bodies start shutting down insulin production. That’s enough. We don’t need it anymore.

In the winter, there’s very little plant food naturally available, unless you’re a farmer (farming is relatively recent in areas with long winters.)

In the winter, you hunt animals for meat and fat.This is what the Inuit and Eskimo did almost all year round.

The digestion of meat and fat does not require insulin, but works on the ketogenic pathways which, long story short, also turn food into energy and keep people alive.

The real beauty of ketosis is that, apparently, it ramps up your energy production–that is, you feel physically warmer when running entirely off of meat and fat than when running off carbs. Given that ketosis is the winter digestive cycle, this is amazingly appropriate.

By spring, chances are you’ve lost a lot of the weight from last summer. Winters are harsh. With the fat gone, the body starts producing insulin again.

At this point, you go from hyperglycemia (too much sugar in your bloodstream if you eat anything sweet, due to no insulin,) to hypoglycemia–your body produces a lot of insulin to transform any plants you eat into energy FAST. (Remember the discussion above about how your body transforms fructose into fat? Back in our ancestral environment, that was a feature, not a bug!)

This lets you put on pounds quickly in the spring and summer, using now-available plants as your primary food source.

The difficulty with our society is we’ve figured out how to take the energy part out of the plants, refine it, and store up huge quantities of it so we can eat it any time we want, which is all the time.

Evolution makes us want to eat, obviously. Ancestors who didn’t have a good “eat now” drive didn’t eat whatever good food was available and didn’t become ancestors.

But now we’ve hacked that, and as a result we never go into the sugar-free periods we were built to occasionally endure.

I don’t think you need to go full keto or anti-bread or something to make up for this. Just cutting down on refined sugars (and most refined oils, btw) is probably enough for most people.

Note: Humans have been eating grains for longer than the domestication of plants–there’s a reason we thought it was a good idea to domesticate grains in the first place, and it wasn’t because they were a random, un-eaten weed. If your ancestors ate bread, then there’s a good chance that you can digest bread just fine.

But if bread causes you issues, then by all means, avoid it. Different people thrive on different foods.

Please remember that this thread is speculative.

AND FOR GOODNESS SAKES DON’T PUT SUGAR IN FRUIT THINGS. JAM DOES NOT NEED SUGAR. NEITHER DOES PIE.

IF YOU ARE USING DECENT FRUIT THEN YOU DON’T NEED SUGAR. THE ONLY REASON YOU NEED SUGAR IS IF YOUR FRUIT IS CRAP. THEN JUST GO EAT SOMETHING ELSE.

 

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9 thoughts on “Sugar

  1. Years ago I did a personal experiment. I went for weeks without consuming any sort of modified sugar. No drinks with sugar no fruit juice only natural foods I guess you would call it in their natural state.

    A man about four weeks in a roll of spree, which are basically just fruity sugar tablets.

    And that whole day I was flying around, I felt so good I was talking with everyone I was laughing telling jokes have been probably the best time of my life I felt so good.

    And then the next day when I woke up my throat was so dry I could barely drink water. And my head was pounding worse than the worst hangover I’ve ever had — and I used to drink a lot on occasion. Lol

    And there was nothing I could do the whole day the matter how much water I drank or aspirin or ibuprofen I took the headache would not go away and my whole body aches all day long and I couldn’t sleep. The night next I barely slept a few hours because I was in such feeling like crap. And then the next day the headache was low enough and it went away.

    That prove to me truly that sugar is probably the best drug there is so far as it makes you feel good. And that our world society is strong out on a legal drug.

    Did you know that I think it was in 1982 or 1984 or something like that the surgeon general of the United States came on TV and talked about sugar and said that if sugar had been discovered in the 20th century it would’ve been a class one scheduled narcotic.

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  2. Humans have evolved to crave sugar. Most of us, at least. For myself I see two possibilities: Crave sugar every day. Or eat the sugar I crave and spend my time and effort on something more useful than suppressing my cravings.

    I was brought up almost sugar-free, or at least on an unusually low-sugar diet. My mother is one of those people who doesn’t tolerate sugar very well. And this, not very surprisingly, makes her think that sugar is bad in general. Therefore she made great efforts to curb my sugar intake as much as she could. My husband was brought up by socially conservative parents who hadn’t really understood the thing with healthy food. Every day he was fed home-baked cinnamon rolls and cookies with home-made sweet syrup drinks. Often several times a day, at weekends and holidays. Everything home made is moral for some people…The result? My husband and me have an almost equal taste for sugar. My parents couldn’t wean me off it. His parents couldn’t condition him to crave it in excess.

    I have tried half-heartedly to stay away from sugar some days. The only result was that I felt more tired. Maybe some people are actually sugar tolerant just like some people are lactose tolerant? Which doesn’t mean it is healthy in very large quantities, of course. A Swedish study some years ago indicated that milk-drinking among middle-aged people is associated with higher mortality and more fractures. https://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6015 Maybe tolerance is no more than tolerance.

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  3. It’s hard for many people to eat too much honey on a regular basis. After you have eaten a lot of honey something about it tends to sicken you when you just think about eating more.There are theories that claim because it is a natural substance that is directly available our (most people’s) bodies have developed a limiter that stops us from constantly eating too much of it but other theories just point to it being harder to digest than refined sugar..

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  4. 1) Robert Lustig is a fatty. He’s not morbidly obese, but before we start taking candies from babies, maybe we should ask the advice of someone who’s actually in shape.
    2) If you read Lustig’s book, he repeatedly says that his own sugar-free diet doesn’t actually actually help you lose weight. In fact, he says that if you’re already fat, you can’t ever lose it except temporarily because you are stuck with your fat cells for good. However, mysteriously he does insist that his diet will help you lose liver fat, which you’ll have to take his word for unless you cough up for a scan.
    3) Lustig says numerous things about fructose that are just not true, that are indeed, so completely easy to disprove that it can only mean he is an ignoramus or deliberately lying.
    4) The historical record of obesity doesn’t really track with the historical record of sugar consumption. However, it does track well with the introduction of all sorts of *foods* like soy and vegetable oils (an industrial product re-marketed as ‘heart-healthy’ in response to technological developments that made them noncompetitive against petroleum products.) In addition, we have witnessed real-time experiments in which primitive tribes have been introduced to starch-based diets and blown up like balloons.

    Now, for an anecdote. I have always been thin and unhealthy, in the sense that I get out of breath if I run for a few minutes. That’s because I’m lazy and don’t exercise. It’s got a bit better recently because I do a bit more exercise. A few years ago, my wife went full-Lustig. I pointed out that none of use were fat, but she pointed out that you can’t see the liver fat that Lustig talks about. Anyway, she does the shopping. Eventually she did further research and we became ‘Peatarians’, which is like Paleo, but with gelatin/offal instead of muscle meat. I have my reservations, but, like I say, she does the shopping. Throughout all of this I remained thin and unhealthy, but there has been one major change. I have always been irritable and prone to anger, especially in the mornings. This got worse during the Lustig phase. Relatively recently, at my wife’s insistence, I started having an orange or some fruit juice first thing in the morning before I even get out of bed. The change has been really remarkable. When I look back on all the stupid arguments I had with my wife because I was overloaded with stress hormones I need to overcome my state of functional starvation* I want to punch Lustig in his fat face, except that I don’t because, like I say, I’m much calmer now.

    *Probably, ultimately a product of a depressed thyroid that I developed in university by eating nothing but bread, hummous and bourbon biscuits that cost 33p a packet.

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