Sugar is not your friend


There was an article in the Times recently about sugar being a toxin. (I’ll link to it here, but the Times now has its Gottverdammt “paywall” in place, so you may or may not be able to access the link. Sorry.)



Yes, you heard me. Sugar is a toxin.



The article actually explained this, in terms that a semi-educated blockhead like me could understand.



In short: not all carbohydrates are metabolized in the same way.



Your body wants glucose for energy. It gets a lot of glucose from metabolizing starch from food like potatoes, and grains, and other plant foods. Starches are basically long chains of glucose molecules. Yum! your body says, and takes the starch apart into its constituent glucose molecules. It has lots of ways of doing this; even saliva does it, a little. Since (up to very recently in human history) most of our glucose intake was in the form of starch, our bodies have evolved very neatly to perform this task.



Sugars are a little different. Sucrose – table sugar – is a double molecule: one molecule of glucose, one of a different sugar called fructose, linked together. Glucose is an all-purpose molecule, and can be metabolized pretty much anywhere in your body. Fructose can only be processed in one place: the liver.



And here our troubles begin.



Sucrose is half fructose, as I said. And I’m sure you’ve heard of “high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS), which is cheap to make, and is actually sweeter than regular sugar. Well, now let’s say you have a nice Snickers bar. Right away you’re flooding your system with a burst of glucose, which sends your poor pancreas into conniptions, so it sends out a lot of insulin to help regulate the glucose metabolism process. And then, of course, there’s all that fructose heading for your liver for processing.



If this goes on too much, it leads to a condition called “fatty liver.”



Also – delightful! – with so much insulin washing around in your system all the time, your body’s cells can become what’s called “insulin-resistant.” Your pancreas pours out insulin all the time, but it’s not accomplishing what it’s supposed to do.



Related conditions: obesity, obviously. “Metabolic syndrome,” a risk factor in heart disease and diabetes. And, more recently, a very distinct link to some kinds of cancer.






Solution: eat less sweet stuff. Mostly plants, as Michael Pollan says.



No problem, baby. I love sweet potatoes and black beans.



You can just call me Mister Health.




About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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