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The Role of Sugar in Type 2 Diabetes

Receiving a phone call from your physician telling you that you have type 2 diabetes can be one of the most terrifying and life changing experiences. This situation was all too true for Janet, who was struggling with her weight and a stress-eating habit for years. As a nurse working long hours, she often drank soda to power her through her day, relied on fast food because she was often too tired to prepare her meals, and found it difficult to fit in regular activity. Many Americans are like Janet – justifying daily indulgences, while gradually watching their waistline expand. Some, like Janet, may develop type 2 diabetes with weight gain being an important contributing factor. Some studies suggest refined sugar, like the sugar in Janet’s soda, may be a significant contributor to weight gain and diabetes, among other health issues.

Obesity affects half of all adults and one-sixth of all children in the United States, and these staggering statistics continue to rise. Among contributing factors such as lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits, sugar may also contribute to obesity, and is ubiquitous in our food supply. Sugar is often consumed as a natural part of many foods, such as fruit, dairy, and many grains, and as additions to food during production, processing, and packaging. It has been argued that the sweetness of sugar makes food more palatable, which the industry has capitalized on by adding sugar to normally non-sweetened foods to enhance taste. Sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, may be especially problematic. Evidence suggests that the body may not provide the same fullness response to some liquid calories than it does with solid food. Excessive consumption of sugar in both beverages and foods, combined with decrease in exercise and/or daily movement, poor sleep habits, and excess stress may lead to an energy imbalance that may result in weight gain.

While obesity is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes, not all obese individuals develop diabetes. Visceral fat (an apple-type body shape) is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, while peripheral fat (a pear type body shaped) is not. One reason is because visceral fat is accumulated in liver and muscle cells, where it directly impairs their ability to metabolize sugar. Peripheral fat is neatly contained in fat cells and does not always impair the health of liver and muscle cells. Genetics seem to influence how fat is stored in the body, but so does the form of carbohydrate consumed. Studies on animals, which are valuable and can provide important information, but may not always yield the same results in humans, have found that diets supplemented with sugar lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, while those containing primarily starch from foods like potatoes, squash, rice, and pasta did not. As with all topics, opinions may differ. Fructose, a type of carbohydrate in sugar, but not starch, is thought to be a reason why diabetes may develop from sugar ingestion. In addition to sugar’s contribution to obesity, which may contribute to the increase of risk of type 2 diabetes, sugar may directly contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, as well.

With the correlation of sugar consumption and potential link to development of obesity and type 2 diabetes, which may also affect heart health, it’s not surprising that the American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to 100 calories daily for women and 150 for men. Let’s return to the story of Janet. After the shock of her diagnosis wore off, Janet knew she needed to take control of her health. Janet has started taking regular breaks to walk outside instead of relying on her afternoon super-sized soda to provide her with an energy boost during her 12-hour days. Working with her doctor and a registered dietitian, she also learned to prepare her meals with lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of vegetables, instead of relying on the drive-thru for dinner. She also armed herself with fresh, healthy snacks to avoid the vending machines at work. Janet took control of her health and so can you. Take control of yours this holiday season and limit your indulgences in sugary treats and junk food. Focus on putting healthy foods and beverages into your body that will bring about better health and well-being.

By Amy Kurtz BA, BS, CI-CPT, Certified Health Coach
Genesis PURE Wellness Education Specialist

This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice.

Sugar and Cancer: is there a Connection?

Sugar is villanized, and rightly so, as a significant contributor to our chronic disease health crisis. Many include cancer, the second leading cause of death in the US, among the diseases that may be caused by excessive sugar consumption. Contrary to what is commonly circulated on the internet, however, information from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute state that sugar has not been shown to have a direct role in cancer development. While a direct role has not been well-established, some evidence suggests there may be a link between sugar and cancer that still warrants consideration.

Many that claim a direct link between sugar and cancer cite evidence that cancer uses glucose, a type of sugar, as its primary fuel source. While evidence from scientific studies does suggest cancer primarily uses glucose, the current scientific opinion is that the glucose did not cause the cancer to form, but the use of glucose as a fuel source is simply an adaptation of all fast growing cells. To support their rapid growth, cancer cells have been shown to alter their processing of glucose to one that doesn’t rely on oxygen. This allows the cell to more quickly convert the glucose into a usable form of energy to support their rapid growth. Glucose didn’t cause the cancer, cancer simply adapted to prefer glucose as a fuel source.

The inevitable question then is, could you starve cancer by depriving it of glucose? Possibly. Unfortunately, all carbohydrate, this includes whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables, is converted into glucose and could be used as fuel for cancer growth. All carbohydrate would need to be eliminated from the diet, not just sugar, to have any notable effect on cancer growth. There is interest in a dietary approach to cancer treatment known as the ketogenic diet which does just that. Following the ketogenic diet, individuals consume primarily meats and oils to avoid carbohydrate. Currently it has not been investigated sufficiently to determine efficacy or safety, however, and it may be difficult for many to follow.

The possible sugar cancer connection may lie in is sugar’s role in the development of obesity. While there are a variety of contributors to obesity, it is generally accepted that excess sugar intake may be a prime contributor to its development. Obesity is estimated to be responsible for 4% of cancer in men and 7% in women according to National Cancer Institute data. There especially seems to be a large correlation between estrogen-positive cancers, like breast and endometrial cancer, and obesity, possibly explaining the larger burden of obesity on cancer development among women. Fat cells release a variety of hormones, one of which is estrogen. The excessive amounts of estrogen produced during obesity may increase the risk of estrogen positive cancers. Other hormones produced by fat cells are also thought to possibly play a role in cancer development.

Type 2 diabetes, an obesity-related disease often associated with excess sugar consumption according to some research, could be a risk factor for many types of cancer and may be another link between sugar and cancer. The reason for this association is not clear; but some evidence suggests that high insulin levels, as well as other metabolic changes associated with diabetes, may contribute to the development and progression of cancer. Type 2 diabetes, and obesity in general, are also associated with increased inflammation in the body, which could also contribute to the development of cancer according to some research.

Looking for additional reasons to kick the sugar habit this holiday season? Remember the potential role of sugar in cancer development. While the delectable holiday treats and feasts may be tempting, eat sugary foods in moderation. In addition to limiting sugar, implement other elements of a healthy lifestyle, such as exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management, to help maintain a healthy weight.


By Ron Beckstrom, MS, RD, HFS
Genesis PURE Product and Research Specialist

This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice.

Halloween Candy Galore! What do you do with all of it?

After all the goblins and ghouls have scoured the neighborhood for every bit of candy they can possibly get their hands on, of course they’re going to want to eat some! And, it’s not just the kids that dip into Halloween sweet stash – it’s the parents, too. So, what do you do with all that candy? Here are five suggestions on how to keep candy consumption by kids and parents within healthy bounds.
 
  • Be proactive – Reduce the amount of candy children receive by limiting the time spent trick or treating. Fun family traditions can limit the amount of time kids spend trick or treating without retaliatory resentment. A festive family dinner during the first hour of trick or treating, a scary movie with friends after knocking a few doors, or a spooky game of Zombies and Humans in the park can all be fun activities to displace some of the hours spent in search of Halloween loot. One benefit of bringing the kids home early is, you can re-gift some of their candy. Consider ditching the pillow case and opting for a smaller basket that looks fuller with less candy.
  • Out of sight – Growing up, holiday treats were stored in a bowl on the kitchen counter and were always depleted by the end of the season. When my mom began storing them in a kitchen cabinet, I usually forgot they were there, and many of the treats were thrown away rather than eaten. Designate a place where the candy will be stored and ensure it is out of plain sight. If you don’t feel your children can exercise discretion when consuming candy, take the liberty of storing it for them on a high shelf or locked cabinet, so you can have greater control over how the candy is eaten.
  • Timing – Control the timing of candy intake. Ensure that candy isn’t consumed before meals. It might reduce the amount of healthy foods consumed. Restricting candy consumption to only certain times of the day, may naturally limit the quantity of candy consumed as well. You may also feel that limiting candy to only certain days of the week (weekends, days starting with “T,” etc.) may be a feasible rule.
  • Amount – Perhaps the most direct way to cut down on candy consumption is to limit it directly. As a child, I recall one friend was allowed to consume two pieces of candy daily. Another was told he had to choose his 15 favorite candies on Halloween night and the rest were thrown away. If you choose to go this route, be careful not to be too restrictive. Children should still have a sense of autonomy and control, perhaps by choosing which candies and when they consume them.
  • Reduce other sugar – Candy isn’t the only source of sugar in a child’s diet. Try and cut back on other sources of sugar throughout the day. Get rid of the juices; limit any syrups, honey, jams, or other sugary topping; cut out desserts or make your child’s daily candy also serve as their dessert; and select recipes that don’t rely on large amounts of sweeteners.
 
By Ron Beckstrom, MS, RD, HFS
Genesis PURE Product and Research Specialist
 
This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice. 

Kick the Sugar Habit

The Genesis PURE “Kick the Sugar Habit” contest is now underway! Sugar habits can surface in many ways and for a variety of reasons. Joey works construction and relies on his 44 oz. soda, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, to get through his day. In the morning, Jackie is usually in a rush; so breakfast, a frappuccino and scone, are bought at the drive-through on the way to work. When work gets stressful, Monica finds herself raiding the front desk candy jar for a sweet treat. Jerry can think of no better way to unwind in the evenings than sitting and watching his favorite TV shows with a bowl of ice cream. No matter your sugar consuming habits, our challenge to you is to be vigilant this Holiday Season about when and why you consume sugar and eliminate any habits that may be contributing to an unhealthy sugar intake.

As Joey clearly demonstrated, soda is the number one contributor of added sugar in the American diet, accounting for nearly one-third of the calories consumed. There no vitamins, minerals, or fiber in most sodas; so these empty calories – more than 1000 if them in Joey’s two 44 oz. drinks – contribute to the already excessive calorie intake of most Americans, and potentially replace other more wholesome foods. If you are like Joey and rely on soda as a source of energy throughout the day, consider replacing it with fruit, whole grains, nuts, or other nutrient-dense sources of calories. Plain yogurt and granola with a banana for breakfast and a rice bowl with chicken and fresh vegetables for lunch would provide just as many calories, but with added protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, as well.

Processed and fast foods are often a crutch of the busy professional and/or parent. Don’t fall into Jackie’s trap and make shopping and meal planning a priority in your life. It may take a bit of time to develop a list of easy and wholesome recipes. Once you do, however, a one-hour shopping trip each week can keep your pantry stocked with the essentials, and meal prep can be quick and easy. Chopped vegies with a peanut butter and honey sandwich can be prepared in five minutes and a bowl of low-sugar, whole-grain cereal takes no more than 1 minute to pour…maybe add thirty seconds for some sliced bananas or peeling a hard-boiled egg. The website eatingwell.com specializes in healthy recipes and even has a free cookbook dedicated to ultra-quick recipes for every meal.

When Monica reaches for a sugary treat to cope with stress at work, she may actually using sugar as a way to self-medicate. Cravings for sugar are a hard-wired response to chronic stress. Numerous scientific studies have documented that stressful situations trigger increased consumption of sugary beverages and sweets. These urges and cues may be independent of actual need for food and could lead to excessive calorie intake and eventually obesity. Perhaps one possible solution for Monica to explore is to proactively manage her stress. A ten minute meditation or walking break, while it may decrease the amount of time she spends at her desk, may do wonders for reducing stress and her cravings for treats. Limiting access to treats may be another helpful solution.

Jerry may possibly be victim of another brain-mediated driver of sugar consumption, pleasure. When sugar is consumed, it increases levels of dopamine and opiates in the brain and, over time, can create hard-wired cravings for sweets. When Jerry relaxes with his bowl of ice cream in the evening, he’s stimulating these pleasure centers of the brain. Jerry consumed enough calories at dinner and yet his body is still telling him to eat, not because of hunger but because of pleasure. Due to the hard-wired cravings, it may take significant time and work before Jerry will be rid of his desire for an evening bowl of ice cream. Exercising in place of watching TV in the evening may be a good alternative. Exercise produces endorphins, a type of opiate that may create similar feelings of pleasure without the extra calories.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting intake of added sugar to no more than 100 calories daily for women and 150 calories daily for men. According to USDA data, the average American is estimated to consume approximately 350 calories of added sugar daily. This is an improvement over the more than 420 calories consumed daily in 1999, but we can do better. Be attentive to how you and your family are eating sugar. Work to reduce the amount you consume, if needed. When you do eat sugar, use it primarily to improve the flavor of nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, nuts, and whole grains rather than eating candy, cakes, or other sugar-laden, yet nutrient-deficient foods.

By Ron Beckstrom, MS, RD, HFS
Genesis PURE Product and Research Specialist



This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice.
 

 

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