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The Science of Sugar

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>> Hi. At this point, we've covered a lot of reasons why we might emotionally eat and some strategies for reducing our tendencies to use food as a coping mechanism to reduce emotional eating. But as we talk about this topic, there's something else we need to discuss. When it comes to cravings or a strong drive to eat a particular food, not all foods are created equal. This is especially true when it comes to foods with added sugars. So what is it about sugar that gives it the potential to be so powerful? To answer that, let's get to know sugar a little better, just enough so that you can help your clients be better informed about the physical and emotional impacts of sugar. To start out, sugar is a form of carbohydrate, one of the macronutrients. There are a few different types of carbohydrates. They include monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides. Monosaccharides, also known as simple sugars, include glucose, fructose, and galactose. These are the smallest units of carbohydrates. Disaccharides consist of two monosaccharides. These include lactose, which comes from dairy, maltose or malt sugar, and sucrose, which is what we recognize as white table sugar. To break it down even further, lactose is made up of a glucose and galactose. Maltose is made up of glucose molecules, and sucrose is made up of one glucose and one fructose. Lastly, there are polysaccharides, which include starch, cellulose, and glycogen. These are made up of long chains of monosaccharides. Now this is more in-depth than you need to remember, but it helps to distinguish between sweetener types that we may be exposed to in the diet as these can impact how we feel and how we respond to them. For example, smaller carbohydrate units are absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly, leading to a quick energy boost. In addition to providing quick boosts of energy sugars can also serve functional purposes from a food production standpoint. They help to activate yeast, act as stabilizers, help to preserve ingredients, balance flavors, and they can affect the texture of a food. As you can imagine, sugar is added to all sorts of foods, including everything from tomato sauce to frozen potatoes. We're probably exposed to it much more than we think. So what happens when we eat sugar? Well, when we digest carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into monosaccharides, those smallest carbohydrate forms, so they can be absorbed into the bloodstream and then used for fuel. Glucose is the body's preferred fuel. All of your cells, particularly those in your brain, require a steady supply of glucose for optimal function. When you eat sugar, glucose is released into your bloodstream. You've probably heard the terms blood sugar or blood glucose, right? These are terms that describe the amount of glucose in the blood. Now to help clear the glucose, the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin. Insulin is a storage hormone that moves glucose from your blood into your cells to be used for energy or taken to the liver to be stored. This means that following a meal, we experienced a spike in our blood glucose levels, meals high in refined carbohydrates, and added sugars lead to a sharper spike in blood glucose levels. Whereas, more balanced meals, high in fiber, lead to more subtle shifts, which allow for better blood glucose control. Otherwise, blood glucose levels might look like a rollercoaster with pronounced peaks and valleys. There are a few problems that can occur with frequent blood glucose spikes. So let's talk about a couple. Number one, in the short term, this can lead to major energy fluctuations throughout the day. In other words, a quick burst of energy followed by a crash, often this crash sends us seeking another quick energy form. So anything with sugar is usually what we reach for. You can see how this can end up creating a cycle of feeling energized one minute, and hungry, tired, craving sweets, and cranky the next minute. In other words, you might feel more emotional. Your body actually gives you both emotional and physical cues that can lead to eating. In the long term, this constant fluctuation overworks the pancreas which may cause it to start producing less insulin. Not only that, but the insulin produced can become less effective. This is called insulin resistance, and it's a major risk factor for weight gain, and of course, type 2 diabetes. Frequent blood sugar spikes increase the likelihood that your body stores excess energy as fat. Again, think about that rollercoaster. Imagine the area under the curve as the propensity to gain weight each time your blood sugar spikes. So what's the key takeaway here? Opting for meals with a mix of protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates rather than eating sugar and simple carbohydrates can help you level off the peaks and valleys during the day. It helps you exit the hunger rollercoaster and weight gain cycle that plagues millions of people. For some emotional eaters, these simple dietary changes are keys to breaking the cycle. Okay, so that was the glucose story. Let's move on to fructose. Fructose is metabolized by the liver where some of it is converted to fat. Now unlike glucose, fructose doesn't stimulate the secretion of leptin which is the hormone that tells us that we're full. So our brains don't get that message and we keep eating. One of the most popular forms of sweeteners used in the food industry is high-fructose corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup is produced through a synthetic process that essentially converts some of the glucose in corn syrup into fructose. High-fructose corn syrup is typically sweeter and less expensive than glucose. So food manufacturers tend to prefer it because it can lower their costs. Many people think it has played a major role in creating the obesity epidemic. Before we move on, I'd like to take a minute here for a public service announcement for fresh fruit. Mother Nature packaged the fructose in fruit with an abundance of fiber, water, and phytonutrients. Fruit can be a source of both insoluble and soluble fiber which feeds the friendly flora in your gut, keeps you full and cleans your intestines. So the fructose in fresh fruit is not the same as the processed fructose in manufactured foods. Now that we understand a bit about how sugar is metabolized, let's get back to why you're here. What is it about sugar that makes it so craveable? Well, first of all, we're all programmed to like sugar. Back in the caveman days, we needed this drive towards sugar to survive. We were drawn to high energy foods like sugar and grains to store fat in preparation for winter. Children's preference for sweet foods may even have an evolutionary benefit because they know that sweet foods are safe versus foods that are more bitter or acidic, which might indicate unsafe foods. In addition to being predisposed to enjoying sweet flavors, sugar impacts chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. In particular, it affects some of the neurotransmitters associated with feeling good. In other words, it affects your happy brain chemicals, including dopamine, serotonin, and beta-endorphin. When we eat sugar, we produce these feel-good hormones, and when we're feeling down, we're more likely to seek sugar containing foods that make us feel happier. Of course, there are many non-diet related ways to increase levels of these feel-good hormones, like exercising. Over time, people who consume high amounts of sugar can end up having a dulled response to sweet foods. The body doesn't produce the same amount of feel-good chemicals as it did when it was first exposed, and it may increase the desire for more sugar. Does all this mean that you need to avoid all forms of sugar for the rest of your life? The answer is no. I want you to keep bio-individuality in mind here, but if you feel like your relationship with sugar is unhelpful, you should know that there are other options to explore. I'll cover them briefly here, but you can find more detail on each of these in the handout and the done-for-you called Crowd Out Sugar One Step at a Time included in this module. The first category is natural sugar alternatives. Natural sugar alternatives include raw honey, maple syrup, dates and date sugar, coconut sugar, agave nectar, and brown rice syrup. Unlike refined sugar, these sweeteners may also contain small amounts of vitamins, minerals, or enzymes. You shouldn't really consider them significant sources of any of these things, but they do have more nutritional value than white sugar. For some clients, crowding out sugar with these alternatives might be all they need to break their sugar cycles. Other clients might not feel much or any difference. This comes down to trial and error for each client and it's very bio-individual. If a natural sugar alternative triggers cravings in a client, it might be best to crowd it out of the diet regardless of the health halo that might surround it. Other sweeteners you might encounter are stevia, monk fruit, sugar alcohols, like sorbitol, xylitol, and erythritol, and artificial sweeteners, like saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose. Stevia and monk fruit are very low-calorie sweeteners made from plants. They are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, so typically only a small amount is needed. Next sugar alcohols, these are no-calorie sweeteners because they leave the body undigested, which means they don't have an impact on blood glucose levels. Of course, they may not work for everyone, and they may cause digestive distress for some individuals when consumed in large amounts. But again, we're bio-individual, and it's important to listen to our bodies. Stevia, monk fruit, and sugar alcohols are often helpful in breaking the cycle of sugar addiction because they often don't stimulate as many cravings for more. Last but not least, we have artificial sweeteners, like saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose. Research shows that artificial sweeteners may be even worse than sugar in that they adversely affect gut health, glucose tolerance, and can increase risk for weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. According to Dr. Mark Hyman artificial sweeteners affect our brain chemistry and metabolism, they stimulate our taste buds and trick them into thinking we're eating real sugar. Artificial sweeteners can be thousands of times sweeter than sugar, so our bodies get confused and rev up production of insulin, the fat storage hormone. As a result, we can become hungry more quickly and are more likely to overeat, especially carbs. Some clients who struggle with emotional eating may turn to artificially sweetened foods and beverages to help manage their weight. But as you can see, this may actually compound the problem. How might you approach and educate clients who have used artificial sweeteners for years, even decades, without making them feel judged? How might you work with them to explore alternatives while keeping the bigger picture of greater health in mind? All right, so let's review. Today, we talked about the types of carbohydrates, monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides, what happens when we eat sugar, including the insulin response, and how sugar affects our neurotransmitters. And finally, we talked about alternate forms of sugar that you're likely to encounter and some valuable information about them. I hope you enjoyed getting to know the science of sugar. Thanks for joining me today. Continue to connect in the Facebook group, and I'll see you again soon.

Video Details

Duration: 14 minutes and 40 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
Genre: None
Views: 5
Posted by: integrativenutrition on Mar 14, 2019

The Science of Sugar

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