Sugar and Your Health – Good News and Bad News

If you know me, you know that I have been having a struggle with weight my whole life. I love and crave junk food and everyday I try to overcome this. My friend Katherine Peters is a master of living well and when I read her article about food choices, it really resonated with me and I ask her if I could share it with you.

I hope you get as much out of the information as I did.

Hard to Swallow

This past weekend I was head cook at a camp for 60 hungry teens.  We often use past due foods donated by Winnipeg Harvest.  I poured five cartons of whipping cream into the giant mixer.  As it was whipping, I discovered one of the cartons must have been sour.  Oh no!  What would I do?  Throw it all away?  Are you kidding?  I just added about 3 times the amount of icing sugar I would have added, and presto!  It was a huge hit!  Sugar makes everything taste good!

In the 1700’s each person consumed about 2 pounds of sugar per year.  Today the average North American consumes at least 100 pounds of sugar each year.

How much sugar is in one can of pop?  10 teaspoons!  Try pouring 10 teaspoons into a bowl.  Would you eat that with a spoon?  On average, each North American drinks 1.6 cans of pop per day!  Canadians eat about 23 teaspoons of added sugar every day, not including foods that contain sugar.  Add 13 teaspoons to your bowl and eat it!

Sugar is added to 80 percent of all processed foods to make it taste better.  One can of pasta sauce contains 5 teaspoons of sugar.  Chunky Beef soup contains 1 tsp per serving.  Why add sugar to soup???

What’s wrong with a little bit of sugar?  It’s harmless, right????  Warning: The information in this presentation may be Hard to Swallow.

I would like make 3 points today: Sugar is toxic, Sugar is addictive and a Calorie is not a  Calorie.

First you will need to understand the word ‘Metabolism’.  Metabolism is how your body uses or digests food for energy.  If your body was an engine, how efficiently does it burn fuel?

  1. How is sugar toxic?

Firstly, immediately after drinking a sugary drink, your immune system is lowered by 30% for 3 hours.  This means when you come into contact with viruses, which are everywhere, you will be more susceptible to come down with the flu, a cold and other infections.

Secondly, metabolic diseases are proven to be associated with the intake of sugar: The big four are:

  • Type II Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Lipid problems (blood fats)
  • Heart Disease

Other diseases now confirmed to be associated with excess sugar are Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (affects 1/3 of population), polysystic ovarian syndrome (affects 10% of all women), cancer and dementia.

60% of the population is affected by these Metabolic Diseases, but only 30% of the population is obese.  These diseases account for 75% of all Health Care Expenditures.  This is an epidemic.  This epidemic is beyond personal responsibility.

Visceral fat (the fat beneath the muscles compacted around the organs), not subcutaneous fat (fat beneath the skin) was found to be correlated with metabolic diseases.  A person who is not obese can have visceral fat from eating too much sugar due to the way sugar is metabolized by the liver only.  They can be just as much at risk as someone who is obese.

A number of studies have been conducted on fructose which highlights its potential to cause insulin resistance, obesity and metabolic syndrome.  As a consequence, despite its low glycaemic index, it is generally not advised to be consumed liberally. Large doses of fructose are associated with liver damage said to be equivalent to that seen in alcoholics.

How is sugar Addictive?  How is it we are eating more than we are supposed to?  We need food for survival, so how could food be an addiction?  Alcohol and fructose are ‘not food’.  They are non nutrients; they are non-essential for survival.  They are toxic ‘anti-foods’.

Sugar Stimulates the pleasure centre in the brain and dopamine is released.  Within 3 weeks, of eating sugar your body builds up a tolerance to suagr.  The pleasure receptors decrease and you need more to get the same sugar high.

Sugar makes you feel good and gives you a craving for more sugar.  Sugar is characteristic of binging, craving and withdrawal.  Sugar is addictive.

What can you do?  Each one of us can decide what goes into our mouths.  You are your own Nutritional Gatekeeper.  I hope the information I am touching on today will help us make better choices.  See attached food choices document.

  1. A calorie is not a calorie.  Not all calories are created equal.

We have been taught: all you need to do is eat 2000 calories, and burn 2000 calories in one day.  If you eat more than you burn, you gain weight.  If you eat less than you burn, you lose weight.  Let me explain why that is not true.

There are 2 kinds of carbohydrates:

Complex Carbs:  These include sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, and beans, whole grains, barley, potatoes, and vegetables.  Complex carbs improve digestion and provide you with energy.  Your body metabolizes carbs as glucose, which is essential for your cells for physical energy, mental energy and to run essential functions in your organs you don’t even think about.  80% of these carbs go directly to your body.  Only 20% goes to your liver and is stored for immediate ready-to-use-energy in the form of glycogen.  They digest slowly and keep you satisfied in between meals and stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing you from getting hungry.

Simple Carbs: White sugar and white flour metabolize differently in the body than complex carbs.  They break down quickly with a huge release of insulin sending our blood sugar levels out of control.  Fructose is 100% metabolized by the liver and turns directly into belly fat.  Fructose strains your liver and is comparable to alcohol in its effects.  Fructose drives all the metabolic diseases.

If you eat less, exercise more, it doesn’t work.  You need to feed your body nutritious food and stay away from sugar.  A calorie is not a calorie.

Leptin is responsible to send a message to your brain telling you you are full.  It limits what you eat, and lets you exercise.  Obese people have high levels of leptin, but they develop leptin resistance.  So leptin stops doing its job.  Why does Leptin not work today, but it used to work 30 years ago?  Insulin makes fat.  Insulin drives weight gain.  By eating too much sugar, your body creates too much insulin.  This turns your food into fat instead of energy, and makes you feel lazy, so you eat more.  Insulin blocks leptin at the brain, and makes you hungry.  You store ‘energy’ as fat, and you are hungrier.  So you eat more.  All the problems come from excess insulin which comes from too much sugar, which is so readily available in our North American diet.

A friend told me this story:  he drank 3 super sized Big Gulps in the space of 2 hours.  Instead of feeling full, he still wanted more.  He could see his stomach was distended, and he felt uncomfortable, but instead of satisfying his needs, he craved more.  Leptin was blocked by the release of insulin and couldn’t tell me he was full.

Fruit is a simple carb.  It is high in fructose, glucose and sucrose.  It is easily digestible.  Why is fruit as a simple carb with all that sugar still recommended?  Fruit comes with its own antidote for the high amount of sugar it contains.  That antidote is fiber.  Fiber slows down the digestion process so insulin does not spike.  When you drink fruit juice, the fiber is removed.  The simple sugar in fruit juice is just as harmful as the sugar in pop!  Don’t drink it!

Chemical Sweeteners play tricks with your metabolism.  Your taste buds tell your brain there is a sweet load on the way.  But it never comes.  Your body is now opened up for an even bigger load of sugar and craves it until it gets it.  Don’t fool yourself with ‘zero calorie sweeteners.’

Over Christmas, I got hooked on little squares of Dark Chocolate.  Dark Chocolate is supposed to be ‘a healthier alternative to other sweets.  It became so I needed that chocolate.  In fact, if I felt a headache coming on, 7 little squares of chocolate would chase that headache away.  There are 3 tsp of sugar in 7 squares.  I also got sick with the flu.  I usually don’t get sick – ever!  That was it.  I went cold turkey and put those little squares far away.

The question today is ‘What changes will you make to improve your health?’


I’m trying, Katherine, everyday I keep trying and I think I’m getting there!  Thanks for the inspiration.

Steph  🙂


Stephanie Staples, CSP* is the author of When Enlightening Strikes – Creating a Mindset for Uncommon Success and an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker. She empowers audiences & clients across North America to bring their ‘A’ game to work and to life. Stephanie has a special interest in working with and empowering nurses and healthcare providers. She happily calls Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada home. You can get loads of complimentary resources to help with issues such as work/life balance, wellness, stress management and happiness in general, as well as find out more information about her coaching and speaking services at * Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), conferred by the National Speakers Association is the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform proficiency. Less than 10 percent of speakers have earned this credential and are recognized as some of the best in their fields. Stephanie was one of only five professional speakers in Canada (and the only woman) to attain this designation in 2013. – See more at:


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