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Posted by Grant on March 25th, 2013
Story-At-A-Glance

* Sugar is metabolized in your body both as a carbohydrate and a fat. Glucose is metabolized as a carbohydrate into your blood stream but then it is stored as fat. Fructose is metabolized in your liver and it too is turned into a fat. This is why sugar makes us fat

* The average person in North America eats 167 grams of sugar per day, up from an average of 6 grams per day 100 years ago. My Normal Weight recommends no more than 50 grams per day, or 30 grams if you are trying to lose weight, with none from refined sugar

* Every time we eat sugar or carbohydrates, we spike our insulin. Continuous insulin spiking leads to insulin resistance which leads to leptin resistance which leads to type II diabetes. Do you know how much sugar you are eating?

 

Conclusion: sugar is a definite smoking gun when it comes to your health. It is also very addictive and pleasing to our palate making it difficult to say no, but you will be far healthier if you do.

 

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 How Sugar is Metabolized, and Why YOU Should Care

sugar

Sugar is metabolized in your body both as a carbohydrate and as a fat. Once in your digestive tract, sugar hydrolyzes into fructose and glucose. Glucose starts out as a carbohydrate, but is quickly stored as a fat. Fructose is metabolized through your liver, and mostly converted to a fat. 

Glucose

Once glucose is in your digestive tract, a small portion is stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. This is what our body draws on for it's short term energy needs. The remainder of the glucose, upwards of 80%, goes to the blood stream to avail itself to any and all cells in your body. Every cell requires glucose to survive, which is why our blood sugar levels are so important.

I don't know why our bodies are made the way they are, but too high of blood sugar and our bodies become hyperglycemic, too low and we become hypoglycemic. Both are very dangerous and have lasting negative effects including death. This means our blood sugars have to be held in balance at all times for us not to become sick. Fortunately, we have insulin. This is our bodies control mechanism to maintain a perfect blood sugar balance, that is if we haven't become insulin resistant, meaning our body has lost it's ability to control insulin.

sugar in cereal

When we eat carbohydrates, blood sugars rise and insulin is released. This sets up a chain of events that puts our bodies into fat storage mode. 

The outer membrane of the fat cell is porous. Glucose and fatty acid molecules are small enough to freely enter and exit through this outer membrane. When insulin is raised, even slightly, it activates the enzyme LSL, which in turn tells glucose and fatty acids to enter the fat cell where they are joined together to form a triglyceride (fat). This newly formed fat molecule is too big to escape through the fat cells outer membrane. This is why our bodies go into fat storage mode when we eat carbohydrates, it is our bodies way of lowering blood sugar levels so we don't become hyperglycemic. Our bodies stay in fat storage mode until insulin returns to a normal level.

Fat cells have an enormous capacity to hold triglycerides, think of a balloon, the more fats they store, the bigger they get, and so do we. Every time we go to fat storage mode, fat cells are called upon to store triglycerides. How often do you tell you fat cells to store fat?

Note, this cycle of insulin release and fat storage does not happen when we eat protein, or fat, only when we eat carbohydrates. When carbohydrates are eaten with a protein, or a fat (also fiber), it slows down how quickly the glucose is converted to blood sugars, this lessens the amount of insulin needed to combat the increase in blood sugar, but insulin is still required, which starts the cycle of fat storage outlined in the previous paragraph.

treats

*** It has been proven that even thinking of eating something sweet will instigate insulin to release, it is that sensitive.

When insulin levels return to normal, LSL enzymes are told to stand down, and now a new enzyme, HSL, is activated. HSL's role is to ensure we do not become hypoglycemic from too little blood sugar, these enzymes tell the triglycerides inside the fat cell to break apart into glucose and fatty acids. Glucose will then escape through the outer membrane back of the cell into the blood stream for use where it is needed.

Our bodies are always burning energy (glucose), even at complete rest, and our blood stream is the delivery method for this energy. Glucose being released from storage in fat cells is how we make through fasting periods, like when we sleep, without running out of blood sugar. 

As mentioned earlier, we have short term storage in the liver and muscles, these are used first when we require glucose. 
It is only after these sources are depleted that your body will use the fat stored in the adipose tissue (stomach, organs, buttocks). But guess what? Unless you exercise like crazy, or fast for a very very long time, you almost never deplete the glycogen in your liver and muscles. That is why losing even 5 pounds of fat can take a lot of work and why it is best to avoid storing fat in your adipose tissue in the first place. The best way to avoid this is to reduce the amount of carbohydrates you eat.

Glucose stored in the fat cells in your adipose tissue is your bodies long term storage. This is the mechanism humans had to survive long winters when food would become scarce. Fruit and other starchy vegetables were abundant in the fall allowing us to fatten up by storing excess glucose in our adipose tissue for when we needed it.

visceral fat storage
picture from www.examiner.com

*** The key note to remember about glucose, even though it is metabolized as a carbohydrate, it is stored as a fat.

Our bodies were not designed to repeatedly spike insulin throughout the day, day after day, week after week... This happens every time we eat sugar, 
starchy carbohydrates or grains. Eventually, our body loses it's ability to control insulin, this is called insulin resistance, and it leads to type II diabetes. The way to determine if your body is becoming insulin resistant, is to have your fasting insulin checked along with fasting glucose and A1C.

  Ideal Range Cautious Seek help
Fasting Insulin 2-3 4-5 >10
Fasting Glucose 75-85 90-100 >110
A1C <5.7 5.7-6.5 >6.5
These ranges are our recommendations from our reading and researching. Please consult your results with your physician, or if you are planning any dietary changes.

 

Fructose

The only organ in your body which will deal with fructose is your liver. After eating sugar, approximately 20% of the glucose from the sugar is being processed by your liver, so it is already doing some work. Now it has to deal with 100% of the fructose.

Your liver will turn a small amount of fructose into glycogen, while the rest get’s processed as a byproduct. The worst of these byproducts is VLDL, this stands for very low density lipoprotein. It is mainly made of a triglyceride (fat) which is bound to the VLDL. You may not have heard of VLDL but you should.

ldl vs hdl
image from www.the6thfloor.com

You probably have heard of LDL or low density lipoprotein, it is referred to by many as the “bad” cholesterol. HDL, or high density lipoprotein is the “good” cholesterol. Our bodies require these two cholesterols for many key functions, but what they do not need is VLDL.

LDL measured during your blood panel is a large buoyant lipoprotein. It circulates throughout your body for when it is needed. VLDL does not register in the standard cholesterol panel, it requires a specific test. The VLDL molecule is small enough that it can get into your artery walls, whereas the large buoyant LDL type cannot. When VLDL get’s into your arteries, it thickens the walls, constricting the passage of blood. This leads to hypertension or high blood pressure. Since VLDL is mainly a fat (triglyceride), what doesn’t get stuck in the arteries gets stored as visceral fat, which is the deadliest kind of fat for us humans to have. Visceral fat stores around your organs and adipose tissue. It is the main cause for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease which, if you haven’t heard, is growing at an alarming rate. 

Odds are someone young is observing your habits, or you may be in control of their diet. Based on the information above, and knowing that type II diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is on an alarming increase (even in children), ,you may really want to think about how much sugar you eat, and how much sugar you allow children to eat, or drink. See our blog post "Dont Drink you Calories" for more on this.

Key References:
Gary Taubes - "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and "Why We Get Fat"
Robert Lustig - "Fat Chance"



Category: Blog Articles

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  • Posted by john on June 17th, 2013 at 6:48 p.m.
    Hi Grant, You said, "I wish there was a trigger for telling the body to use visceral fat first. I'm sure researchers are working on a drug for on it but anything which alters our natural body function doesn't seem right to me." From what I understand, the hormone HCG will do this quite well, for a limited time period - ask Marsha. I love your blog. Alot of good info.
  • Posted by Grant on April 1st, 2013 at 6:44 a.m.
    I wish there was a trigger for telling the body to use visceral fat first. I'm sure researchers are working on a drug for on it but anything which alters our natural body function doesn't seem right to me. Unless you have a disease where you body has lost it's ability to function. I'm not a fan of starvation diets either. Eating a balance of carb's / proteins / fats is important instead of today's normal of ~50%+ of carbohydrates. If you are trying to lose weight, limit fruit to 2-3 servings a day and use portion control but make sure you are eating enough healthy fats, like saturated fats in meat and dairy, and nuts and seeds. Do not eat any trans fats. If you eat fats with your carb's, it will lower the glycemic load. For instance if you eat oatmeal (not a good idea when trying to lose weight, but) put 2-3 tablespoons of Marsha's Power Punch onto it and cut the amount of oatmeal. The fats from the nuts and seeds will help slow the digestion of the carb's so you won't get as high of an insulin spike. And the there is great fiber in the nuts and seeds. Eating lots of natural fiber (soluble and insoluble) is also key for weight loss and for your health. Remember, for most people it took a long time for the weight gain to happen, so I believe we should expect it to take at least a little while for it to come off. And, if you take sugar, grains, and starchy carbs out of being a staple in your diet then over time your body will reshape itself!
  • Posted by Bella on March 30th, 2013 at 10:45 a.m.
    Great information. May we go further? How to trigger (trick) your body to lose fat before losing muscles? What, if there is no direct consumption of sugar, limit amount of fruits (fresh only) and controlled calories intake (<1400) with primarily protein, veggies and good curbs and fats(nuts), does not prompt body to lose weight, but store fat. Any break through thoughts? Once body is at the level of metabolizing these foods, could not find a “shuck” to move weight loss from “dead” spot.