Sugar Addiction

 

(or How I Got So Fat)

As adults, most of us have ignored the warning not to eat too much sugar. We usually pay more attention to how many calories or grams of fat we put into our body. In my case, this mistake resulted in significant weight gain—until I learned the true cost, and the way out, of sugar addiction.

Most low-calorie and low-fat foods are loaded with sugars, including sucrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup and milk sugars such as lactose and maltose. Contrary to popular opinion, these foods do not facilitate weight loss. In fact, I call them "grocery-store fat traps."

Looking at my own eating habits, I was shocked to learn that I was consuming sugar every time I put something into my mouth. Whether I was drinking a "sports drink," eating a "health food" bar, enjoying a bagel or even lunching on Campbell's soup, I was consuming some type of detrimental sugar that was causing my body to hold fat rather than burn it. This was the obesity link I had been looking for. My fat gain had nothing to do with excess calories or too many grams of "bad" fat. Instead, it had everything to do with grocery-store fat traps and their detrimental effect on my blood sugar and insulin levels.

Insulin is the nutrient taxi. When you consume sugar, carbohydrates and protein, your pancreas releases the hormone into your bloodstream to escort blood sugar (aka blood glucose) and other nutrients into the muscle cells, where it will be used for fuel and revitalization. Too much insulin, however, can be detrimental.

Processed foods that contain massive amounts of simple carbohydrates (almost anything served out of a window, package or box) elicit the drastic release of insulin. This sets a metabolic nightmare into motion. Surging insulin levels tell the body to store fat and instead use blood glucose for fuel. That process cripples fat metabolism by shutting off the metabolic reactions called lypolysis and thermogenesis.

Lypolysis is the conversion of fat to work. Thermogenesis is the conversion of fat to heat. Without them, fat is stored—typically in the abdomen—and cannot be used for energy. The fat-promoting nature of insulin explains why attempts to lose fat via exercise and trendy diets are usually only successful for the short term. Fat loss is simply being "blocked" by excess insulin. But that's not all. Excess insulin also causes hormonal systems that regulate muscle growth, sex drive, appetite, mood, energy and even fertility to be thrown out of whack. This metabolic imbalance is usually perpetuated by a sugar addiction that accompanies excess insulin. This explains why many people who are obese or who suffer from type 2 diabetes feel helpless when it comes to fat gain. They are being driven by a sugar addiction that is conducive to fat gain day in and day out. Since, in the sugar addiction cycle, the body is burning glucose for energy and storing fat, it continually screams for more sugar to meet its energy needs. Without sugar, the obese tend to become edgy, depressed, weak and tired.

Soda, juice, bottled coffee, cereal, beer, and candy manufacturers have built empires around such addictions. This is the metabolic nightmare our parents innately feared when they told us, "Don't eat too much sugar." Sugar addicts are headed toward more treacherous health problems than just obesity. They may be accelerating their own deaths.

When Obesity Becomes Life Threatening

If habitual consumption of excess sugar continues, the metabolic imbalance can turn into a living hell. For one thing, the excess insulin numbs muscle cells to its presence, so that they no longer absorb glucose or other essential nutrients from the bloodstream. Unable to gain entry into muscle cells, glucose accumulates in the blood, and the cells become old prematurely. Sugar levels can rise to over 115 (normal is 85 to 95). Over time, high blood-sugar and insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance, also called metabolic syndrome, or to type 2 diabetes.

Recognizing the rise in blood glucose, the pancreas attempts to curtail the danger with yet more insulin production. Or worse, physicians may prescribe insulin injections or symptom-masking drugs like Januvia (sitagliptin phosphate) that further promote production of the hormone. Either way, the bloodstream becomes toxic with excessive amounts of sugar and insulin. Insulin resistance begins to take its toll on the body, and obesity becomes life threatening. The blood sugar and insulin overload can lead to the clinical diagnoses of depression, premature aging of the skin, hypertension and eventually the pandemic killers— heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Insulin resistance is the health crisis of this century. Currently, 25 percent of the American population suffers from it, and the rate is climbing. One in three people born in the year 2000 are predicted to succumb to it. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that will equate to a loss, on average, of eleven to twenty years of life.

This process is suicide in slow motion, and most people have no idea that they are in it. The symptoms of the metabolic nightmare may not appear for at least seven to ten years. Over this time, the effects can build and become irreversible. But if it is caught early, the insidious outcome can be prevented.

Top Blood Tests to Identify HIGH BLOOD SUGAR

The best way to find out if you're at risk for blood-sugar related conditions such as diabetes is to get your blood tested. Three simple blood tests can tell with reasonable certainty whether or not you're at risk.

First, test your fasting blood sugar. First thing in the morning, go to a blood lab and have them draw blood, or self-administer a test purchased at a grocery store. A normal level is 85 to 95 mg/dL. If yours is higher than that, your blood sugar is elevated. Keep in mind, however, that the reading is only a snapshot. Elevated blood sugar doesn't always mean you're at risk, nor does a normal reading mean you're in the clear.

Your body has the ability to hide the threat of high blood sugar. When blood sugar rises, your pancreas attempts to protect you by increasing its production of insulin. This helps to force-feed your muscle cells the excess blood sugar, keeping it invisible from tests. To avoid relying on potentially misleading results, get your insulin levels tested, too, so that you can see if your insulin is compensating for high sugar levels. Any doctor can do this for you. If you have normal blood sugar and high insulin levels, you may have a disguised blood sugar imbalance.

Neither blood glucose nor insulin tests give a good idea of what's happening over time, however. To achieve this, get a hemoglobin A1c test, also known as a glycated hemoglobin test, which will reflect your average blood sugar level for the previous two to three months.

Plenty of other blood tests exist. Since high insulin can plummet testosterone levels, getting this hormone checked is also advisable. Watching your testosterone levels rise—and your blood sugar, insulin and A1c drop over time—will help you know whether your healthy efforts are paying off.

There are also tests for inflammation, like C-reactive protein. To show if you're aging prematurely, you can monitor your human growth hormone levels. Testing your vitamin D levels can be beneficial, too. But all this testing gets expensive fast. And since the tests are just snapshots, you may not really need them. Ultimately, if you're carrying a body-fat percentage of 22 percent or higher, you can bet that you're not as healthy as you could be. Your health trajectory may be taking you toward depression, heart attack, stroke, cancer or even Alzheimer's. You can correct this situation by increasing your insulin sensitivity.

PHOSPHORYLATION AND INSULIN SENSITIVITY

My wife and I are about to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. Over the years, I've learned that being more sensitive to her needs keeps our marriage strong.

Being more sensitive is also the key to optimal health and longevity. But, I'm not talking about emotional sensitivity here; I'm talking about insulin sensitivity. Being more sensitive is the only way to make sure that your body controls its weight and blood sugar while strengthening your health.

Neither diet pills nor antidiabetic drugs were going to help me overcome my metabolic nightmare. Grocery-store fat traps had successfully put me into XLsized shirts, and the extra thirty-five pounds were taking their toll on my energy levels and heading me toward an early grave. Exercise proved futile, and dieting just made me binge later at night. Digging deeper into the cellular cause of obesity, I learned that my only escape was to increase my insulin sensitivity.

The human body contains a vast array of chemicals, and our health depends on how they react with neighboring cells. Billions of chemical reactions take place in the body each day. I'm only concerned with one. It's known as phosphorylation, and it's the most important reaction for increasing insulin sensitivity, which helps to control weight, blood sugar, insulin levels, and lifespan.

Here's why phosphorylation is so important: When insulin is released by the pancreas, it races to your muscle cells. When it reaches the exterior of a cell, your natural intelligence guides it to its corresponding receptor on the cell's outer membrane. Once bound and clinging to the cell, the insulin-sensitive receptor undergoes the phosphorylation reaction, which culls sugar and nutrient vacuums from the inner core. Once the vacuums reach the outer membrane, they pull sugar and other cellular nutrients from the blood into the cell. What happens next is a testament to the power of "hormonal intelligence."

As blood sugar and insulin are controlled by phosphorylation, your energizing, fat-burning, and anti-aging hormones are released in the proper amount, in the proper ratio and at the right time of day. For instance, your testosterone-toestrogen ratios are optimized to allow for increased muscle growth and fat metabolism, while protecting you from the cancer dangers associated with estrogen dominance.

During exercise, fat-melting hormones known as catecholamines are released by your adrenal glands. At night, your levels of human growth hormone surge to help your cells recover from daily stress and aging. When you eat, your body becomes more sensitive to the hormones ghrelin and leptin, so you don't overeat and you burn off calories more readily via thermogenesis. The list goes on, as a myriad of hormones that reduce inflammation, pain and risk of heart disease and cancer are optimized.

The better your phosphorylation, the younger and thinner you remain. Just as sun-deprived plants come to life when exposed to sunlight, malnourished and dying cells are renewed by this single reaction. If the cell is numb to insulin, the phosphorylation reaction does not take place. All of the subsequent hormonal intelligence ceases to exist, and you get high blood sugar along with belly fat. Sugar and vital nutrients remain out of reach for the aging, insulin-resistant cell and instead float in the bloodstream with nowhere to go.

Just as a relationship can't be healthy without sensitivity, high blood sugar and obesity can't be corrected without increasing sensitivity to insulin. That's a key to health because it serves as a method for controlling weight, blood sugar, and insulin while maximizing longevity.

Top AntiDiabetic Drugs Deadlier Than Diabetes

When it comes to antidiabetic drugs, your doctor can choose from a host of options or prescribe multiple types of medications known collectively as hypoglycemics. Most popular are Avandia (rosiglitazone maleate), Actos (pioglitazone hydrochloride), Januvia, Glucophage (metformin hydrochloride) and Glucotrol (glipizide). While they might lower blood sugar levels by 15 percent to 20 percent, this effect doesn't translate into health for diabetics. Quite the opposite, this drop in blood sugar can result in early death.

In a press release issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. government alerted the public about the hypoglycemic risk: "Intensively targeting blood sugar [with hypoglycemics] to near-normal levels in adults with type 2 diabetes at especially high risk for heart attack and stroke does not significantly reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events, such as fatal or nonfatal heart attacks or stroke, but increases risk of death, compared to standard treatment."

The disturbing news came from the ACCORD (Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes) study. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and showed that those taking drugs like Avandia or Glucophage experienced the greatest drop in blood sugar and also longevity. The official story in the media hid these facts from the public by implying that lowering blood sugar among diabetics might be dangerous. But anyone who isn't dizzy from the pharmaceutical industry's spin can tell you that if lowering blood sugar was deadly, cinnamon would have wiped most of us out a long time ago.

The biggest fault in the study is that researchers failed to cite the laundry list of dangers associated with the hypoglycemic drugs that were the likely culprits for early death, including obesity, heart attack and heart failure.

Nature 's Blockbuster Diabetes Drug

Organic chemists are always on the hunt for the next blockbuster drug. More than 30 million molecules have been synthesized to date in this quest. Chemists use a deluge of drug discovery techniques in hopes of finding a winner.

The most popular methods used today are natural product screening (the large-scale study of naturally occurring proteins, peptides and amino acids) and combinatorial chemistry. Most recently, the Nobel Prize-winning technique of metathesis has also been employed. This method changes the threedimensional shape of molecules to allow for more diversity. These techniques all have one thing in common: they allow chemists to shuffle atoms or molecular formations to make new molecules that can eventually be tested for medicinal properties. The process is like shooting craps. There are a lot of variables, and only a few outcomes are winners.

To date, natural product screening has proven more beneficial than all the other methods. The design of most prescription drugs is guided by knowledge obtained from studying plant-based predecessors, which are commonly sold as nutritional supplements. Drug companies obfuscate this. They like people to think drugs are the only option and that they intuitively invent them out of thin air, using expensive, hard-to-understand technology.

All of today's blockbusters have natural roots. Painkillers, blood pressure meds, anticancer drugs and even the particularly nasty cholesterol-lowering drugs are nothing more than copycats of Mother Nature. Nature provides the best medicines, and using it successfully to make synthetic versions can mean big bucks for the pharmaceutical industry. The method rarely makes for great drugs, because when natural molecules are altered, they usually become toxic. But it does make for great natural medicine discoveries, as recently proven in the fight against insulin resistance.

Using natural product screening, chemists have discovered the only blockbuster diabetes drug. It successfully lowers blood sugar, triglycerides and A1c levels while increasing insulin sensitivity—and without a single negative side effect. Such a discovery is like striking medicinal gold. This drug is commonly known as cinnamon! Just as the simple act of supplementing with vitamin C (from lemon juice) saved our ancestors from deadly scurvy, cinnamon is positioned to save modern society from the type 2 diabetes epidemic.

Richard Anderson, Ph.D., a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has studied the antidiabetic effects of cinnamon for twenty years, along with more than fifty other natural products. Nothing outperformed the tasty spice in increasing insulin sensitivity. Further studies have isolated two active ingredients, known in scientific circles as MHCP (methylhydroxy chalcone polymer) and cinnamaldehyde.

In one of the most well-known studies, sixty insulin-resistant patients were given 1, 3 or 6 grams of cinnamon per day and were compared to control subjects who received a placebo. The placebo group's blood sugar levels did not change. But the researchers found that the cinnamon group's blood sugar dropped, on average, from 208 mg/dL to 156 mg/dL. Even the lowest amount of cinnamon (less than half a teaspoon) was shown to reduce blood sugar by 20 percent.3 These findings have been supported by other well-designed human studies.

Blood sugar levels are highest just after you eat. The sooner your body can eliminate excess sugar from your blood, the healthier you will be. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that taking 6 grams of cinnamon with meals resulted in 50% lower blood sugar within ninety minutes, as compared to meals without cinnamon.

In a study published in Phytomedicine, researchers found that the active ingredient cinnamaldehyde caused blood sugar to dive by as much as 63 percent. This was accompanied by a beneficial drop in the age-accelerating process known as glycation (as shown by A1c blood tests) and in the formation of the sugar-rich triglyceride molecules.

Cinnamon doesn't simply mask the insulin-resistant symptoms of high blood sugar. It is powerfully effective at overcoming high blood sugar because it activates phosphorylation. In other words, cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity by mimicking all the positive effects of insulin. When consumed, cinnamon rushes to muscle cells, attaches to them and does what insulin cannot: it triggers the uptake of glucose and other lifesaving nutrients from the blood by eliciting phosphorylation. It brings numb, insulin-resistant cells back to life and maximizes hormonal intelligence.

The easiest way to harness the benefits of cinnamon is to buy it organically and use it before or during meals three times per day. The two main types of cinnamon are Cinnamomum cassia and Cinnamomum verum. C. cassia is the common form used in the studies and is readily available on grocery shelves.

Cinnamon's positive effect on health is a stark reminder that nutrient logic is our best bet for optimal health. Its value has been proven historically and with modern scientific techniques. Since cinnamon isn't man made and cannot be patented like commonly used drugs, don't wait for your doctor to prescribe it.

You can buy cinnamon capsules at many stores. I recommend taking one capsule thirty minutes before each meal, to prime your system before eating. If you already suffer from high blood sugar, adding a small dose before bed will help keep it in check while you sleep and the following day. Using cinnamon three times daily can cost you as little as $4.00 per month.

A GUARD AGAINST HUNGER

By itself, cinnamon may not save you from the metabolic nightmare. While it might help lower blood sugar, taking part in other healthy lifestyle habits is usually required. One of the most important habits that should accompany cinnamon use is maintaining proper eating frequency. Despite what the diet gurus insist, not everyone needs to eat four to six meals per day. This myth comes from exercise-addicted diet gurus who usually offset grazing's fat-building effect with excessive exercise. Each time you eat, you raise the levels of your fat-storing hormone, insulin, while at the same time pushing your fat-burning and anti-aging hormones from the blood. This phenomenon explains why studies on caloric restriction show that it increases functional lifespan. Your hormonal intelligence is being optimized to keep you alive longer, courtesy of proper eating frequency and controlled insulin.

Each person should figure out for themselves how best to space their meals. Keep in mind that familiar surroundings may be cueing you to eat, not your nutritional needs. For instance, if you habitually eat popcorn during a movie, your body may be trained to demand it once the show starts. This is an addiction, not a hunger. Ignore it and, as time passes, the addiction will fade.

One potent weapon against hunger between meals is lemon juice in purified water. Use it to fend off food cravings and addictions. After a few weeks, snack cravings will pass. As your hormonal intelligence becomes optimized, your metabolism will dramatically improve. Soon, the metabolic nightmare will be nothing more than a bad dream.

So Inexpensive, It's Almost Free

Health takes a back seat to wealth in the business of corporate drug dealing. That's why cinnamon rarely makes the news and why it isn't being pushed on the public by television advertisements and paid celebrity endorsements. The goal of the pharmaceutical industry's business model is to sell you on costly, man-made versions of natural products, while concealing the safer, less expensive natural-healing compounds. Don't be fooled.

The average annual cost of an antidiabetic drug like Actos or Januvia can range from $2,500 to $3,000 per year. Proper cinnamon supplementation can cost as little as $48 annually. Use this nutrient logic to protect your health and wealth.

This article is adapted from the book
Over-the-Counter Natural Cures, available
at amazon.com or wherever books are
sold.


Shane Ellison, M.Sc., is an award-winning
organic chemist. He doesn't carry a
cell phone or business cards, just cash and
a good attitude. He is author of Over-The-Counter Natural Cures, which covers numerous
life-enhancing nutritional supplements available for under $10. See a free chapter
at http://www.thepeopleschemist.com and learn about the $8 cancer buster.


References
1. K. M. Venkat Narayan, et al. "Lifetime risk for diabetes mellitus in the United
States." Journal of the American Medical Association. 2003; 290(14):1884-90.
2. National Institutes of Health. NIH News. June 6, 2008. http://public.nhlbi.nih.gov/
newsroom/home/GetPressRelease.aspx?id=2573
3. Alam Khan, et al. "Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2
diabetes." Diabetes Care. 2003; 26:3215-18.
4. Joanna Hlebowicz, et al. "Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric
emptying, and satiety in healthy subjects." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
2001; 85(6):1552-56.
5. Subash Babu. "Cinnamaldehyde—a potential antidiabetic agent." Phytomedicine.
2007; 14(1):15-22.