Quality of Life: Sweet Tooth

In the course of their work our health detectives encounter many horrific stories of overindulgence and excess, many of which they can treat successfully if people come to them in time. This issue though, they report on the very sad story of one man who literally drank himself to death with fizzy cola, prompting them to turn their attention to the dangers of sugar in our diet.

Sugar = Carbohydrates.
Besides the artificial industrial white sugar that is used in sweets, cakes, desserts and processed food, we find natural sugar in fruits, both fresh and dried, and in vegetables. The sweeter the taste the quicker the rise in blood sugar levels, so we call these fast carbohydrates. You immediately feel the kick in blood sugar when you take sugar in your tea, eat a cake, an orange or drink a sweet drink. Refined white sugar is only an energizer with no other nutrients, giving us ’empty’ calories and doing the most harm in the body. In fruit the sugar content is still high, but also there are vitamins and minerals and sometimes healthy enzymes. Root and other vegetables consist of ‘slow’ carbohydrates. If you eat a carrot it does not give that kick, but the carbohydrates in the carrot slowly release into the blood stream.

Sugary foods – especially the fast carbohydrates – elevate blood sugar levels quickly, causing an insulin release that increases stored body fat and the release of pro-inflammatory, cell damaging chemicals that can accelerate aging, as well as causing heart disease, some types of cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and many more diseases. Other health problems that are associated with sugar include attention deficit disorder, mood swings, headaches, insomnia, emotional outbursts, cystitis, eczema, diabetes, and premature aging. Excess intake of sugar also causes production of free radicals that oxidize fats forming plaque deposits in our arteries, leading to disease and aging. This toxic substance damages molecules and creates advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs. AGEs damage collagen in skin, cartilage, and ligaments and promote a loss of elasticity.

Sugar Addiction – Sugarholics
Sugar is incredibly addictive. Many alcoholics trade their alcohol addiction for a sugar addiction. After a while the brain needs its  sugar quick fix to feel satisfied and they soon find themselves in the trap of buying sweets at the petrol station, filling up with sweet drinks, juices or alcohol to keep going. By moving away from refined sugars to more natural sources and increasing the intake of ‘slow’ carbohydrates, blood sugar levels will not yoyo so wildly and the need for sugar ‘fixes’ decreases.

The Cola Addict
This is the true story of a 35 year old man who was a sugarholic. Harry was only 28 when his doctor diagnosed him with a stomach ulcer and pancreas problems they treated with pills and advice which went ignored. Moving to southern Spain as a chef, Harry continued living as he had before and his diet consisted of fizzy cola and cigarettes. His hobby was fishing and when he went out on the boat would bring a ‘lunch’ of six big cola bottles, so when he cooked up the catch of the day for his friends he would usually not eat with them, saying he was not hungry and would eat later. But the cola satisfied his hunger and so he did not usually eat the meal later. The sugar in the drink would keep the wolf from the door, the caffeine would give him an energy kick and the cigarettes kept his appetite down. His insulin was working constantly to balance his blood sugars and with high caffeine levels his body was under a constant pressure to metabolize the sugar, exhausting the body’s natural regulation system.

After a year on the Costa, Harry was admitted to the University Hospital in Málaga with acute pain in the stomach and vomiting blood. He had another ulcer and this time his liver and pancreas were severely damaged. Finally he slipped into coma. Experts tried to repair the ‘holes’ in his stomach, but the tissue was fragile and porous making healing very difficult. He had one blood transfusion after another and the blood was running straight through him. They tried to ‘glue’ the hole with a special kind of padding. This was his last chance. Initially it had seemed to be a success. He was taken off the respirator and began recovering. His first wish was for a coke! Two days later he was dead. He was just 35 years old.

The Personal Health Profile that our health detectives create for our clients would have shown Harry that he could not live on coke alone, and given him a way to avoid the fast carbohydrates in food and replace them with slow carbohydrates to balance the sugar and the insulin response. Then he could have had spare ‘room’ for 1 – 2 litres of coke and the body would still receive the necessary nutrients. It is possible to mix a healthy and nourishing daily menu and still have room for your favourite things in moderation.

This article is part of a series and you can read more

Pernille Knudtzon, MD
Tel: 678 253 510

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This post is also available in: Spanish

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