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Is Sugar Toxic? (Part 2)
Q: Chuck, I saw the recent "60 Minutes" segment about how excessive sugar consumption is toxic. It was particularly troubling to hear how it can contribute to some cancers. I feel this evidence needs to be re-highlighted for the American public. Would you mind doing so in your "C-Force" column? — Celeste J., Florida
A: Last week, I began to report on Dr. Sanjay Gupta's investigative report on "60 Minutes" that sugar in excess can be toxic and has been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Gupta's segment has trended in top health news since its broadcast.
The fact that sugar can be toxic is supported by the research of many people, including that of Dr. Robert Lustig, a leading expert in childhood obesity and pediatric hormone disorders at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, as well as Dr. Kimber Stanhope, a nutritional biologist at the University of California, Davis.
I finished by noting how Stanhope's research shows that too many sugar-based treats overload the liver with fructose, converting some into fat that goes into the bloodstream and helps produce the dangerous LDL, which clogs blood vessels. (Unlike glucose, which is metabolized by every cell in the body, fructose primarily is metabolized by the liver.)
To add insult to injury, Dr. Lewis Cantley, a professor at Harvard Medical School and the head of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said on "60 Minutes" that when we eat or drink sugar, it spikes the hormone insulin, which can serve as a stimulus for certain cancers.
Cantley explained: "What we're beginning to learn is that insulin can cause adverse effects in the various tissues. And of particular concern is cancer. Why? Nearly a third of some common cancers — including breast and colon cancers — have something called insulin receptors on their surface. Insulin binds to these receptors and signals the tumor to start consuming glucose," hence fueling its energy and growth.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that Lustig reported that 75 percent of sugar-based diseases are preventable if we simply cut down on consuming so many sugary foods and beverages.
Though all sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners aren't created equal, either, my wife, Gena, and I prefer stevia to sugar if our bodies crave a little sweetness. It does not take much stevia to create a sweet taste in your beverages. And it also can be used in baked goods if a recipe calls for sugar.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that is derived from an herb native to South America.
But remember that though sugar substitutes may partially help with weight management and maintaining health, they are no magic bullet in themselves, according to the Mayo Clinic. You still can gain weight from sugar-free foods, depending upon what else is in them. In the end, as with so many consumptives, moderation is always the key, and so is self-control.
Of course, overcoming the craving for sugar is much easier said than done. Dr. Eric Stice, a neuroscientist at the Oregon Research Institute, used functional MRI scanners to monitor brains on sugar. His conclusion? "Sugar activates our brain in a special way that's very reminiscent of ... drugs like cocaine."
Wow! All the more reason to kick the sugar habit, or, should I say, addiction!
With obesity, heart disease and diabetes increasing at epidemic rates in our country, it's critical that we take a hard look at our diets and how various popular foods and beverages affect our bodies, for better and worse, and fight to abstain from those that are harmful.
And let's remember this: Sugar is not our body's only culprit and enemy. As a Yahoo health column added this past week, "Sugar is Toxic, but so is Red Meat, Salt, Refined Grains." And that claim has been backed up:
—HealthDay News highlights that "eating a lot of red meat may shorten your life."
—"High-salt diets cause 150,000 premature deaths in the U.S. each year," the University of Maryland Medical Center found.
—White bread, white rice and similar foods made up of refined grains can lead to the formation of fat tissue, which in turn has been implicated in the development of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, Tufts University warns.
Friends, the bottom line is that if you master your diet, you will make great advances in mastering the power of diseases over your body.
For a more holistic medical approach, Gena and I recommend Sierra Integrative Medical Center (http://www.SierraIntegrative.com), in Reno, Nev. The people there are pioneers in integrative medicine. They blend the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative therapies.
Write to Chuck Norris (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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