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Possible misconceptions about (refined) sugar?

Ubuntu1 Members Posts: 852 ✭✭✭
I need to do a lot more research and this might be wishful thinking on my part but I've been wondering lately if the negative health effects of refined sugar have been exaggerated.

-People often argue that sugar is junk food because it's empty calories and while it's obviously better to consume calories that are packed with nutrients our bodies need calories just like they need vitamins and minerals so for someone who is deficient in calories refined sugar is relatively healthy to the extent that it provides needed calories, even if whole foods would be even better.

- It's often claimed that sugar nourishes cancer cells but my understanding (basing this on the the very little I've read and I'm nowhere near an expert) is that glucose is the preferred fuel for all of the body's cells so while it's literally true that sugar nourishes cancerous cells it's only because sugar nourishes cells in general.

- I'm not sure that there's any hard evidence linking sugar with diabetes (or other health conditions). Being overweight or obese (abdominal fat especially has been linked with diabetes, apparently) puts you at risk for diabetes (and other diseases) and you're more likely to be overweight on a diet that's high in refined sugar/carbohydrates because sugar is a high calorie food but, arguably, it isn't sugar per se that puts you at risk of developing diabetes or other medical conditions. From what I remember about the World Health Organization's site (they consider less than 25 grams-or less than 5% of your daily calorie intake?- of refined sugar as well as the natural sugar in fruit juices, honey and maybe some other natural sources I can't remember to be ideal but recommend at the very least less than 50 grams - or 10% of your daily calorie intake- a day) and some other pages about diabetes that I've found online, their language is careful to avoid claiming a definitive link between sugar and diabetes, the risk factor seems to be weight specifically (although around 20 % of people who are diagnosed with some form of diabetes - every form or only either type 1 or 2, I can't remember, are of a normal weight). If I remember right, most of the documented benefits to no more than 50 grams of refined sugar a day are in relation to tooth decay which can probably be prevented with regular brushing and flossing. Even fruit is a problem when it comes to teeth, acidic fruit like green apples and pineapples are why I have enamel erosion and difficulty eating certain things. Some studies done on rats (🤬 animal testing) documenting the harm of sugar involved unusually high doses that most people would never have in practice, even water in excess can 🤬 you.

-The sugar in processed foods is chemically identical to the sugar in high fiber, whole plant foods and your body needs sugar to function. My understanding is shaky and I don't know the details but if I'm right the difference between how your body reacts to refined sugar vs. 'natural' sugar is that, because refined sugar is not combined with the protective fiber in whole plant foods, the body absorbs it more rapidly and this leads to a spike in insulin levels and over the course of years and decades can lead to pancreatic failure etc. But it's not a fundamentally different thing, sugar is sugar. Would eating refined sugar with a high fiber food make a difference?

-My chronic insomnia began over 8 years ago when I eliminated refined sugar/carbohydrates from my diet (more or less. It was a while before I began avoiding products that contained even some sugar and I was unknowingly eating products with sugary ingredients with misleading names like 'agave nectar' and 'organic cane sugar', I assumed they were healthier and distinct from refined sugar, up until over a year ago when my insomnia became temporarily worse- I'm assuming as a result). The first few days after I started eating junk food again around 3 weeks ago were hard. I was anxious and panicky, irritable and quick to anger, I felt sick and in the middle of the night I'd wake up and I'd have bad coordination and this heavy feeling in my bones. Almost 72 hours after I had my last piece of chocolate (I think I was reacting badly to the caffeine /theobromine in it, I've suspected that I was sensitive to caffeine when I used to drink black tea a few years ago, it was decaf but legally that only requires removing the majority, I think around 98%, of a product's caffeine and black tea is high in caffeine to begin with) I not only felt better, but possibly better than before I started eating junk food. This could be hindsight bias or even my imagination but I think my mood was better and even my restless leg syndrome (it was almost absent in my right leg and mostly only in my left). The last couple nights have been hell on Earth but it could be because I ate something with MSG and MSG has apparently been connected to insomnia. I've actually noticed my mood getting better directly after eating (refined)sugar/high carb. food and I think that and my r.l.s could possibly be related to low blood sugar. I know refined sugar/carbohydrates is supposed to lower blood sugar, in the long run, but I'm wondering if it actually helps people with low blood sugar, at the very least in moderation. Initially I was planning on eating junk food 2-3 days a week (2 days healthy, 1 day junk, another 2 days healthy etc.) but I just decided to eat it everyday because once I had a taste I couldn't go back to only the same foods I was eating, the idea gave me a poor appetite. I still eat whole grains daily and I try to get 10 servings of fruit/vegetables, usually different kinds.

There are no absolutely healthy or unhealthy foods. Spinach has calcium which is crucial to our health but iron is also crucial for good health and calcium blocks the absorption of iron. To that extent, especially for people who are anemic or have difficulty absorbing iron, spinach is a relatively unhealthy food. Spinach also has oxalic acid which is a big problem for some people (it plays a role in kidney stones, if I remember right) but there are obvious benefits to it as well. Anyways, tell me where I went wrong and if refined sugar/carbohydrates really is what most nutritionists make it out to be. I know this was long but at least I put it in the right section of the board. I'm not sure if the initial benefits to my eating junk food (post caffeine) have faded or if it's because I haven't had a lot this week. One possible downside I've noticed could be that I tend to make more typos but I wouldn't say I feel less sharp in general.