Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dental Health: Sugar Blues

By Scott Thompson, DDS, Winning With Smiles

A book I read in the 1970s entitled “Sugar Blues” made a clear connection of sugar with disease (high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and heart attack, and diabetes) as well as demonstrating the addictive quality of sugar. Since then I have been dismayed by the huge attention given to fat in the diet. Though excess fat in the diet is not good, it is not nearly the bad culprit it has been made out to be. Meanwhile, a far bigger player in the chronic disease patterns in our culture has gotten very little attention; namely sugar, and specifically fructose (which is half the sugar molecule in your table sugar). You have all seen fructose advertised a great deal in recent years, but have you noticed? There is very little mention of fructose in food advertising lately.

 I recently had the distinct pleasure of hearing a seminar discussion conducted by 3 leading pediatricians who are all metabolic specialists in teaching hospitals in the USA. They discussed metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dislipidemia), and its cause (fatty liver degeneration and liver failure) which in children is caused primarily by excess fructose intake. In adults it is also caused by sugar, but is more commonly thought of as caused by alcoholism. It turns out the liver is the only tissue in the body that can break down (digest) a fructose molecule (there seems to be no system in the body that has a use fructose). The liver has a limit how much fructose it can metabolize in a day. When it gets too much fructose, it’s attempts to metabolize the fructose results in half digested “byproducts” which are toxic, which the body needs to deal with and which ultimately get stored as “excess fat,” not healthy fat.

The average American surpassed eating the liver’s daily maximum amount of sugar in about 1977. The rise in excess weight gain and increase in the presence of metabolic syndrome started about the same time. As a matter of fact, the average sugar consumption in this country in the 1960s (30 grams) has increased to an average today of 200 grams. The liver’s capacity maxes out at about 50 grams of fructose. Today, metabolic syndrome does not affect just elderly adults. It affects everybody eating excess sugar, including our children. There are documented cases of liver transplants for fatty liver degeneration in obese teenagers.

 And about addiction. The biochemistry research documents that sugar delights the pleasure centers of the brain exactly the same as alcohol, addictive drugs, nicotine and other substances. I won’t belabor that; just know sugar is just as addictive as those other substances. Notice how your craving increases during these sugar laden holidays?
 Please, Please. Don’t start your children, toddlers and infants on sweet beverages (liquid candy), sweet pastries, candies and sweet cookie/cracker snacks. It is not just about the cavities.


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