We've been exploring the different kinds of sugar and what they can do to your teeth and body—especially to your liver (sugar's favorite victim after your teeth). But there are other issues to consider, and other victims targeted by sugar: your pancreas—the body's first line of defense against sugar, especially the high-fructose corn syrup commonly added to processed foods and to soda as a sweetener. This bad boy raises not only our insulin levels (by affecting the pancreas), but our triglycerides (affecting the liver) as well. And both of these can lead to what medical professionals call metabolic syndrome.
How do you know if you're at risk for it? Easy! Your clothes will be feeling increasingly tight—because your waistline is growing. Put simply, it can indicate that your cells are becoming resistant to the insulin that you need to metabolize everything you eat and drink. While your pancreas will normally produce the insulin you require to make the most of a healthy diet, if you over-indulge in fructose, your pancreas will struggle to control your blood sugar levels by producing ever more insulin. And, if you ignore the heroic struggles of your pancreas, it will eventually just give up; your blood sugar levels—waiting for just this opportunity—will spiral out of control.
But there's more: important by-products of elevated insulin levels are higher levels of triglycerides and blood pressure, and a ruinous equation: higher levels of LDLcholesterol (bad for you) and lower levels of HDL cholesterol (good for you). Add it all up, and—presto!—you have metabolic syndrome.
If you're curious about how it begins, focus on your overworked liver (instead of your overworked pancreas), where you are likely to find another bad equation: accumulated fat in your liver is linked to insulin resistance. And studies have established a close relationship between fructose and insulin resistance.
The core of the problem is that the effect of sugar in any form (and yes, particularly the high fructose corn syrup hidden in so many processed foods), is cumulative. In other words, the more you eat it, or drink it, the more your pancreas and your liver will be compromised.
The final issue to be considered (once you're seen the light and have determined to eliminate, or at least cut down on your soda and processed-food intake) is that the incidence of cancer is higher among the obese and diabetic, and high still among those with marked metabolic syndrome. Although the body's chemistry remains a marvel of complexity, research has shown that insulin (and related hormones) can promote the growth of tumors.
You know what to do! First, watch your teeth; they are easy to check for the excessive decay and discoloration that can indicate you're over the limit for sugar. Then think about redesigning your diet plan around lean meat, fish, and especially fresh (not processed!) vegetables and fruits. Learn how to use these foods to create tasty and satisfying meals that will help you achieve a smaller waistline and avoid the ills associated with more sugar than your body can process efficiently. And be sure to take advantage of our complementary set of resources to help you understand the best ways to achieve optimum oral and bodily health.