Sugar – the devil’s food

by drpaul

After the Jesuits’ introduction of sugar in 1751, sugar became less expensive to produce (thanks in large part to slavery), and sugar/sweetener consumption has risen steadily (per person/per year):


  • 1821:     10 lbs.
  • 1880:     38 lbs.
  • 1970:  119 lbs.
  • 1990:  132 lbs.
  • 2007:  158 lbs.

It’s contained in many, many foods; it wreaks havoc with many of the body’s physiologic systems and plays a central role in the current heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity epidemics. The culprit: plain old sugar, and its thinly disguised evil cousin, high fructose corn syrup.  Yes, they will kill you. Maybe not overnight, but over time, sugar and corn syrup-derived sweeteners will erode your health, leading to many fatal diseases.

Sugar is a super-concentrated, unnatural food – the fact that it comes from something natural doesn’t make it natural to the body (gasoline comes from something very natural – oil – and is therefore essentially a natural product, but you wouldn’t want to eat it).

In the past 75 years, our modern industrial culture has seen a unique convergence of many negative lifestyle factors that have lead to a dramatic increase in ‘lifestyle behavior diseases’ which include heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, senile dementia, and cancer (yes, cancer is a lifestyle disease, not a genetic one as is commonly believed). This “Perfect Storm” of disease-producing lifestyle behavior choices includes the following:

  • A decrease in the intake of micro-nutrients and trace elements within our food supply due to commercial farming practices utilizing year-round growth cycles and nitrogen-based petrochemical fertilizers, creating epidemic nutritional deficiencies or malnutrition within modern industrial nations, as well as food processing methods that strip nearly all nutrients from our food.
  • An increase in toxicity of our food supply due to the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides in combination with modern food processing techniques utilizing chemical additives, and preservatives.
  • An increase in consumption of food that has been processed to the point where there is little to no nutritive value.
  • A pronounced decrease in physical activity levels unprecedented in the history of mankind.



Week 4 Fuel Insights: Carbohydrates and Insulin

by admin

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Carbohydrates and Insulin

Critical Concept:  Hormone Balance
Did you know that every time that you put food in your body there is a hormonal reaction?  Hormones are potent chemical agents that create sweeping changes in your physiology. Insulin not only plays the leading role in how food nourishes the cells of our bodies – it is the star of the show – it’s also one of the most powerful and significant hormones in regards to our health, period.  Insulin is also a primary stress hormone - its physiological influence is broad and varied, but for the sake of this lesson plan, we’ll focus on its most common moniker: The Fat Storage Hormone.

Carbohydrates are reduced to sugar during digestion and metabolism.  In the bloodstream, sugars trigger the release of insulin.  Insulin reduces blood sugar by acting as a carrier or transport mechanism, bringing sugar into the cells to be burned for energy.  Once energy needs are met, excess sugars (or calories) are stored as fat.  The presence of insulin promotes fat storage.

All carbohydrates stimulate insulin response, as do excess calories from any source.  Eating refined carbohydrates (think pasta, breads, cereals, crackers) or overeating causes “over taxation” of this insulin response.  Over-stimulation of the insulin response cascade results in chronically elevated blood insulin levels, which lessens insulin sensitivity, which in turn stimulates more insulin production.  This describes the common downward spiral that leads to what is called Metabolic Derangement.

Ultimately, this derangement leads to obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood lipids and Type 2 Diabetes, and Coronary Artery Disease - all of which combined are referred to as the now common Syndrome X.

A food’s glycemic index is an indicator of its effect on blood sugar levels, but more specifically, the resulting blood insulin levels.  Foods that have a high glycemic index are considered the culprits in our current national eating disorder and resulting obesity and chronic disease dilemma.  The top offenders are all sugars, grains and dairy products.

The research is clear and compelling.  We must return to eating only the foods that were available to our ancestors during the period of time in which our biological needs (and genetic blueprint) were determined.  We must get back to eating an abundance of nutrient dense, fiber-rich carbohydrates: fresh fruits and vegetables as foundational elements of a health-promoting diet style.  Nutritious whole foods must replace the nutrient-poor, low-fiber, high-calorie refined carbohydrates that now dominate our modern disease-promoting diet.

As it turns out, our food pyramid needs to be reworked again.

Healthy people follow a simple, but profound diet style:  a “Paleo gluten-free diet,” consisting of vegetables, nuts, seeds, some starch, a little fruit, and quality protein; notice what’s absent:  grains and dairy – they both cause insulin spikes and gluten-containing grains cause chronic inflammation throughout the body.  This best practice will ensure that you are eating “live” whole foods, high in enzymes and nutritional components like anti-oxidants and phytonutrients, and avoiding foods that cause abnormal insulin spikes.  Using a high quality Whole Food Supplement is an excellent strategy to supplement a nutritious diet style, especially for those whose busy lives make it hard to get the recommended 9-12 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  Because it has become increasingly difficult to find wholesome, nutritious foods “on the go,” packing your own lunch is a vital behavior.  Always ask:  “Where are the plants?,”Where is the fat?” and “Where is the protein?” when prepping your meals.

Proteins and fats moderate or mitigate the insulin response associated with carbs and sugars, so make sure to include them with every meal.

Always shop on the perimeter of the grocery store, even a whole foods store – this will keep you away from most of the refined carbohydrates and processed foods.  Nudge the scales in your favor.  Buy and prep healthy snacks and pre-empt the “crunchy-salty munchies.”  The battle is won at the checkout counter:  If you don’t buy it – you won’t eat it.

Week 4 Summary Checklist:  At this point you should be….

  • Drinking water as your predominant beverage
  • Eating lots of plant foods, and eating them first
  • Eating adequate amounts of high quality, lean protein
  • Consuming high-fiber, whole food carbohydrates (that’s vegetables!)

Blood Sugar – Understanding the Effects of the Modern Diet on Blood Sugar Levels

by admin

The typical modern diet and activity level creates regular occurrences of unhealthy blood sugar levels in your body.  Blood sugar is a term used to describe the amount of the sugar glucose that is in currently in your blood.  Glucose is the primary sugar, or carbohydrate, in your body.

When you eat food, nutrients are absorbed from your food by your digestive system.  They are then transmitted to all of your bodies’ tissues through your blood.  Your body uses a series of mechanisms to keep the concentration of sugar (and other substances) in your blood within certain ranges.

Certain organs, such as your brain, run almost exclusively on glucose.  So your body keeps blood sugar levels from dropping below a certain threshold, or level.  However, your body also strives to keep glucose from rising to levels that are too high.  See a chart of the range where your body keeps your blood sugar levels here. 

High Blood Sugar Levels

Clinically, constant spikes in your blood sugar damage your body.  There are both short-term and long-term effects of high blood sugar.  A single, sharp rise in blood sugar will create a large insulin release, preventing fat burning, promoting fat storage, and also will result in fatigue and fuzzy-headedness.  Constant, chronic high blood sugar levels are the defining characteristic of Type II Diabetes.

Related Resources:

Why Gourmet Cupcakes Are Evil When Blood Sugar Gets Too High

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: What is Diabetes?

Blood Sugar Stability

Reuters on Curbing Diabetes

Stealthy Sugars: Understanding Your Body’s Response to Sugar

by admin

Ever walked through the breads section in a store and thought “mmmmm?”  Ever noticed how sweet the smell is?  That’s because breads (even whole grain), along with other processed grains such as pastas, tortillas, pitas, etc. are really fairly simple, fiber-less sugars disguised in a more fluffy form.  Why is that a big deal?  Well, here is the gist.

Processed foods (foods no longer in their natural form, the only way you eat grains) have very little fiber and therefore a huge glycemic load.
This means your stomach digests that food down to sugars that enter your blood stream very quickly.  The problem with that is that historically, in nature we would never come in contact with a food like that (except maybe honey and that would only be around seasonally, along with some angry bees).  Pretty much all other natural foods (i.e. from the earth:  veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean meats) are loaded with tons of nutrients, one of them being soluble fiber which slows the absorption of those sugars into your blood stream.

Where are you getting your fiber?
A common misconception is that cereals and whole grains are a good source of fiber, but when compared to fruits and veggies, they pale in comparison.  Per 1000 calories, processed grains have roughly 6-24 grams of fiber, whereas fruits have 41 grams and vegetables have a staggering 185 grams! (Paleo Diet for Athletes p 101).  Slowing the absorption of sugars is important because high blood sugar is stressful to the body.  One of the major reasons high blood sugar is stressful to the body is its negative role on your immune system function.

The Immune System
You see, your immune system is a powerful system of white blood cells (WBC) that police your body, finding and destroying foreign objects (bacteria, viruses).  Now these WBCs require, amongst other things, Vitamin C to function properly.  Think of the WBCs like the police force in a city and the Vitamin C is like the weapons that are given to the cops to deal with criminals.  Sugar (a.k.a. grains/bread) has a structure very similar to that of Vitamin C, so the Vitamin C absorption sites are blocked and the WBCs get bogged down with sugar and can’t get the Vitamin C that they need.  This has a terrible effect on the efficiency of your immune system.  Have you ever heard that a can of Coke or a candy bar decreases your immune system function?  This is why.

This is exactly why people are told to take Vitamin C when they are sick.  Vitamin C supplements boost the amount of that essential vitamin in our blood, allowing the WBCs a chance to get the weapons they need.  This does not mean that we should always be taking Vitamin C; it means we need to eat a diet rich in veggies and fruits because they are naturally loaded with Vitamin C and other nutrients, and their sugars are released much more slowly.  This natural way of eating keeps our immune system healthy, rather than treating a toxic super-sugary lifestyle.

Grains and Diabetes (Our Children’s Cancer)
Did you know that of the children born in the year 2000, 30% are predicted to be diagnosed with diabetes during their lifetime.  Diabetes Type II (Diabetes Melitus) is now the 7th leading cause of death in the US. Click here to see more statistics about Diabetes Type II.

It’s also completely preventable, avoidable, and reversible.

When you eat sugar or processed grains (a muffin, piece of toast, bowl of pasta or cereal), your blood sugar spikes very quickly, causing your pancreas to put out insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that is required to allow sugar to enter into our cells.  You should think about insulin like a door man, knocking on the cell’s door to let it know that there is sugar outside for use.  Without the doorman (insulin), the sugar just floats through the bloodstream, causing eventual havoc on our tissues.  This is a brilliant system; you eat food, it’s broken down into sugars, and insulin gets it into the cells.  Here is the problem:  the western diet, with its high amounts of processed foods (grains, sugars, fiber-less food substances) and low amounts of vegetables and fruits, is the exact recipe to keep super high amounts of sugar in our blood.  This means that our pancreas is always stressed, producing more and more insulin, which then is constantly pounding on the cell’s doors yelling “Hey cell, there is some sugar out here, hey, hey HEY!!”   Well, cells are just like you and me, and that constant knocking is not only annoying but stressful, so your cells will down-regulate their insulin receptors (decrease the number of doorways for the sugar).  This down regulation results in something called insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is when your cells become resistant to insulin, so they no longer listen to the doorman.  This is the definition of type II diabetes (Diabetes Miletus).

Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance results in a constant high blood sugar content which is damaging to our tissues.  In addition, insulin is used not only to get sugar into the cells, but it also it serves as a door man for many other nutrients.  This means that insulin resistance (DM II) causes nutrient starvation.  Once insulin resistant, our cells have a difficult time getting calcium, magnesium and a host of other nutrients because the door man has annoyed our cells for too long, and many of the doors have been boarded up.  Insulin resistance plays a role in many adaptive physiological processes, such as osteoporosis due to decreased storage of calcium, and high blood pressure due to decreased magnesium uptake.

Another interesting fact surrounding insulin resistance is that not all of our cells board up their doors (down-regulate insulin receptors) at the same rate.  First, our liver down regulates, then our muscle cells, but it is our adipose (fat) cells that are some of the last cells in your body to become resistant.  This means that your fat cells will continuously grow and store that sugar in the form of fat.

When we eat in the manner that we were designed to eat (hunter-gatherer; wild meats and fish, fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds), our insulin or nutrient storage system works like it should, and we express health.  Diabetes II is 100% preventable, correctable and avoidable when we use our bodies as they were intended, by eating, moving and thinking in the manner which we were created/evolved.

For more info on diabetes:

How 6 People Got Rid of Their Diabetes in 30 days

The Paleo Diet

Dr Paul Kratka’s Blog Post on Insulin