Today’s children consume sugary treats for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everything from their favorite soda to the cereal they eat in the mornings is infested with higher than normal levels of sugar, jeopardizing their health with every bite. But what if I told you that a new study of cutting back sugar for kids has seen dramatic improvements in only 10 days? It almost sounds too good to be true but Dr. Robert Lustig and his team at the University of California, San Francisco have succeeded in decreasing triglyceride levels in children by an average of 33 points in a 10 day period.
Not all calories were created equal
This concept has never been more clear than it is in the case of sugar. Standard table sugar, which we all know and love, is made up of equal parts glucose and fructose. Glucose is a positive component of sugar because it is easily metabolized anywhere in the body and the extra is stored in our muscles or liver as glycogen. Fructose on the other hand, is our worst enemy. Fructose can only be metabolized in the liver and the liver can only handle so much at a time, causing the excess to be converted into fat. Accumulating fat in the liver is wildly unhealthy and even worse is when the excess fat spills into the blood stream, increasing your risk of heart disease and strokes.
The ugly truth about fructose
Before the days that sugar and high fructose corn syrup even existed, our ancestors only consumed fructose in tiny amounts, for example when a fruit would fall from a tree. Now, however, the average person consumes 130 pounds of sugar a year! Our bodies have a long way to go before they can keep up with our staggering spike in sugar consumption, causing our liver to break down with every sugary drink that hits it.
In addition, fructose has some super odd properties making it almost addictive. Unlike other sources of calories, fructose doesn’t suppress the hunger hormone known as ghrelin. Translation: no matter how much sugar you eat, you never really feel full, causing you to eat more. Another addictive property of fructose is that it gives the nucleus accumbens (the brain’s reward center) a nudge making you feel rewarded, good, euphoric and wanting more!
It’s never too late
Before you despair, remember that it is never too late to cut down on sugar. Dr Lustig’s study proved that it doesn’t take much time to get sugar levels back to normal. In just 10 days, he was able to lower triglyceride levels, LDL (or bad cholesterol), and diastolic blood pressure. All of the children who participated in this study dramatically reduced their risk of diabetes, as their blood sugar and insulin levels normalized. And although the study was conducted only on children, there’s no reason to believe the benefits wouldn’t extend to adults, as well.