SFH #19: Sugar by the Numbers 🍭

How sugar is pervasive and insidious 😵

In a study published in 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine, Dr. Hu and his colleagues found an association between a high-sugar diet and a higher risk of dying from heart disease. Throughout the 15-year study, people who got 17% to 21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared with those who consumed 8% of their calories as added sugar.

In 1915, the average sugar consumption per person was 17.5 pounds. As of 2011, the number rose to 150 pounds of sugar per person annually.

The American consumption of fructose has significantly jumped from 37g per day in the 1970s to a record high of 62.5g per day in the 2000s. Since the discovery of high fructose intake associating with fatty liver, increased plasma triglycerides, insulin resistance, and obesity, the U.S. government implemented various campaigns and regulations to lower the use of high-fructose corn syrup. As of 2016, the U.S. fructose consumption has dropped to 41.4g per day per capita.

In the 1970s, sugary drinks only occupied 4% of the average daily calorie intake. By 2001, the amount rose to 11%. In 2008, 91% of American children from ages 6 to 11 were consuming as much as 60% of their daily calorie intake from sugar-sweetened beverages.

Although the average consumption of soft drinks has decreased to a new low in years in 2015 (40.7 gallons per person annually), many people have increased their consumption of energy drinks,which now make up more than 10% of the American soft drink industry.

Sugar is known to suppress the immune system. Just by consuming 100 grams of sugar (a similar amount found in a medium soft drink) can already suppress white blood cells functioning by 40% for at least 5 hours.

Sugar accelerates the aging process. Science research studies have found that sugar speeds up the cell aging process. By measuring the cell telomere lengths, scientists can find out the aging speed on an individual. In a study of 5,309 individuals, those who drink sugary drinks regularly are shown to have much shorter telomere lengths than individuals who do not drink sugary beverages.

Glucose is known to amplify cortisol secretion during a psychological stress event. Research tests were able to measure the cortisol level before and after a stressful exercise. Unlike protein and fat, glucose increased the cortisol level by almost four (4) times from 5 nmol/l to 23nmol/l. 

A longitudinal clinical study that spanned over ten (10) years found that individuals with high blood sugar had a much faster cognitive decline rate than individuals with normal blood sugar range. Those who had type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than healthy individuals.

How are we so captured by sugar? Watch 📺

I think most people have an appreciation for the power of good healthy eating habits vs. bad ones. We have more tools and knowledge than ever to improve our health, and in fact, reverse the damage that has pervaded our bodies through years of potentially harmful habits.

More than anything, I share to show you how none of us are immune to the pervasive infiltration of sugar. It's a modern problem, and we are modern people. I believe that to continue to evolve and live beyond the health issues of our generations (such as the sugar assault), we must continue to build habits that inform our bodies and our genes for future generations.