BLOG: #DitchTheJunk, let's start with sugar! | Breast Cancer UK

BLOG: #DitchTheJunk, let’s start with sugar!

Published 14 Sep 2016

How sugar impacts on our health – a beginners guide to the basic health issues we can suffer from eating too much sugar

Sugar is nothing more than empty calories – it gives you no nutritional value at all.   Worse than that, because sugar is devoid of nutrients your body has to use other nutrients stored in your system in order to digest the sugar.  So, not only are you getting absolutely no vital vitamins and minerals from the sugar, but your body is also losing valuable nutrients just by eating it. Hence sugar causes a double whammy on the nutritional front and can actually create nutritional deficiencies.

The other problem with sugar is that it increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer (especially breast cancer). 

Without sugar in your diet, you will feel better, brighter, clearer in mind and body.  You can help to protect yourself from a large number of serious health conditions.

When you eat sugar it causes a rapid and high rise in blood sugar (blood glucose).  Your body has to respond to this by producing more insulin from the pancreas to deal with the high level of blood sugar. 

The higher your blood sugar goes up, the lower it crashes down afterwards.  At the drop, your body will do two things: firstly, it will send you off for a quick sugar fix (like a bar of chocolate) so it causes cravings because it needs to lift your blood sugar up and, at the same time, it releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol from your adrenal glands to release your own sugar stores to try to correct the low level.

This means you can end up on a perpetual roller coaster of highs and lows which affects your moods, makes you feel more anxious, tense and irritable because the stress hormones are being released, and also can make you gain weight especially around the middle of your body. 

Gaining weight around the middle of your body is a risk factor for not only type 2 diabetes but also heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer.  For women, being apple shaped increases our risk of some breast cancers because fat is a manufacturing plant for oestrogen.  Also we know that women with the highest levels of insulin have a more than a three-fold increased risk for breast cancer, independent of how much you weigh. 

Make sure you read the labels on foods and drinks and especially on savoury foods as there can be a lot of ‘hidden’ sugar in baked beans, spaghetti sauces, salad dressings and mayonnaise.  Even something that might appear to be a healthy food, such as yogurt, can contain up to eight teaspoons of sugar.

This blood sugar roller coaster can make you feel more stressed than you should be.  It also makes the vicious cycle even worse, because stress changes how you eat and the choices you make.  Stress makes you reach for those comforting sugary foods. Because the stress hormones were released, your body thinks you have either run or fought for your life, so it believes it needs to refuel and restock just in case there is going to be another life-threatening event coming around the corner. 

When you are under stress you use up a lot of the B vitamins.  The other nutrient that prolonged stress depletes is magnesium.  Magnesium is known as the calming mineral, often referred to as ‘Nature’s Tranquilliser’!!  It helps to relieve anxiety and relax muscles.  Magnesium deficiency is often reflected by waking up in the early hours of the morning and not being able to get back to sleep again.  The mineral chromium is also helpful as it controls the sugar cravings that can leave you stuck in this vicious cycle.  Other useful nutrients include Siberian ginseng which acts as a tonic to the adrenal glands and L-theanine for reducing stress and anxiety without causing drowsiness.  

Dr. Marilyn Glenville PhD is the UK’s leading nutritionist specialising in women’s health. She is Former President of the Food and Health Forum at the Royal Society of Medicine and author of a number of internationally bestselling books

You can find out more about Dr Glenville's work by visiting her website or following her on social media, details below: 


Facebook: DrGlenvillePhD

Twitter: @drglenville

linkedin:  drmarilynglenvillephd

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