Did you know that eating sugar can decrease your immune system by 50% for up to five hours?! 😭 The immune suppressing effects of sugar occur within the first 30 minutes after sugar consumption! [https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/26.11.1180]
That’s right. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that consuming 75 to 100 grams of sugar can hinder the body’s immune function by up to 50%. While this is a LOT of sugar, decreased immunity was found at even smaller doses.
How much sugar is in some common items?
1 can of Coke 39 grams of sugar
1 Kit Kat chocolate bar is 21 grams of sugar
9 small gummy candies (ex. Fuzzy Peaches) is 30 grams of sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) of chocolate milk is 25 grams of sugar
This is over 115 grams of sugar, which is equal to ~29 tsp of sugar!
Here are my top 3 tips on preventing a blood sugar spike with a subsequent crash:
Tip #1 - Eat meals that consist of enough protein, fat and fibre. These nutrients activate the three main satiety hormones:
1️⃣Peptide YY is a hormone that increases when you eat protein. This hormone provides a sense of satiety because it slows down the rate of food passing through your intestines.
2️⃣ Cholecystikinin is a hormone increases when you eat fat. It slows down the emptying of food from your stomach, which contributes to the feeling of fullness.
3️⃣ Stretch receptors activate when you eat lots of fibrous foods (hello veggies 🥦🥕) and offer the third mechanism to activate a sense of fullness to prevent sugar cravings.
If you circumvent these satiety mechanisms by eating processed, low fat and high sugar foods, you will be hungry (and possibly overeat) as a way to compensate.
Tip #2 - Drink plenty of water. For every 1 gram of sugar (or carbohydrate) stored in the body as glycogen, there is roughly 2-3 grams of water retained in your body. This is why you might feel puffy or see the scale move up the day after you enjoyed a large sugar (or carbohydrate) rich meal. Consuming extra water can help with any dehydration symptoms that come with excess sugar consumption.
Tip #3 - Move your body. No, this does not mean to punish your body through exercise. Utilize all that extra stored glycogen energy from sugar in a positive way by moving your body with an outdoor walk, evening yoga session or dance party with your family.
What about artificial sweeteners?
I do not recommend artificial sugars or sweeteners. I usually say that if you’re going to opt for sugar in the occasional treat, look for products that are sweetened with honey, maple syrup or even whole fruits like banana and apple sauce. These nutritive sweeteners contain added minerals and vitamins that won’t be found in artificial sugars or sweeteners. Countless studies continue to show the harmful effects that sugar has on our health.
What about Stevia?
In nature, Stevia is a plant that looks somewhat like a mint bush. If you eat a Stevia leaf, you will know just how sweet this plant is! Most Stevia products sold nowadays contain additives. Stevia products are often adulterated with other sweeteners in them - this is why reading the ingredient label is so important! Here’s the thing with Stevia; while it does have a negligible impact on your actual blood sugar levels, using it from time to time SPARINGLY might be fine. BUT… because it stimulates the taste of sweet on your taste buds, your brain is receiving a signal that sugar is coming into your body despite that no sugar is received by your cells. This wrecks havoc on the hormonal appetite regulating systems in the body and actually makes you crave the sugar your cells didn't receive!
What does the research say?
A recent (mouse) study showed the impact that this can have on the microbiome. Findings showed that artificial sweeteners, including Stevia, had effects that prevented healthy gut bacteria from reproducing and instead increased a type of organism (called Firmicutes) that was associated with weight gain even if there was no change in calorie intake! [http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0199080]
Another study demonstrated that sugar contributes to a hormone called insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) which increases sebum, keratin and inflammation - the perfect storm for acne breakouts! [DOI: 10.2340/00015555-1358]
Excess sugar consumption can lead to infertility, specifically in the case of PCOS. The main driver of PCOS is insulin resistance. High levels of insulin cause the ovaries to make excess androgen hormones (like testosterone), which interferes with normal ovulation. The impaired ovulation for women with PCOS can occur regardless of her body weight, which is why testing for insulin resistance can be part of a fertility workup if blood sugar dysregulation is suspected.
Babies born to mothers with uncontrolled blood sugar levels during pregnancy can increase their risk for diabetes, developmental delays and metabolic syndrome.
I know this (not so sweet) info might feel daunting in a world bombarded with sugar and artificial sweeteners. Use this knowledge to empower yourself to make better choices more often and don’t feel guilty for indulging in your favourite treat every now and then. 😊