Prof. Oladapo Ashiru

By Prof. Oladapo Ashiru

Sugar is the generalised name for sweet, short-chain, soluble carbohydrates that are used as food. There are different kinds of sugar and they are mostly extracted in sufficient concentrations from plants, such as sugar-cane and sugar beet. Simple sugars are called monosaccharides, which include glucose (also known as dextrose), fructose and galactose.

The table or granulated sugar often used as food is sucrose, a disaccharide which, in the body hydrolyses into fructose and glucose.

There is a surprising connection between consumption of sugar and fertility. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology in 2018, sugar-sweetened beverages consumed every day by either partner reduce a couple’s chances of pregnancy. Sugar or increased glucose levels in the body do not have a direct link with fertility, but the associated complications like insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, weight gain, lowered immunity and hormonal imbalance are found to decline the fertility potential of the individual.

A number of studies have confirmed that a high-sugar diet makes it difficult for the body to break down stored fat, leading to disruptions inside the body, causing fertility problems.

The awareness of the relationship between sugar and chronic diseases is growing and it cannot be over-emphasised. According to a study published in 2013, nearly one in five deaths in the United States is associated with obesity. Obesity is, indeed, a marker for chronic and potentially deadly disease, but the underlying problem that links obesity to so many other serious health issues-including heart disease, arthritis, cancer, infertility and diabetes-is metabolic dysfunction. Now, mounting evidence clearly shows that added sugar and processed fructose, in particular, are primary drivers of metabolic dysfunction.

One of the primary sources of calories for many of us is sugar-specifically high fructose corn syrup in soda, fruit juice and processed foods. Because of advances in food processing technology in the 1970s, fructose derived from corn has become very cheap and is widely used in the majority of processed foods for increased sales.

The body metabolises fructose much differently from glucose -which is the energy that most body cells and indeed, all living cells utilise. Only about 20 per cent of glucose in the body is metabolised by the liver as most cells utilise it for energy.

The entire burden of metabolising fructose falls on the liver, where excess fructose is quickly converted into fat (very low density lipoproteins and triglycerides), which explains the weight gain and abdominal obesity experienced by many people.

Refined fructose is actually broken down very much like alcohol, thereby damaging the liver and causing mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in the same way as ethanol and other toxins. It also causes more severe metabolic dysfunction because it is easily metabolised into fat than any other sugar.

The fact that refined fructose is far more harmful to health than other sugars was recently highlighted in a meta-review published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the premier high quality peer-reviewed clinical journal in general and internal medicine. According to modern Mayr medicine, many of the harmful bacteria in the intestinal tract, such as Candida and other fungi multiply rapidly when sugar is present in the tract, since they are able to digest sugar.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that there’s “a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for cardiovascular disease mortality.” The 15-year long study, which included data for 31,000 Americans, found that those who consumed 25 per cent or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who got less than 10 per cent of their calories from sugar. On the whole, the odds of dying from heart disease rose in proportion with the percentage of added sugar in the diet, regardless of age, sex, physical activity level and body-mass index.

Fructose is the primary cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver and it elevates uric acid, which raises blood pressure, stresses the kidneys and leads to the chronic, low-level inflammation that is at the core of most chronic diseases, such as arthritis, heart attack and stroke.

Metabolically speaking, fructose is alcohol “without the buzz”. Elevated uric acid

has been implicated by many studies in diseases, such as arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, stoke, kidney disease and preeclampsia in pregnancy – where uric acid’s ability to promote inflammation, oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction have a debilitating impact on placental development and function and maternal vascular health.

Fructose tricks our body into gaining weight by giving false signals to our metabolism-it turns off the body’s appetite-control system. It does not appropriately stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the ‘hunger hormone’) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the ‘satiety hormone’), which together result in people eating more and developing insulin resistance and eventually, diabetes.

Fructose rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity (‘beer belly’), decreased high-density lipoprotein (the good cholesterol), increased low-density lipoprotein ( the bad cholesterol), elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure-that is, classic metabolic syndrome X.

Most of these changes are not seen when humans consume starch (glucose), showing that fructose is just out rightly bad carbohydrate, especially when consumed at more than 25 grammes daily.

The bulk of this sugar is hidden in processed foods and beverages. So to address obesity and related health issues, such as diabetes, arthritis and heart disease, ridding our diet of processed foods, especially sugar, is very important.

To be continued

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