Diet and Nutrition

Paul L. Reller L.Ac. / Last Updated: August 03, 2017


The questions concerning carbohydrates and health risks associated with certain types of simple carbohydrates and sugars, as well as artificial sweeteners as substitutes for saccharides

The term high glycemic index is now used to describe types of food that contain simple carbohydrates that are too quickly affecting the insulin response and blood sugar levels. For persons lacking the metabolic capacity to handle these surges of simple sugars, or carbohydrates, this presents quite the health problem. On the other hand, people with a high capacity for handling a surge of simple carbohydrates, or sugars, this presents no problem. The type of simple carbohydrate also makes a difference, since different types are processed differently in our systems. The problem in society is that those people that consume simple carbohydrates in a regular routine and excess often damage their ability to properly regulate blood sugars. Over time, the stress put upon the sugar metabolism in these people may create an inability to process these simple carbohydrates, resulting in excess stored energy in the form of fat, or fat accumulation in the liver inhibiting the metabolism of nutrients, and eventually a resistance to normal insulin levels in the fat cells. This cycle of dysfunction often leads to weight gain, obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, and eventually may lead to cardiovascular ill health, Parkinsonism and other neurodegeneration, and other health problems. Often, those people that eat a fairly balanced and healthy diet are the ones that avoid foods with a high glycemic index, especially refined sugar, while those that are used to a more typical modern diet of refined and processed foods, do not avoid simple carbohydrate foods and refined sugars that may be toxic to a person with a metabolic syndrome, or inability to process these foods. The degree of toxicity increases as the ill effects accumulate in this cycle of dysfunction. The substitution of artificial sweeteners and "diet" foods has not only failed to solve this problem, but has in fact contributed to the end points of ill health, with many studies now showing the strong link to intake of "diet" soda, or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, neotame, sucralose, acesulfame K and saccharin, and risk of Metabolic Syndrome, Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In 2009, the American Diabetes Association even printed the results of a very large cohort study conducted by experts at the University of Texas, University of Minnesota, The Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Oslo, which clearly showed that chronic intake of artificial sweeteners actually caused the same diseases as they were long advertised to prevent by substituting for actual sugar. To see this study, click here: . There is so much misinformation concerning sugars and simple carbohydrates that is printed or online that few of us can escape the confusion, but we can see quite clearly that the industry solutions, supported by lobbying and governmental guidelines, have hurt public health dramatically.

There are basically three issues concerning sugars in the diet that people should be aware of, and have an understanding of. First, understanding that excess consumption of simple carbohydrates puts a lot of stress on the system, and affects the hormonal regulation of blood sugars negatively. Second, that fructose, a type of simple sugar, does not directly affect the hormonal regulation of blood sugar, or the insulin metabolism, but does immediately affect the metabolism of conversion of sugars to fat, and amount of fatty storage, which eventually hurts the metabolic regulation. Third, that the degree of insulin resistance, or the affects of the hormone insulin on our cells, is vitally important to how our bodies handle carbohydrates. If we acquire chronic problems of insulin resistance and fatty accumulation (Metabolic Syndrome), we need to pay particular attention to the type and quality of carbohydrates we consume.

A link to a comprehensive 2009 review of scientific studies related to the physiological effects of glycemic index by the University of Toronto is provided below in additional information. This meta-analysis found that low glycemic index diets (i.e. whole foods and grains with natural sweeteners) have been found to improve serum lipids, reduce C-reactive protein (the most important marker for chronic inflammation and cardiovascular risk), aid in weight control, are associated with improved levels of high density lipoprotein cholesterols (HDL-C), decreased risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome, decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, and positive associations for decreased risk of various cancers, including breast, colon, and prostate. Dramatic results are found in some studies. For instance, in one study, 80 patients were given a low-glycemic index diet for 28 days, then switched to a high-glycemic diet for 28 days. These patients, with a high body mass index, showed that a low glycemic index diet reduced CRP (inflammatory responses), while a high glycemic index diet raised CRP (inflammatory responses), acutely. There obviously is a public health need to promote a low-glycemic index diet. Ignoring this fact has led to healthy profits for the food industry, but an enormous health burden to society.

Today, this health issue is now simplified to a 'carbs are bad' solution, creating other types of public health problems related to diet. Carbohydrates are the most important and usable fuel in our diet. The type of carbohydrate, and the form that it comes in, is the important issue, not the amount of carbs ingested, although a decrease in total consumption of food calories (energy units), is often necessary to loose weight. The issue of a high-carb versus a high-protein diet is often not a key issue as well, as the body will adapt to these changes in eating habits to supply energy, converting proteins to glucose. The real issue for most people is the healthy quality of the carbohydrates that they consume. The key question concerning healthy carbohydrates is whether one is consuming carbs that take longer to process, giving our bodies the chance to respond to the normal evolved way of processing and storing food nutrients, or whether one is consuming refined carbohydrate forms that the body needs to respond quickly to, creating more stress on the metabolism. For many individuals, this stress creates disease. Depending on the health and liver function of the individual, refined carbohydrates, and unnatural carbohydrates, may lead to excess physiological stress, dysfunction, and disease. One type of carbohydrate is particularly toxic over time, and this is fructose, which has become a common type of sweetener in processed foods. The widespread use of high-fructose corn syrup, and other sweeteners with a high percentage of fructose, has led to altered fatty metabolism, creating diseases associated with fatty liver accumulations, high triglycerides, increased fatty stores (obesity), and difficulty controlling appetite and blood sugar balance. This increase of fructose in the general diet may also have led to problems with consumption of the natural source of fructose, fruit. Once we understand how poor quality carbohydrates affect our health, we can make better decisions in our diet.

To reiterate, high glycemic foods are those that contain simple, poor quality carbohydrates that break down too fast and give an immediate stress upon the blood sugar regulating system, or the insulin / glucogan hormonal regulation. Each individual needs to understand how these high glycemic foods may hurt them, assessing their individual capacity to process simple carbohydrates. If one has developed obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes, or insulin resistance, foods with a high glycemic index present a serious challenge to one's health. On the other hand, if one has a healthy metabolism, indulging occasionally in high glycemic foods presents no danger to the health. Still, there are types of refined sugars, combinations of refined sugars with fats and proteins in unhealthy products called advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), and artificial sweeteners, that may present problems even to a healthy individual. Simply replacing poor quality carbohydrates with other harmful chemicals in the form of artificial sweeteners and high-fructose sweeteners is not a sensible solution. The sensible approach to food is to eat whole complex natural foods, where fiber and carb are combined, and the type of carbohydrate adheres to what our bodies are built for. Unfortunately, modern science and advertising have convinced us that the more refined and processed the food, the better it is. Adding an array of sweeteners, salts, and other flavorings to these processed foods has made them even more appealing. Breaking down the nutrient chemicals to their pure forms allows food scientists to play with chemicals that we naturally find appealing, such as fructose and glucose. Fructose is called fruit sugar because originally chemists found this molecule in the sucrose stored in fruits. In actuality, fructose is just one of the simplest forms of sugar, or monosaccharides, along with glucose and galactose. Fructose consumption is not unhealthy, as long as we don't consume too much of it. The main type of sugar, or simple carbohydrate, in nature, is sucrose. All sweet foods, including many vegetable roots, honey, tree sap (maple syrup), contain sucrose, as well as most fruits, which can be broken down into fructose and glucose. Fructose does not just come from fruit. The problem we have with sugars is not eliminating fructose, just eliminating over-consumption. Eating sugar is healthy, as long as we eat healthy sugars in the form of complex carbohydrates, fresh whole foods, and whole grains. While refining natural sugars, or carbohydrates, presented a rare sweet treat for our palate, it should have stayed a rare experience, and not a predominant part of our diet. No, Tony the Tiger, you are not our friend if eventually you give us Metabolic Syndrome.

The subject of whole grains is not as straightforward as one would like. A November 1, 2015 article in the New York Times Magazine, entitled Against the Grain, explores the history of whole grains and flours from the perspective of a renowned scientist, Stephen Jones, now the director of The Bread Lab, at Washington State University in the United States. Dr. Jones, with a doctorate in genetics, has spent a lifetime studying wheat breeding and the wheat genome, but most of this study directed by the USDA (Department of Agriculture) in support of an industry that tried to further refine a handful of wheat species to obtain only higher yields for wheat species designed for industrial milling, where the fats in the grain are eliminated by processing to slow the rate of spoilage, and the fibers are eliminated to make the quick industrial baking more efficient. The elimination of these parts of the grain, the germ and the bran, to facilitate the steel roller mill invented in 1839, created flour that did not go rancid in a month, but that lost most of its nutrition, and its many varieties of taste. Dr. Jones notes that the most popular wheat flours of the 19th century, such as Red Fife and Turkey Red, were completely phased out due to this adoption of the steel roller mill to take healthy fats out of wheat flour to create longer shelf life. The ancient method of stone grinding of the flour allowed for the inclusion of the highly nutritious and flavorful germ and bran, but the flour would need to be milled fresh and locally, and used within a month or three.

Today, renewed popularity of whole grain foods has resulted in the industry using the bran but not the most nutritious and essential part of the grain, the fatty germ. Still separating these three parts of the grain, some processed bran and a little processed germ is added to the starch to meet the regulations, but does not equal actual traditional whole grain flour. Dr. Jones found that the expanding small farm organic growers in Washington State were growing wheat to rotate crops in their fields for soil health and nutrition, but were just disposing of this wheat, without a market. He proposed successfully that heirloom wheat varieties suited to the climate and soil be reintroduced, and that a market be created by instructing local millers and bakers into the methods for making this traditional tasty flour into fine bakery products. The health benefits were enormous, as well as the delicious taste advantages. A lost art was again found. Unfortunately, the food industry stepped in just as this was taking off and Chilpotle secured a deal to buy most of this new, and now popular in small bakeries, real whole grain heirloom wheat flour. The end result will again be the introduction of whole grain industrial food, in this case tortillas, that are already turned into just partial whole grain products, and finally, as we have seen before, the eventual phasing out of this variety of healthy heirloom stone-ground whole wheat because it was not as profitable. In the meantime, all of the work of Dr. Jones and The Bread Lab may be lost, as the flours created are not available to an expanding market of small local specialty bakeries. This tactic of eliminating popular healthy real whole grain and heirloom species of healthy grain by just buying the product and then phasing it out has occurred over and over again in the food industry. The public is the only hope for finally achieving what has been tried since the 1970s, the creation of healthy popular breads and baked goods from freshly stone-milled varieties of wheat. Only public demand and awareness will make this work, though, as there is a huge monetary incentive to preserving the status quo in industrial baked goods. Spending a little more money on healthy real food and eating a little less is the obvious answer to this public health problem.

Foods with a high glycemic index include glucose (sugar), maltose (e.g. potatoes, cereals and candy bars), most processed breakfast cereals, potatoes, potato or corn chips, white or refined breads, refined pastries, white refined rice, candies, and very sweet fruits, such as watermelon, and especially fast-foods, including salty french fries and processed meats, where high caloric salt and other chemicals disguise the high content of sugars. Not all high glycemic index foods are equal, though. Some foods with a high glycemic index have little nutritional value other than carbohydrate, while others have a high nutritional value and provide fiber as well. For instance, millet, broad beans, parsnips and dates are considered high glycemic index foods, yet provide valuable nutritional benefits over processed cereals and pastries. Even so-called healthy breakfast cereals are high or medium glycemic foods, such as quick cooking oatmeal and shredded wheat, and processing has depleted their natural nutrient content considerably. Starting the day with a complex carbohydrate porridge, such as steel cut oats, amaranth, or other whole grain, such as corn grits, provides a healthy carbohydrate alternative to our normal breakfast routine. Health experts for millenia have noted that starting the day with healthy complex carbodydrates both starts the diurnal metabolism and provide prolonged energy as glucose as these complex carbs break down slowly. Humans then have the fuel to work well early in the day when the metabolism, slowed by sleep, is not as vitally active. The modern solution to this energy problem has been to consume 'fast carbs' as processed cereals and then use caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants when the 'quick carbs' sugar was spent. Such behavior has led to a society that is overweight, obese, plagued with cardiovascular disease, and now with an enormous burden of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. When judging and choosing our food choices we cannot simply look at glycemic index, but as with all information, it can be a valuable consideration in the equation. Cheap food is often high glycemic and depleted of nutrients, and choosing to buy more expensive fresh whole foods and eat less will certainly benefit the health.

Of course, many commercially processed foods contain glucose and maltose in abundance, which we call sugar. Sugar comes in a variety of forms. The term sucrose refers to sugars made from sugar cane and sugar beet, but many commercial sugars are heavily refined, or processed, and often come to us in the form of fructose, high fructose corn syrup, and glucose. Sucrose is actually a form of sugar that is a stored combination of the glucose and fructose molecules. Fructose is an isomer of glucose (same molecular formula but different structure), and glucose is the main fuel in our bodies. How quickly these sugars are broken down in our digestion and assimilation is perhaps the most important aspect of the glycemic index, which is a measure of the capacity of a carbohydrate to increase blood sugar levels and stimulate insulin response. When the need for glucose is exceeded, the liver converts these simple carbohydrates, or sugars, to stored fat and protein. Over time the fatty stores in the liver hurt the liver function, and with local fat storage maximized, the liver will begin excess transport of fat and protein in the form of triglycerides and advanced glycation endproducts, leading to fat stored around the body and in other organs, and creating those accumulations on our vascular membranes that lead eventually to strokes and heart attacks, and decrease circulatory ability. Obviously, the more refined the carbohydrate, the quicker it is converted to glucose, and thus the quicker the body needs to respond by secreting the insulin and glucagon hormones and converting the glucose that is not immediately used for fuel into stored forms, namely glycogens, lipids (fats), and proteins. This excess response with insulin creates hyperinsulinemia and eventually insulin resistance, setting off a cascade of hormonal imbalances with excess leptin and leptin resistance, deficient glucagon, and excess adiponectin and other local cellular hormones. This is called Metabolic Syndrome, and eventually, a type of diabetes will be created as well, with poor pancreatic function. The basic cause for these most common health problems is apparent, yet we are still resisting the correction, refusing to change the general public diet and adopt sensible public health policies with our food industry. Freedom does not mean that we have the freedom to injure people, and general regulations that affect the society are a concept that we call civilization and government. We seem to have forgotten what these basic human concepts actually mean.

High fructose corn syrup and other processed sugars

In 2015, the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group (NutriCoDE), an international group of independent researchers, published a comprehensive study in the medical journal Circulation that estimated that sugary soft drinks now are directly responsible for about 184,000 deaths per year worldwide. To put this in perspective, it is estimated that yearly deaths caused by AIDS total about 1.5 million, cigarette smoking causes about 6 million people each year, and yearly deaths from cancer total about 8.2 million. A conservative estimate shows that simple soft drinks with high fructose corn syrup kill about one eighth as many people as the devastating disease AIDS that we so fear and spend so much money combating. Surely, we can start to see that sugary drinks should be limited as we care for our children. Just as the industry convinced us that cigarette smoking was harmless and that most of us should not worry about chain smoking 6 packs of cigarettes a day, they have convinced us that sugary soft drinks are also benign. This study concerns just one small part of the consumption of processed sugars and simple carbohydrates, though, and the yearly death toll from the total excess consumption may be getting even closer to our most feared causes of death.

While this term glycemic index is important, it is perhaps today not the most important aspect of carbohydrate health, as the food industry has inundated our commercial foods with high fructose corn syrup, and various other types of refined sugars that give us a large dose of fructose. Now, fructose has a low glycemic index, which is confusing for many individuals when assessing the health of the carbohydrate intake. Fructose is a basic saccharide, or simple sugar, and is an isomer (different arrangement of atoms in the molecule) of the monosaccharide which is the measure of our blood sugar, glucose. Fructose is not processed in our bodies the same way that glucose is, though, and in nature, there is generally not a high percentage of fructose, or its precursor, sucrose, in food, even fruits. Since fructose tastes sweeter to us, though, we have created hybrid fruits with more fructose, or its precursor, sucrose. Fructose does not turn into blood sugar, though, and does not subsequently stimulate insulin response, and thus it is considered a low glycemic index carb. Fructose does have a lot of negative effects if overconsumed, though, creating toxicities. Fructose goes almost entirely to the liver, where it is turned into glycerol, or stored sugar in the form of a fat precursor, triglycerides. To accomplish this takes much energy, uses citric acid excessively, and creates stored fats from this process as well. Fructose in essence turns into fat. While fructose is listed along with healthy carbohydrates as low glycemic, it is an unhealthy food to take in with much quantity, and excess intake of fructose and its precursor sucrose will do more to generate metabolic dysfunction, obesity, and cardiovascular problems than high glycemic foods. To learn more about fructose, a lecture by a professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of California in San Francisco, Dr. Robert Lustig, click here to see the lecture on a youtube video: If this link is problematic, you may google: sugar the bitter truth to find this informative video.

While the response to fructose studies, and education of the public to the dangers of excess fructose consumption, have been met with strong criticism, sponsored, of course, by the food industry, which even lobbies our government to delay the inevitable regulations prohibiting this practice of promoting excess fructose consumption, reasonable people see now that excess fructose consumption has created enormous harm to the public health. Studies in recent years have clearly elucidated how this harm occurs. For instance, researchers in 2008 at the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington, and the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, worked together to confirm the measurable effets of fructose. The conclusion: "Acute intake of fructose stimulates lipogenesis and may create a metabolic milieu that enhances subsequent esterification of fatty acids flowing to the liver to elevate triglyceride synthesis postprandially (after a meal)." In other words, eating high fructose foods stimulates fatty tissue stores (lipogenesis and triglycerides) in the liver, and alters the essential fatty acid homeostasis, which is very important to our health (re: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids). Subsequent studies in 2011, published in the Journal of Endocrinology (1/6/2011 Paul W Caton et al), showed that this increased fatty tissue production, and elevated gluconeogenesis (glucose creation) after consuming high fructose foods leads to insulin resistance and dyslipidemia (imbalance of cholesterol-carrying lipoproteins and stored fats). The digestion, absorption, and metabolism of fructose differs greatly from that of normal sugar, and of glucose. The metabolism of fructose, unlike glucose, does not stimulate the regulating effects of insulin and leptin on blood sugars and appetite, but instead contributes essentially to fat stores. While consumption of normal sugars and sweet high caloric foods would create a response of satiety and meeting of acute energy needs, the intake of high-fructose sugars would not appreciably send signals that these energy needs have been met. In other words, food researchers knew that switching to high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener would contribute to overconsumption, especially if the industry "super-sized" soft drinks and sweet snacks. This, in turn, would create insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome, fatty liver syndrome of dysfunction, and obesity.s

It is no coincidence that the industry conversion to high-fructose corn syrup has coincided with an epidemic of overweight conditions and obesity, since fructose is proven to be a type of simple sugar molecule that is turned into stored fat and fatty liver. The industry misinformation belaying public alarm is almost criminal, given that the United States, and now the rest of the world, is suffering from a percentage of overweight and obese persons that is creating enormous healthcare expense and bankrupting our societies. Research has shown that these food industries knew that this would happen, but opted for huge profits over public health, yet the public has still not turned on them. The food lobby has instead grown in power, and now affects even the funding for public health research.

White refined sugar is normally almost entirely sucrose, which may be broken down into glucose and fructose. Sugar cane may come in less refined forms, including molasses and unrefined cane sugar, but is seen more often as pure cane sugar, typically 99 percent sucrose in its pure refined form. Beet sugar, which is now the more common type of refined sugar in our processed foods, may have a variety of combinations of percentages of sucrose, glucose, and fructose, depending on the ultimate type of processing, although refined beet sugar is 96 percent sucrose. Molasses is separated from the pure parts of the processed raw sugar cane, and is a combination of glucose, sucrose and fructose. The food industry has not been content with leaving sugar refined from sugar cane and sugar beet alone, though, and a number of forms are marketed, all of which look and taste basically the same. Invert sugar is a mix of glucose and fructose formed by the hydrolysis of sucrose. Some refined sugar is derived from sugar cane molasses or sugar beet molasses, as well as in-process beet or cane sugar, meaning that the endproduct may contain a variety of combinations of sucrose, glucose and fructose. Sucrose is considered a medium glycemic index food, and fructose (not high fructose corn syrup) is considered a low glycemic index food, so these distinctions are important, but not as important as the facts about fructose metabolism. Now, honey, maple syrup, and agave syrup are more complex forms of sugar, and contain less fructose and sucrose than commercial sugars, and more importantly, take longer to process. This gives our livers the chance to process these sugars in a healthier way, and also slows the glycemic effect on blood sugar. These natural sugars, though, do contain the same basic saccharides as refined sugar, and for both reasons, need to be limited in the diet as well. Once again, the two reasons to avoid sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the glycemic effect, and the difficulty and ultimate adverse effects of processing fructose in our livers.

Ultimately, sugar has gotten more complicated over time as the industry finds more ways of making more money from sugar. With the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup, which is now the sugar seen in most commercial products, the subject of the type and content of sugar has become even more complicated. Fructose was a simple sugar with a low glycemic index, and was initially substituted in processed foods to improve its glycemic index. Today, much misinformation is distributed about sugars, and one expert will claim that physiologically there is little difference between cane or beet sugar, and high fructose corn syrup, while another expert will say the opposite. Of course, the intelligent person realizes that some of these experts are being paid by the food industry to say whatever makes more profits. High fructose corn syrup is called glucose-fructose in many countries, which have government regulations not permitting the widespread misinformation to occur. The corn syrups in these products are processed with enzymes that convert glucose to fructose. This type of sugar is very different from pure refined cane or beet sugar, which is almost entirely sucrose. While sucrose does break down into fructose and glucose, this process is slower, and the endproduct may vary from one individual metabolism to another. Various types of high fructose corn syrup contain between 10 to 55 percent glucose, a high glycemic index carbohydrate itself, and consequently, some types contain a very high content of fructose. So, high fructose corn syrup hurts us eventually in two ways. One, a higher dose of glucose, affecting blood sugars and insulin responses immediately, and two, a high dose of fructose, which is not affecting blood sugar levels immediately, but will negatively affect liver function and health, and eventually do the most damage in promoting metabolic syndrome and increased fatty storage.

Further research has proven that high fructose consumption contributes greatly to both acute and chronic health problems. A February 2012 issue of the Journal of Nutrition reported that high fructose consumption may increase cardiovascular risk due to the generation of organ fatty tissue accumulation, not only in the liver. A study of 559 14 to 18 year old subjects in Georgia also showed that higher fructose consumption was associated with increased systolic blood pressure, C-reactive protein (a marker for cardiovascular inflammation), and reduced high density lipoproteins (HDL), commonly called "good cholesterol" euphemistically. The researchers, led by Norman K. Pollock (Georgia Health Sciences University), found that these cardiovascular and metabolic (or diabetic) signs of pathology were all related to an immediate increase in organ fatty tissue accumulation. In 2015, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and the Dana-Farber Children's Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts, released a long-term prospective cohort study that showed that consumption of greater than 1.5 sugary drinks per day was highly associated with early menarche, or first menstruation, which has come on average much earlier in life in recent decades than ever before. This shows that high fructose corn syrup, the predominant sugar in these beverages, is affecting hormonal health and is associated with hormonal dysfunction and diseases. While industry researchers continue to claim that high fructose corn syrup is not proven to directly cause these pathologies, this research proves that indirectly, high fructose consumption leads to an immediate cascade of harmful effects due to the nature of the beast, namely how the fructose is transformed and stored. What is the food industry response to this enormous public health threat? Food researchers have confirmed that high fructose corn syrup has caused enormous harm to public health, and have cynically suggested that the industry replace this disease-causing sweetener with artificial sweeteners, themselves proven to cause disease. This cynical and harmful approach, intended clearly to benefit profits, and not the public, should be scrutinized and assessed logically by the public.

So, in conclusion, each individual should understand that carbohydrates are important, but that different types of carbohydrate, and the forms that they come in are the key facts that we need to apply to our diet. Less simple carbohydrates and sugars is important, and more complex carbohydrates, in the form of fresh whole natural food, is also very important. The health of our metabolism may be affected by carbohydrates in a number of ways, and a balance of nutrients in the most healthy forms creates the most potential for our physiologic metabolism to maintain the complex health that we have evolved. We are adaptive, but this potential for adaptation decreases in the individual as he or she becomes metabolically unhealthy. The less healthy we are, the more attention we should pay to consuming healthy complex natural carbohydrates.

Sugars, carbohydrates and our appetite controls

Another important consideration is that our bodies have a number of chemical feedback mechanisms that control our appetite, and when we consume simple carbohydrates, and especially when we consume high amounts of fructose, these feedback mechanisms stimulate excess craving for more food. The food industry has tricked us in this regard as well, even getting the U.S. government to recommend frequent small meals as the healthiest habit, and eventually convincing the population that they must eat often. This is patently untrue, and in recent years the government has reversed itself on this recommendation due to findings that those individuals that go for a substantial period of time each day without eating solid food or sugary beverages have a much better health profile in the long term, and an incredibly lower incidence of the most common diseases. This advice to consume frequent small meals does make money for the food industry, though, and fits right in with foods that disrupt our normal controls of appetite. When we consume high glycemic index foods, the blood sugars in circulation go up quickly, the insulin response is high, and a number of chemicals are produced to then reduce our appetite to keep us from getting our blood sugars too high. Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the stomach in response to carbohydrates to limit appetite, glucagon is a hormone produced in conjunction with insulin to balance sugar metabolism and control appetite, and leptin is a chemical secreted from the fat cells in response to insulin and sugar metabolism that mainly affects the brain and hypothalamic controls of appetite. All of these chemicals are subverted as the individual develops insulin resistance, leptin resistance, and consumes fructose.

Often, the individual feels the ill effects of excess refined carbohydrates and improper neurological appetite controls and convinces themselves that they need more sugar or refined carbohydrates, or perhaps a sugary stimulant drink with caffeine or guarana, to feel better. The most common justification for this seen in the clinical setting is the patient that diagnoses themselves as anemic or hypoglycemic to justify these cravings. As the central nervous system stimulates an improper craving for more simple carbs, the patient feels less energetic and sometimes a little dizzy, or unsettled. Too often, the person will say to themselves that they must be anemic or hypoglycemic, and just need another shot of carbohydrate to compensate. Since fructose does not affect the insulin, glucogon, ghrelin or leptin appetite controls directly, there is little or no inhibition to prolonged appetite or energy craving when consuming this carb. When the physician hears from a patient that they think that they are anemic or hypoglycemic, standard blood tests are often run, and these usually show that there is no problem with either anemia or hypoglycemia. This usually does not stop these patients from believing that they are hypoglycemic or anemic. The loss of normal appetite controls is stronger than we imagine. Most obese patients clinically will say that they do not have an abnormal appetite, although most studies show that unconscious cravings are very prevalent in obesity. Often, the obese patient will satisfy their cravings for more carbohydrate fuel by drinking a sugar beverage, rather than eating. This is the worst habit, as the amount of sugar or fructose in these beverages are usually very high, even when the beverage is promoted as a fruit drink or green tea beverage.

When the appetite for simple carbs is excessive, the individual often resorts to foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners as part of the diet. This often does little to curb the carb appetite in the nervous system, and presents health problems linked to the artificial saccharides. Aspartame (Nutrasweet) is a common artificial sweetener. While studies have shown that a normal consumption of aspartame (methyl esters of the amino acids L-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine) is not acutely toxic, excess consumption, effects in individuals with metabolic problems, and long term toxicity are all a significant concern among health experts. When the person has altered acidity, either an acidic or alkaline condition, aspartame may generate excess methanol. Other breakdown products that may cause problems with excess include phenylalanine, formaldehyde, and formic acid. Concentrated fruit juices may produce excess methanols as well, compounding the chronic toxicity. While the common byproducts of aspartame, especially aspartate and glutamate, common central neurotransmitters, are not in themselves toxic, imbalance of these chemicals in the CNS are associated with a number of pathologies. Imbalances of glutamate and aspartate are associated with anxiety and depressive disorders, sleep quality disorders, fatique, migraines and headaches, and nausea. The American Societies for Experimental Biology stated in a review that it seems prudent for pregnant women, infants and children to avoid aspartame due to potential endocrine responses of elevated cortisol and prolactin, especially with chronic use. Excessive levels of phenylalanine with chronic use may also cause depression of serotonin levels, explaining a link to depression and anxiety. Particular individuals may have a lowered capacity for clearing methanol, which forms toxic formaldehyde and formic acid, leading to mild to moderate methanol toxicities with excess consumption of aspartame, particularly when the aspartame is heated to above 86 degrees farehnheit with improper storage during shipping. The U.S. EPA considers methanol a cumulative toxin due to the low rate of normal excretion. Who would have the most difficulty with these chronic toxicities? The answer may be those individuals that are resorting to the use of artificial sweeteners due to health problems and metabolic syndrome.

The simple answer to these carbohydrate problems is to just try to avoid processed foods, read the labels, and consume complex carbohydrates in the form of real whole grains, beans, legumes, fresh vegetables, and whole fruit. Since packaged foods contain little of these foods in their natural fibrous form, one should take up the habit of cooking and preparing food from scratch. Eating less and purchasing quality foods, trying an ever increasing array of natural whole grains, beans, legumes and vegetables, is the ticket for a healthy future.