Added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. High fructose corn syrup is found in most sodas and sugary soft drinks. It is easy to get addicted to fructose as it triggers a ‘feel good’ chemical activity in the brain. The more sugar you eat, the greater your threshold to reach this pleasure sensation is, so you need more and more daily. Americans consume nearly 130 pounds of added sugars every year.
Drinking soda causes your blood sugar to increase. This makes the pancreas work harder and contribute more to insulin resistance, which increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Sugars in fruit metabolize slowly because they are contained in fibrous walls. This means the digestive tract takes more time to break them down and sugars enter the bloodstream more slowly giving the liver more time to metabolize them. Fruit can also help keep us from overeating by making us feel fuller. This sensation of feeling fuller happens because the fiber-rich fruit breaks down more slowly, traveling longer through the digestive tract, triggering the satiety hormones that tend to cluster further down the small intestines, unlike processed, sugary, junk food.
We already know that too much sugar contributes to obesity and other health issues but avoiding fruit is not the answer. Unfortunately, fruit gets a bad rap, as it is high in sugar and often perceived as unhealthy. But fresh fruit is actually associated with a lower body weight and a lower risk of obesity-associated diseases. Unlike candy, juices or sodas, whole fruits contain antioxidants and healthful nutrients. Additionally, their cellular framework, made of fiber, helps you feel full longer, balances blood sugar and is beneficial in maintaining a proper metabolism.
Reducing sugar from your diet has many health benefits including weight loss, lowering your risk for diabetes, and lowering your risk for heart disease. One study actually found that alternating just one sugary soda per day for water, or unsweetened coffee or tea, could lower the risk for type 2 diabetes. The findings are based on detailed food diaries from over 25,000 middle-aged and older British adults. When the study started all participants were diabetes-free, but almost 1000 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by study end. Overall, the study found that the more sugary soda people consumed, the higher their risk of developing diabetes. There was an increased risk of diabetes by about 22% for every extra daily serving.
Other research has shown that sugar could be helping some cancer tumors to grow because sugar stimulates the production of insulin. Nearly 1/3 of common cancers (including some breast and colon) contain insulin receptors that eventually signal the tumor to consume glucose. Some tumors have even adapted to an insulin-rich environment and as such, divert glucose-rich blood from the bloodstream to itself. So cut down on the soda, it might just save your life.
Dr. David Samadi is the chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel and the chief medical correspondent for AM970 in New York City.