Sugar: the most enticing, delicious sweetener, tempting you into a life of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. We all now know that sugar is the real bad guy in our foods…but why? And what’s the deal with sugar in HPV?
What’s the Deal With Sugar?
Most people know that “sugar is bad for you” and that reducing its intake is one of the cornerstones to a healthier lifestyle. But what is it exactly about sugar that impacts our health so negatively?
For starters, the sheer volume of consumption by the average North American has skyrocketed. The estimated annual per capita consumption in the 1850s was about 25 pounds. This increased to about 120 pounds of sugar per capita by the 1950s. With the introduction of other processed forms of sugar, such as high fructose corn syrup, to virtually all refined foods, modern sugar consumption has grown to about 40 teaspoons of added sugar per person, per day!
In addition to the staggering quantity consumed, sugar contains many empty calories, is very energy dense, and has shown to have very harmful, deleterious effects on our immune system.
*Empty calories: what do we mean by empty calories? This sweetener contains virtually no minerals, vitamins, or other micronutrients. It is just a very refined carbohydrate, and does very little in the ways of nourishing our bodies.
*Energy dense: a little sugar adds up to a lot of extra calories. Only 1 teaspoon (= 5 grams) of sugar has about 16 Calories. This may not seem like much, but it adds up quickly (i.e. multiply that by 40 = an additional 640 Calories a day).
*Effects on immune system: excess consumption can have adverse effects on your immune system. In one study, the consumption of 100g (25 teaspoons) in the form of either sucrose, glucose, or fructose by healthy volunteers caused a temporary decrease in the ability of their neutrophils (specialized immune cells) to engulf bacteria. This suggests that reducing your intake of sweeteners (including refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta) can be helpful in preventing and fighting infections.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a common sweetener found in sodas, candies, fruit-flavoured drinks and pre-packaged foods… in other words, it is found in virtually all processed foods. Take a few minutes to look at the ingredients labels in your cabinets and fridge. HFCS has been known to impact the body’s functions which prevent it from healing and repairing. Stopping the body from healing is the last thing you want to do if diagnosed with HPV. Although fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruits and vegetables, it is the refined forms of fructose used primarily as a food additive that’s being discussed. In fact, the highest source of fructose and HFCS in the North American diet comes from sodas and other sugary drinks.
In terms of calories and chemical structure, sugars are very similar to one another, the body appears to metabolize fructose very differently than the rest. In animal models, high fructose diets cause the development of obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, and dyslipidemia.
How Important Is Blood Sugar Control?
If you have cervical cancer, intraepithelial neoplasia, or are at high risk for developing any of the above, studies suggest that controlling blood sugar levels may help improve outcomes.
The Diabetes Connection
The rates for type 2 diabetes are on the rise. Once considered “late onset” or “adult diabetes” because it historically predominantly affected older populations in the past, this disease is now presenting itself in younger and younger people.
Being overweight and obese, the “Standard American Diet” consisting of highly processed, high sugar, and low fruit and vegetable intake, combined with a sedentary lifestyle are major contributing factors to this trend.
Blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, also called “prediabetes”, is a warning sign that serious changes to diet and lifestyle need to be taken to prevent progression of the disease.
It is currently estimated that six million Canadians have prediabetes.
Diseases by Diabetes
Having type 2 diabetes increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. In fact, according to the Canadian Diabetes Foundation, up to 80% of people with diabetes will die as a result of heart attack or stroke. New research suggests that high blood sugar may also be a contributing factor in poor cervical cancer prognosis, and that obesity and abnormal blood glucose could be risk factors in the development of pre-neoplastic lesions of the cervix.
Research published in the journal Gynecological Oncology reported that high glucose levels were associated with a greater risk for recurrence and mortality in non-diabetic women with locally advanced cervical cancer treated with radiation and/or concurrent chemotherapy.
The good news is that achieving stable blood glucose control is possible. Depending on the severity of your dysglycemia, this may involve much more dedication to your personal health. Even with the help of medication, the key to glucose control is healthy diet and exercise, which are also key for optimal health.
First and foremost, go visit your doctor to have your blood sugar levels tested. Next, under the supervision of your physician, increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, and lean protein, while cutting out processed, refined foods (including white flower, white pasta, white bread, fast food, TV dinners, etc.), sugar, and fried food consumption.
Increasing your daily physical activity is critical as well: 20-30 minutes daily of brisk walking is an excellent start, and can have a tremendously positive impact on your health. Try incorporating HIIT workouts 1 or 2 times per week to really optimize your physical health!
Whether you have high blood sugar levels or not, these diet and lifestyle modifications can help improve overall health.
The bottom line: cut back on sugar and other refined carbohydrate consumption, increase your daily intake of fruits and vegetables, your body will thank you.