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Sugar, Carbs & You

Sugar and Carbs

Most Americans consume an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar each day. That’s exceedingly high, considering the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 100 calories per day (or about 6 teaspoons) for women and no more than 150 calories per day (or about 9 teaspoons) for men. The World Health Organization agrees, and encourages people to stay below 10% of total calories coming from added sugars and better to be under 5% in order to improve overall health. And this includes fruit juice!

We know that an increase in consumption of sugar has been identified as an important contributor to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes worldwide. Sugar has also been implicated as a precipitating risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

More recent data is also implicating excessive added sugar in the diet as a risk factor for cancer and worse outcomes for those with cancer. Our own animal research demonstrated that added sugar in the diet of mice prone to get breast cancer or have their disease spread led to faster onset of cancer and more metastatic disease. This was the case even when the quantities of sugar were below the average consumed in Western diets. We found that sugar activated inflammatory processes, and inflammation plays a role in the development of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia and Alzheimer’s.

We also know from extensive research that it is ideal to consume a diet that reduces large spikes in blood sugar (glucose levels). Evidence shows that refined carbohydrates and excessive carbohydrates in general, both abundant in the Western diet, lead to spikes in blood sugar. Repeated spikes in blood sugar activate inflammatory processes and multiple studies have linked a high glycemic load diet to increased risk of cancer and other diseases.


So what does this mean for you? What type of sugar is okay and which type of sugar do we need to cut out?

Ideally, you should limit added sugar intake in general (table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sugary drinks – including fruit juice, and all other forms of refined sugars). Also, try to eat a diet that decreases major swings in glucose levels. Mounting evidence shows that eating a primarily plant-based diet reduces cancer risk and is recommended for cancer survivors. By consuming more plants, specifically fresh, non-starchy green vegetables, less animal protein, less refined carbohydrates, and less added sugars, we can decrease our risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more. For more information on healthy diets for cancer prevention and control visit the American Institute for Cancer research.

Boundless, by Ryan Turner, is a unique cookbook designed to help people eat gourmet, exquisite food that does not deplete our health. Plentiful provides recipes and cooking strategies that will have you convinced that you are not depriving yourself, as often happens on low-carb diets. That is because Ryan provides the education, knowledge, tools, and healthful substitutes to continue to lead a gourmet lifestyle. Plentiful will help you maintain a balanced glycemic load with no deprivation. Buon appetito.

Note from Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D.

Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., Integrative Medicine Program MD Anderson Cancer Center