Could you be prediabetic? According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of America is prediabetic and 90% of them, some 100 million Americans, do not know it.6-8
When researches compared blood sugar of 249 healthy adults in their 60s, there was a significant increase in brain atrophy and shrinkage in those whose blood sugars were high, but still in normal range, as set by the World Health Organization.1
High-normal blood sugars can glycate, or clump together, sticking to proteins in the blood, becoming what are called advance glycation end products (AGEs). Studies show that AGEs may be the smoking gun for one’s chances of developing liver, kidney, heart, joint, or cognitive issues over time.2-5
Note: The HbA1c test can tell you if you’re producing advanced glycation end products at dangerous levels.
A History of Sugar9
Our blood sugar epidemic’s beginnings reach back 10,000 years to New Guinea, where sugar cane was first domesticated. Chewing on a stalk of sugar cane quickly became known as a “panacea” or “cure-all” for any mood or ailment.
By 1000 B.C.E., sugar cane reached the Asian mainland, and by 500 B.C.E., Indian alchemists figured out how to make the white powder version: the new secret recipe and medicinal cure-all that changed the world. Even today, Americans consume 22 teaspoons of sugar per day.
Soon, sugar made its way to the Middle East and then Europe, still being touted as a cure-all 1,000 years later. Demand for sugar rivaled gold. So rare was access to granulated sugar that it was consumed only by the wealthy.
Don’t forget, sugar triggers dopamine receptors in the brain. Dopamine is the gotta-have-it-now hormone. Soon, the developing world had to have it.
With the Ottoman Empire in full force in 1400 C.E., Europeans had to find new tropical territories to grow sugar cane. Many expeditions were commissioned to find suitable land to grow the white powder plant. Columbus took sugar cane plants to the Caribbean on his second trip to the New World.
Soon, island after island was converted into sugar fields, with natives doing all the labor. When the natives died, they were replaced with African slaves. More than 11 million Africans were shipped to the New World as slaves, where millions died, primarily in the name of sugar.
By the 1700s, sugar was not a luxury spice anymore. It had become a staple in high demand worldwide. One island after another was depleted of its water table reserves and when the crops dried up, a new island was terrorized with sugar cane and slave traders.
Europeans consumed greater and greater quantities of sugar. In 1700, the average Englishman consumed four pounds of sugar per year. In 1800, 18 pounds a year. In 1870, 47 pounds a year. By 1900, the average Englishman was consuming 100 pounds per year—more than today’s average American by 23 pounds.
For centuries, the world’s sweet tooth was satisfied on the backs of African slaves and native people.
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Today, the average American consumes 22.7 teaspoons of sugar each day:
- 6 tsp. of white granulated sugar
- 2 tsp. of high-fructose corn syrup
- 3 tsp. of other sugars (honey, molasses, maple syrup)
While you might find it hard to believe we could consume so much sugar, it is well hidden in processed foods, breads, fruit juices, and healthy snacks.
In 1980, 5.5 million Americans had diabetes. By 2015, that number was up to 23 million!10
Interestingly, fat makes up a significantly smaller percentage of the American diet than it did 20 years ago, although the low-carb and ketogenic movements are helping bring good fats back into our diet. Even so, the intake of sugar has steadily risen and America has gotten fatter and fatter.
While sugar is our new poison, linked to numerous chronic health issues, processed sugar is even worse. Americans consume more than half the world’s supply of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a processed sugar linked to weight gain, cardiovascular issues, and cognitive issues now known as type 3 diabetes.
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Sucrose vs Fructose
Research on the woes of HFCS has lead scientists to understand more about the difference between sucrose and fructose. Sucrose, or white table sugar, contains glucose, which the body, muscles, and brain can readily use. Fructose has a different story and needs to be understood.
Some 22 million years ago, apes in Africa lived on fruits picked right off trees. Around 17 million years ago, the earth cooled and the ice caps grew larger, leaving land bridges where the nomadic apes could migrate north.
As the earth cooled, fruit trees were replaced with deciduous trees, and soon what is now Europe and Asia was filled with starving apes. At some point, an intelligent genetic mutation occurred that allowed apes to store fructose as fat to endure long winters, rather than burn it quickly as food and energy. Many of these apes migrated back into Africa, passing the fructose-storing gene to the original African apes and possibly enabling them to forage for new sources of food.
According to scientists, this mutation was so powerful that only apes with the mutation survived to become our ancestors. Today, we carry this same gene, which has made high-fructose corn syrup our new poison.