I quit sugar #3 (why sugar makes us fat)

OK. So this is where it gets interesting and a little bit tricky. As in, good tricky.

Today I’m going to cover off two key issues. Yesterday I said I’m eating more (good) fat and protein as a way of getting me through this quit sugar business. This is in part cos fat and protein satiate. They fill me up. So I don’t crave sugar. Or anything else for that matter. Oooh, but they’re fattening, you say!? Actually, no. Sugar is. Let me explain.


But first, know two things to kick off with:

sugar doesn’t fill you up. it makes you want to eat more and more (thus making you put on weight)


the real issue here is FRUCTOSE…

not sugar per se. Sugar is half fructose and half glucose. But it’s fructose that causes the issues.

fat doesn’t make us fat, sugar does

I’m going to dot-point this part because it is tough to follow. I’m going to leave out most of the fancy scientific language.  If you want to know more (and it’s really worth learning more)  can I highly recommend David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison?. It’s the full, glorified biological breakdown of the deal. But for now:

* every substance we ingest has a corresponding appetite hormone that tells our brain (the hypothalamus) that we’re full. It’s like a little detector/messengar. It finds the protein or the fat or the carb and goes, “Hello! Better tell the brain we have a visitor”. It is also able to tell the brain when we’ve had enough. The brain then issues the edict: “Time to shut down appetite”. You’ve probably noticed when you eat cheese or nuts it gets rid of hunger straight away. Yeah?

* every substance, that is, except for fructose. Fructose is a sugar found in fruit and honey and in table sugar (sugar contains 50% fructose, 50% glucose). When we eat fructose, it’s like our body doesn’t notice it. It goes undetected. And so we can eat and eat and eat it, but our bodies don’t feel full.

* people often say fructose is good because it doesn’t cause insulin spikes (as glucose does). This is actually a bad thing…for a host of reasons…but in part because insulin is an appetite control hormone.

* add to this: we have a biological predisposition to seek out sugar and eat a stack of it. This is because sugar is a super fast way to get energy. When we were cavemen it made sense to seek out sugar. It was rare, but very valuable, energy-wise.

* when we’re in balance, and eating NO SUGAR, our bodies don’t put on weight. We have no cravings. We get full and genuinely lose interest in food. We burn off the calories in our system. And only then do we feel hungry again (another set of hormones tell the brain we’re hungry). Then we eat again. This is not some magical state of utopia. It’s seriously what our bodies do on their own (which is why up until 200 years ago no one really got fat and why my grandfather could eat dripping sandwiches and stay skinny).

* so , all things being equal, we don’t get fat from eating fat and protein. Our bodies ensure this. We get full. We move on….to hobbies…and the like.

* add to this, fat is actually required to activate metabolism and to synthesise Vitamin D which is also required for metabolism. Eating (good) fat can actually make you lose weight. But that’s another discussion.

Now, add to this…

* the way fructose is converted to energy in our bodies means that it skips the fat-creation control mechanism in the liver and is converted directly to fatty acids, and then body fat.

* this doesn’t happen with any other substance we ingest, including glucose. Our body has a bunch of checks and balances to ensure this.

* After eating fructose, most of the metabolic burden rests on your liver. This is not the case with glucose, of which your liver breaks down only 20 percent. Nearly every cell in your body utilises glucose, so it’s normally “burned up” immediately after consumption.

* So, to quote David Gillespie, “Eating fructose is like eating fat that your body can’t detect as fat”. A double whammy disaster.

why don’t we have a fructose “I’m full” switch?

* well, because in the olden days, as in cavemen days, fructose was rare. Cavemen would find a berry every now and then. Or a bee hive. But, as I mentioned, all sugars are very energy efficient, so we like to eat them (ergo, our eyes light up when we see cake). We’re programmed this way. It’s not a weakness. So when we found fructose, it was in our interest to eat as much as possible so we can store it. There was little danger of overdosing on it, because it was so rare. So our bodies, naturally, evolved to have no “off switch” for it, so that we could gorge on it when we had the (rare) opportunity.

How much sense does that make? A lot, I say!

* consider this:

our bodies have not changed the way they digest and metabolise food in the 130,000 years since caveman days.

But our diet has changed dramatically. And so everything happening to our bodies these days is a coping mechanism. Our bodies are confused. They’re just trying to cope with this ridiculous – and growing – amount of fructose in our lives.

But fructose is natural, why’s it so bad?

* It’s not bad. We’re just designed to eat VERY LITTLE of it. How much? Studies say the amount in about 1-2 pieces of fruit. Which as David says in Sweet Poison, is about what we used to eat prior to the “invention” of sugar in the 1800s.

Phew. That was hard work. For now, know this: fructose is to be avoided at all costs. More in the next post….

In the meantime, can I ask…how do you feel about eating more fat now? Relieved? When I got my head around it, I felt that it intuitively made sense. What do you think?

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