Better dental health leads to better overall health; better overall health depends on a healthy diet. Elaine Harvey, MS, CN, is a Certified Nutritionist with a private practice in Cedarburg, WI, and is the consulting nutritionist at the LeClub Health Club in Glendale, WI. She consults with individuals and groups about a wide range of nutritional issues including weight loss, cardiovascular health, autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal problems, and many others. She believes that sound nutrition is the cornerstone of good health. Her approach focuses on lifestyle changes that teach her clients how to create their own foundation for an active and healthy life. Elaine spent some time with Dr. John and the team discussing nutrition last summer. This article contains content from that discussion:
We know that when sugary foods come in contact with dental plaque, the result is the production of an acid that causes dental decay. Sugary foods can also undermine your overall health because they tend to be high in calories but not particularly filling. This makes it easy to over consume them and the excess calories usually result in weight gain. In addition, sugar can negatively impact nutrition and health by displacing healthier foods. People often eat sweets instead of healthy foods and as a result their overall nutrition suffers. Consider this: if you were to replace sweets with nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables, you’d greatly improve the nutritional quality of your diet. However, it’s not just the empty calories that are the problem, or even the excess calories: even if you’re getting all the nutrients you need and are only consuming enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, eating a lot of sugar is still bad for you.
Sugar leads to weight gain. The body does not process all sugars the same. High fructose corn syrup, the sweetener in many foods, is mostly processed and stored as fat and is a major factor in causing obesity in our country. Our brain needs glucose, a more natural form of sugar, and that is processed cleaner by our body.
Sugar suppresses the immune system. When you ingest a big dose of sugar, like a can of Coke or a candy bar, you temporarily tamp down your immune system’s ability to respond for several hours.
Sugar promotes inflammation. Inflammation is part of the immune response, and not always a bad thing. Eating sugary foods creates excessive inflammation that serves no purpose, but can lead to aging and disease.
Sugar suppresses the release of human growth hormone. Human growth hormone slows the aging process and sugar slows it’s production.
Sugar promotes glycation. “Glycation” is the process where sugar molecules in the bloodstream look for fat and protein molecules to hook up with. These glycation molecules careen around your body casing damage and produce other toxic compounds.
Sugar raises insulin levels. When you eat sugar, blood levels of sugar increase; insulin is released to move the sugar into your cells. When sugar levels in the blood decrease, insulin goes back to normal levels. Eating a lot of sugar can cause the need for more and more insulin to carry the sugar. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas (where insulin is produced) stops responding to the sugar as it should. In addition, chronic high insulin levels can accelerate the aging process.
There is a place for sweets in a healthy diet as long as you consider them a treat and not a dietary staple. A small serving of sugar or the occasional sweet treat will not instantly translate into a new wrinkle or multiple organ failure. For many people, sweets with a lot of refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup are difficult to give up, but the problems described above are what happens to people with a diet high in sugar. Many sweets are also high in fats. You may have to reset your appetite mechanisms and eat less sugar, which will lead to less craving for sugar.