26 Feb Sugars vs. Fat: Who is Guilty?
Have you ever thought that your nutritional choices influence substantially your organism, and that many chronic diseases are nothing more than the result of the foods you choose to consume? And what would you think if someone told you that fats are relatively “innocent” as compared to the damage caused by sugars on your body’s organs?
Our body reacts in a positive or negative way to our nutritional choices, as well as to our overall lifestyle. Just think that 50% of the outcomes achieved by Medicine on our health depend on our willingness to change our diet and physical exercise. And this concerns all of us, no matter how old we are.
To better explain this, think that the favorite habit of most of us is to consume sugars, and I’m not just talking about sweets, but also starch, in general; this is a habit that finally steals years from our lives.
The most profound demonstration of this is the failure of the so-called “traditional health diet” to protect us from chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart diseases, Type II Diabetes, Kidney diseases, atherosclerosis, Hypertension, as well as skin and eye disorders, among many others. Because, although if we follow the traditional healthy diet and we avoid fat, we eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, drink juices, eat legumes, low-fat dietary products, cereals, and we reduce the amount of meat, do not manage to stay healthy and without any chronic diseases.
When we say sugars, we don’t only mean sugar and other artificial sweeteners. Fruits also contain sugars, and they should be carefully consumed. The ratio between vegetables and fruits should be 8:2, since when sugar levels in our blood are increased, even for a few hours, glycosylation increases too, which is the main mechanism of many diseases.
Glycosylation, an uncontrolled biological process, is actually a non-enzymatic reaction between proteins and sugars, which actually alters significantly proteins’ structure and function.
During glycosylation, a sugar molecule binds to a protein, resulting in the formation of a non-functional structure of glycosylated protein, which are called “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs). Actually, scientific studies during the past 20 years have shown that AGEs are involved in most chronic diseases related to aging.
But why are AGEs such a big threat to our health?
Because proteins are present throughout our body and the effect of AGEs on them is destructive. This affects our whole body. Atherosclerosis and the reduced ability of the arteries to respond to stress is a characteristic example. This is actually the result of the process that takes place when our body’s basic structural proteins, such as collagen, interact directly with the AGEs. The decomposition of Collagen, which is all over our body, especially skin, eyes, blood vessels and nerves, does not only lead to the appearance of wrinkles, but also in the manifestation of cataract, as well as on the sclerosis of our vessels and the increased speed and force of blood flow inside them. These processes are faster among patients with diabetes, whose blood sugar levels are often increased.
And where are AGEs “hidden” so that to avoid them?
The main sources of advanced glycation end products are foods, our metabolism and the natural aging mechanism of our body.
Foods cooked at high temperatures is a cooking technique that initiates the formation of AGEs. As sugars are heated or cooked together with proteins in the absence of water, AGEs are formed. Indeed, studies have demonstrated that people with the highest rates of cardiovascular complications were consuming more of those glycosylated products. For each unit of increase of the consumed AGEs, each participant had 3.7 more chances to have medium to high risk of heart disease manifestation.
As far as metabolism and aging are concerned, carbohydrates, both simple and complex, when metabolized by our body affect the levels of blood glucose. Most sugar in the blood is utilized for energy production, needed by our body to function properly. However, a small percentage of our blood sugar is glycosylated in the form of AGEs, giving rise to the manifestation of many chronic diseases.
Can we have a hope that in the future we will achieve in improving our health?
For this to happen we should understand in depth how we can avoid AGEs formation, at both nutritional and biological processes levels, such as metabolism. It’s only then that we will have completed a vital step to decelerate the aging process and to reduce the risk of many degenerative disorders. Luckily, the continuous progress of Science is constantly revealing new data on how to avoid this process. What we can definitely do daily is to apply the rules of Functional Medicine, or in simpler words, avoid the consumption of many sugars, and to choose the fats we consume in our diet so that to achieve our optimal health level.
I wish all the best
Dr. Nikoleta Koini, M.D.
Doctor of Functional, Preventive, Anti-ageing and Restorative Medicine.
Diplomate and Board Certified in Anti-aging, Preventive, Functional and Regenerative Medicine from A4M (American Academy in Antiaging Medicine).