Expert Commentary: Andrea Pennington, M.D. 12/10/2009

In the August 24 edition of the journal Circulation, the American Heart Association published new advice to all Americans - cut the sugar intake. Excess sugar in our diets has been linked to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, obesity and diabetes. Experts in the field of age management medicine add that high amounts of sugar accelerate the aging process as well. So where do you start?


First imagine sitting down to the breakfast table and pouring yourself 12 teaspoons of sugar into a bowl and shoveling it into your mouth before heading out to work. It may sound ridiculous, because you wouldn’t even let your child do that, but that’s precisely what millions of Americans do each day when they consume the average muffin and primo caramel café latte on the morning commute. Similarly, those who grab a soda and bag of cookies to get over the mid-afternoon slump are adding 10-12 teaspoons of sugar-laden empty calories into their bodies.

Sugar’s Link to Internal Disease

Researchers say that unless we get smart about what we put into our mouths we will create such dire health conditions that we won’t be able to think of anything else. And with the growing financial burden placed on our whole society to treat the long-term consequences of a poor diet – like heart attacks, stroke and diabetes-induced kidney damage - time is of the essence.

Sugar sweetened drinks make up the majority of excess sugar in our diets but pre-sweetened cereals, cookies and snack foods are also key areas for you to make some cut-backs. If you look at other foods that quickly convert to sugar once digested – the so-called high glycemic index foods - like potatoes, white rice, white bread and pasta, you find that these also increase the risk of premature aging, kidney damage, Alzheimer’s disease and even breast cancer.

In the July issue of the International Journal of Cancer a team of Swedish researchers reported a link between a diet full of foods with a high glycemic index and estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer in women. Analyzing data of more than 60,000 women over a 17-year time span revealed that women with the highest "glycemic index diet" had a 44% increased risk of developing ER /PR- breast cancer compared to women with the lowest glycemic index diet.

AGE and Sugar

Sugar has negative effects through the production of AGEs - Advanced glycation end products, the main culprits blamed for complications associated with prolonged high blood sugar levels in diabetics. Simply put, the excess sugar in the bloodstream is not only converted and shoved into fat cells, but also stuck onto proteins that stay in the body for a long time. A sticky glue formed around cells in blood vessels, the kidney, collagen and more, disrupt cell function and the body’s natural repair systems can’t work effectively. The end result is diabetic neuropathy, kidney disease, and blindness.

The takeaway here is that becoming conscious of how our food choices affect our quality of life is a first step to living with increased vitality. Rather than processed foods, opt for fresh fruits, vegetables and simply prepared fish, poultry and meat.

About the author

Andrea Pennington, MD is an age management medicine physician, author and lifestyle coach. She is the Editor in Chief of SkinSight.com, a leading online resource for maintaining the health of the skin and she speaks regularly in the media to promote overall wellness and longevity. Read her blog at www.SkinSight.com or visit www.AndreaPennington.com for more information on her medical and coaching practice. For more information please click here.


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