Dangerous Foe in a Sweet Disguise
Estimates are that every year the average American eats almost his or
her entire body weight in sugar. The average teenage boy eats
thirty-four teaspoons of sugar a day, and the average teenage girl
consumes twenty-four. You can easily see how this is possible when
you add it up. Sugar is added to virtually all processed foods,
especially soda pop. The average can of cola, such as Coke or Pepsi,
contains ten to twelve teaspoons of sugar! There’s a new breakfast
cereal with a whopping eighteen teaspoons of sugar per serving;
that’s one-third of a cup, or the equivalent of forty-eight Hershey’s
Kisses. You’re probably aware that sugar’s bad for your teeth, but
you can brush them. So, what’s the big deal, you might ask? The big
deal is that research shows that sugar and refined carbohydrates are
detrimental to your health in a multitude of ways, including
increasing the risk of many chronic disorders including diabetes,
obesity, heart disease and breast cancer.
Cancer cells love sugar. It’s their preferred fuel. The more sugar you
eat, the faster cancer cells grow. Your pancreas responds to sugar by
releasing insulin, the hormone that escorts sugar into your cells.
When you eat refined simple sugars, such as white table sugar, candy,
cookies, or other sugar-laden foods, your blood sugar levels rise very
quickly. Your pancreas responds by releasing a lot of insulin. That’s
not good. High insulin levels are one of the biggest risk factors and
promoters of breast cancer. Women with high insulin levels have a 283
percent greater risk of breast cancer.
When it comes to breast cancer, insulin is no friend. One of the
biggest reason is due to the fact that both normal breast cells and
cancer cells have insulin receptors on them. When insulin attaches to
its receptor, it has the same effect as when estrogen attaches to its
receptor; it causes cells to start dividing. The higher your insulin
levels are, the faster your breast cells will divide; the faster they
divide, the higher your risk of breast cancer is and the faster any
existing cancer cells will grow.
There’s another wound that insulin can inflict, too. It attacks a
portion of the estrogen cycle, making more estrogen available to
attach to the estrogen receptors in breast tissue. Insulin regulates
how much of the estrogen in your blood is available to attach to
estrogen receptors in your breast tissue. When estrogen travels in the
blood, it either travels alone seeking a mate (an estrogen receptor),
or it travels with a partner (a protein binder) that prevents it from
attaching to an estrogen receptor. Insulin regulates the number of
protein binders in the blood.
So, the higher your insulin levels are, the fewer the number of
protein binders there will be and therefore the more free estrogen
that will be available to attach to estrogen receptors.
In other words, when your insulin levels are up, free-estrogen
levels are up, too. And both of them speed up cell division. That’s
why high insulin levels increase your risk of breast cancer so much.
Eating sugar increases your risk of breast cancer in another way. It
delivers a major blow to your immune system with the force of a prize
fighter. Your immune system is your natural defense against such
invaders as bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. Research shows that
right after you eat a high-sugar meal, the function of the cells in
your immune system drops drastically. In the case of one type of cell
in particular, the T lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell), sugar
knocks its defense abilities down by at least 50 percent. This effect
lasts for a minimum of five hours! Another researcher found that the
function of T lymphocytes dropped by 94 percent after a high-sugar
meal! This means that right after you’ve eaten a lot of sugar, your
body’s ability to fight off invaders or destroy cancer cells is
tremendously weakened for several hours.
Over a period of time, eating too much sugar can create imbalances
that lead to two more deadly diseases: obesity and diabetes. Both of
these diseases dangerously increase your risk of breast cancer, and
both have increased alarmingly in the United States in the past two
decades. An estimated 60 percent of the adult population is
overweight, and 5 percent have diabetes. Of those people who have
diabetes, 90 percent are also overweight. Not only do these diseases
increase your risk of breast cancer, but they also increase your risk
of heart disease, high blood pressure, poor circulation, stroke, and
A study conducted by Harvard Medical School and published in 2004
found that women who ate foods with a high glycemic index (foods that
cause blood sugars to soar, such as refined carbohydrates and sugars)
as teenagers had a higher incidence of breast cancer later in life.
So, encouraging your teenage daughter to cut back on sugar will help
her to lower her risk of breast cancer for the rest of her life.
Now, the good news: If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be relieved to
know that you don’t have to suffer. There’s a natural sweetener that
tastes great, and better yet, research has shown that instead of being
dangerous to your health, it actually has several wonderful
health-supporting qualities. It’s called Stevia, and it comes from the
South American plant Stevia rebaudiana. What’s interesting about this
semi shrub, indigenous to Paraguay, is that every part of it tastes
intensely sweet. The dried leaves, however, are the only parts that
are used for medicinal and commercial purposes. Scientists have found
that Stevia’s delightfully sweet flavor comes from a group of
substances in it called “glycosidal diterpenes.”
Compared to sugar, only very small amounts of Stevia are needed.
That’s because Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sucrose, the type of
sugar found in table sugar. Stevia hasn’t yet been approved by the FDA
as a food additive—write your senators and Congressional
representatives!—so at this time you won’t find it in any processed
foods in the United States. In this country Stevia is considered a
dietary supplement. Health food stores and national-chain grocery
stores that specialize in organic foods, such as Wild Oats and Whole
Foods, usually carry Stevia.
Stevia comes in multiple forms: a fine white powder, a green
powder, or a liquid. I found that certain brands of Stevia can taste
bitter or leave a weird aftertaste if you use too much. There’s one
brand, however, that solved this problem by adding some fiber to it.
It is called Stevia Plus by SweetLeaf .
Stevia can also be used in cooking, but it’s a little tricky. The
amount you should use can vary a lot from brand to brand, so you
definitely should use a Stevia cookbook. Many of the companies with
Stevia products have their own cookbooks.
Stevia has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years by the
native tribes in Paraguay and Brazil to treat high blood pressure and
diabetes. Modern research has shown that it does help both conditions.
Stevia causes blood vessels to dilate. When the diameter of a blood
vessel increases, the blood pressure in it goes down. A double-blind
placebo-controlled study was published in the British Journal of
Pharmacology in the year 2000 documenting Stevia’s ability to lower
blood pressure. Researchers found that after only three months,
patients with high blood pressure who were given Stevia three times a
day had a significant decrease in both their systolic (the upper
number) and diastolic (the lower number) blood-pressure numbers.
Stevia is a great sugar substitute for people who really need to
avoid sugar, such as diabetics. In addition, Stevia has an added
benefit for type 2 diabetics: It seems to have an effect opposite to
that of sugar on their bodies; it causes blood sugar to go down.
Research has also discovered two more Stevia health benefits. First,
it can kill certain bacteria and viruses. In a study published in
2001, Stevia was found to have antiviral effects against the
rotavirus. This virus can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration,
especially in infants. Secondly, Stevia shows a strong ability to kill
a wide range of food-born bacteria.
Another, healthy natural substitute for sugar is also available.
It’s made from Luo Han Guo, the round green fruit of the Chinese plant
Siraita grosvenori. Luo Han Guo has been used in China as a medicine
since the thirteenth century, but it didn’t become popular as a remedy
for coughs, sore throats, and upper respiratory-tract infections until
the twentieth century. In southern China Luo Han Guo is also used to
enhance longevity. Like Stevia, Luo Han Guo is about 300 times sweeter
than sugar and is processed into a fine, white crystalline powder.
WisdomHerbs makes a sugar substitute using a blend of Luo Han Guo
and fructose called Sweet and Slender. It can be purchased at most
health food stores or on the Internet.
This information is used with permission by Christine Horner, MD www.drchristinehorner.com