Chocolates, candies, cakes, drink powders and softdrinks, dried fruits, cookies, pies, jams, preserves, spreads, canned fruits, sauces and instant gravies, ice cream and milkshakes … the list can go on and on. Patients sometimes ask, “What can we eat then?” Why do doctors tell you to cut down on sweets?
Sweets are sugary food. Sugars are a form of carbohydrates found in a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables. After consuming a high carbohydrate meal with more sources of simple sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose from the ones I enumerated above) than complex ones, it is metabolized in the small intestines into monosaccharides to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Blood sugar concentrations are controlled by three hormones: insulin, glucagon and epinephrine. If the concentration of glucose in the blood is too high, the pancreas secretes insulin to stimulate the transfer of glucose into cells. It acts like a transport vehicle which carries glucose molecules inside cells to be used by the body. When the body does not need it at the moment (like when you sleep after you eat, or you have a sedentary lifestyle), glucose is transported into the liver and is stored as glycogen which can be converted back into sugar once the need arises (fasting, rigorous exercise, stress).
Glucose may increase in the bloodstream when there is not enough insulin to transport it to the cells or the insulin (vehicle) is defective. Once these happen, the glucose becomes immersed in the blood stream. Our blood is more than 80% water; add the heat of the body, sugar becomes almost like syrup that can cause slowing down of the movement of blood in the vessels.
The result is diabetes. The problem with diabetes is when sugar is not transported into the cells, hormones tell the brain that there is not enough sugar prompting the liver to convert its reserve into glucose, adding up to the ‘syrup’ milieu of the blood. Aside from affecting blood flow, there will be glycosylation of proteins wherein the cell membrane which is made of protein becomes coated with sugar and eventually destroyed.
Blood sugar becomes too high when we eat too much, not only sweets. When we fast and decide to eat a lot for just one meal a day, glucose metabolism is affected.
This is one reason why I am not fond of “Eat-All-You-Can.” When you know you will eat a lot, you go on fasting hoping to eat more than you can in an eating binge. Too much food at one time will increase glucose at dangerous levels causing destruction of your cells.
When you destroy cells and proteins, you age fast. Our body is made up of proteins. The skin, the hair and connective tissues in our bodies are proteins. This is also why people with poorly controlled diabetes look older than their age!
It is important to control your sugar (glucose) levels to maintain your youth. The best management for diabetes includes the triad: diet, exercise and drug treatment. Notice that the first two are patient-centered. Drugs will help only when these are strictly followed.