Sugar Is a Major Health Concern

western diet, sugar health risk, spiritual path, spiritual health, cookie, hot chocolate, sunglasses,
As a spiritual teacher, I'm performing a function much like other traditions have done in discussing today's topic. Religions and spiritual traditions of many kinds have offered advice on diet for millennia. It's part of how we help care for all of you in regards to our most basic foundation--the body.

Since all of our experiences come through our bodies, how we treat them matters, and unfortunately, Westerners have increasing abused their bodies. An unhealthy body creates a tremendous number of difficulties on the heart, mind, and subtle energy. Specifically, this blog post will look at over-consumption of sugar as it relates to the body and scientifically-proven ailments.

As of posting today, November 26, 2018, sugar has been linked to obesity, dental cavities, and heart disease. Sugar has also been implicated as a possible cause for quite a few other things, one of which being Type 2 Diabetes.

The issue, of course, is not consumption of sugar; it's over-consumption. An NIH article states:

"Data from the United States (U.S.) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003–2004 showed that the intake of added sugars in the U.S. population largely exceed the recommended allowance for discretionary calorie intake; among men and women ≥ 18 years of age, the average intake of added sugars being 1.5 and 2.8 times greater, respectively."

I also want to be clear what I mean by sugars. Sugars like glucose, sucrose, and fructose are natural and useful energy sources in the body. What this post is discussing is adding what the World Health Organization calls "free sugars" into our diet. Since our body already can make the above natural sugars from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, we don't need to add more. And of course, fruits offer plenty of sugar too, but they also offer other beneficial nutrients.

Let me pause to talk about citation too. The quotes in this blog post are coming from respected organizations and journals like the World Health Organization, Harvard School of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health. Furthermore, some of the assertions that I'm quoting are part of review studies. Reviews look at multiple studies, not just one, and it's important to consider how many studies are behind any particular claim in this day and age of wild accusations, assumptions, and deliberate lies.

I am putting extra emphasis on science and citation because a lot of people these days don't understand proper science or citation. Any study can find anything. I could do a study of the people who come to my blog and come up with biased "evidence" about a variety of topics. So, whenever you come across a new study or a statement about health, it is important to understand as to how big the study is, how many other studies support a claim, and what organization(s) is/are behind it.

So why does eating sugar matter so much that a spiritual teacher is devoting a rather extensive blog post to it? Keep reading.

Why Sugar Matters on the Spiritual Path

Sugar matters on the spiritual path as do all foods do because they impact the body. If the body is in a lot of pain, the ego tends to suffer. Different body issues can cause a variety of imbalances in the body and emotions causing further distress, and body issues like obesity or heart disease can cause psychological stresses beyond the actual physical condition. Stresses can include body image issues and social disapproval in regards to obesity. Or there can be the financial stresses of paying--or not being able to pay--medical bills associated with diseases and conditions caused by excessive consumption of sugar. A lot of other problems typically crop up when the body is not cared for, and that generates a lot of ego suffering.

Now, to be clear, it is certainly possible for someone to have no ego suffering while having body issues. That's actually an important level of spiritual realization. But let's also be honest--how many people have arrived at that level of conscious awareness? And if you arrive at that level of ego dissolution, then why are you eating so much sugar anyway? As we become more free, we often change our lifestyles to be more supportive of our bodies, and we don't need things like "sugar" to make us feel good (and emotional eating is one of the reasons people eat lots of sugar in my experience).

On the most simple level, a healthy body is far more enjoyable than an unhealthy one, and a healthy body has far fewer problems, which are inconvenient, time-consuming, and costly to say the least.

Being at Peace with Pain

Since sugar is such a detriment to health, clearly seeing that reality makes a conscious person naturally want to limit or eliminate free sugars from their diets.

Accepting the Need for Lifestyle Changes

One other thing before sharing some of the conclusions of prominent studies on sugar is to appreciate that truly embracing the spiritual path is embracing lifestyle changes. I see a lot of people being very superficial with their spiritual work. Many people change select parts of their lives while preserving others. It's like taking up a regular workout regime while continuing to sleep badly and eat tons of beer and hot wings all the time. This is not an effective lifestyle change. Positive benefits from one change are mostly erased by the negative effects of the other lifestyle choices.

Speaking more directly towards spirituality, people start meditating, but then they continue to complain and gripe about people at work. They find peace on their own, and then they succumb to their ego to create disharmony at work. This is not effective.

With the body, lifestyle changes are particularly vital if you want to support its optimum health. When I say, optimum health, I am referring to your body's natural and best health at whatever age you are and at whatever set of physical limitations you have. Your optimal health is different than mine. Your optimal health at age 69 is different than your optimal health at 59, 29, or 9. Appreciating the body's changing demands is key.

Appreciating the body's lack of demands--like its lack of any real need for free sugars--is also key.

Defining Free Sugars

The World Health Organization defines free sugars refers as added sugars, although it includes some sugars naturally present in fruit juices, syrups, and honey. It excludes sugars that are naturally part of fruits and vegetables. So, an orange and its associated sugars have no currently linked adverse health conditions. Sugars in OJ, not so good.

These free sugars have been added to so many products. For a lot of years, I would not have said that I eat a lot of free sugars, but I failed to be conscious of how much stuff got put into yogurt, granola, energy bars, and other things that have successfully marketed themselves as "healthy." If you want to get serious about helping your body, then it's time to look at those labels. And after this blog post, getting serious means no longer eating a lot of this junk.

Sugar and Obesity and Cavities

Let's start with two of the most proven and now obvious realities. Free sugars rot our teeth; they give us cavities. This is not news. Excessive sugar intake also causes obesity. It's not news either, yet people are still sticking their heads in the sand. That's one of the reasons why I felt it so important for me to discuss this topic. It's time to give up our willful ignorance, and the spiritual path is all about seeing reality.

Here's a quote from the WHO's guidelines that were derived from an extensive review of many scientific studies:

"This evidence shows, first, that adults who consume less sugars have lower body weight and, second, that increasing the amount of sugars in the diet is associated with a comparable weight increase. In addition, research shows that children with the highest intakes of sugar-sweetened drinks are more likely to be overweight or obese than children with a low intake of sugar-sweetened drinks."

The research review also showed the direct causation of dental cavities, which are called dental caries (that's the technical term for cavities).

"The recommendation is further supported by evidence showing higher rates of dental caries when the intake of free sugars is above 10% of total energy intake compared with an intake of free sugars below 10% of total energy intake."

For more on the World Health Organization recommendations on sugar from 2015, you can read this pdf:

Information note about intake of sugars recommended in the WHO guideline for adults and children
(6 pages)

Sugar and Heart Disease

One of the newer discoveries of late has been sugar's role in heart disease. Evidence is mounting and increasingly strong that excessive sugar intake is a cause in heart disease.

Quoting a study from the Journal of American Medical Association, a Harvard Health Publishing article reported in 2014:

"Over the course of the 15-year study on added sugar and heart disease, participants who took in 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets included less than 10% added sugar."

For more on the study as discussed by Harvard Medical School's publication, you can read this:

Eating too much added sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease

Sugar and Diabetes

When it comes to diabetes, evidence implicates a connection between sugar and the disease. There doesn't seem to be a scientific community confirmation of sugar as a cause, but there are some studies that found evidence of that possibility. A review of multiple studies on Type 2 Diabetes published on the National Institutes of Health--a government organization in the U.S.--website had this quote:

"Many studies have reported a positive association between high intake of sugars and development of T2DM [Type 2 Diabetes]."

To read the full NIH study, you can go to this link:

Effect of diet on type 2 diabetes mellitus: A review

Sugar and Cancer

Apparently, sugar may also have some involvement in causing some cancers. In the link below, there are some intriguing findings, but there is no scientific consensus on this possibility yet. Remember that this link is just one study, although it had 435,686 participants. I am adding this statistic because the size of these studies also matters when it comes to making large-scale assertions.

Here are some findings that this study had:

"We observed a strong positive association between intake of added sugars and risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma."

"We observed more than 2-fold increase in risk for small intestine cancer with high fructose, especially high added fructose intake."

"We observed a particularly strong risk of pleural cancer for all investigated sugars." 

Pleural cancer is a cancer involving the lungs.

But, wait a minute, here are some findings on the reverse side of things:

"All investigated sugars were inversely associated with risk of ovarian cancer."

"In women, we also detected a decrease in risk of liver cancer with high added fructose intake, which may have been due to a chance or an unidentified confounder, given inconsistent results between men and women. An intriguing finding was the inverse association of added sucrose and added fructose with pancreatic cancer risk in women, whereas there was a suggestion of an increased risk with fructose from fruit."

This is a little reminder that science isn't cut-and-dry. Conflicting data happens all the time, and one thing will be bad for one part of the body and good for another. Keep this in mind with any bold "scientific" claims you come across online. In most situations, if something is too categorically defined as "bad" all the time, then the study may not be what it seems.

For specifics, you can read more here on this study:

Sugars in diet and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study

WHO Sugar Recommendations

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) changed its recommendations for sugars from 10% of calorie intake to 5%. The specific number of grams is dependent on the person, but the recommended number I generally have found is 25 grams. To give that number more context, a Kombucha that I like has 10 grams of sugar for a 14 oz drink. So, these grams go fast. Use them sparingly and wisely.

The Next Steps After Reading this Post

The next steps for most everyone reading this blog post--yes, including those of you who think you're eating healthy--is to do a dietary audit.
  • Figure out how many free sugars you are eating.
  • Stop eating so much free sugar if you are exceeding the WHO limit
  • Give your body time to detox (if you've eaten a lot of sugar for a long time, you may go through cravings, which are probably an identification that you've been addicted)
  • Notice how you feel in the months that follow now that you're eating less sugar
  • Journal any ego issues that come up during this detox process
I recommend talking to a nutritionist if you have to do more extensive changes to your diet. Obviously, my blog post is NOT medical advice. I'm using the links from WHO, Harvard, et al as the scientific data, and if you need more personalized medical and nutritional advice, please take advantage of the health professionals available in your area. They're here to help you.

Dietary Shifts and Food Needs in the Spiritual Awakening Process

Gut Check Time

Making these lifestyle changes is a gut check. It's time to find out how serious you are about the spiritual path because this path embraces everything. Your ego may not want to make these changes, but there may be more important changes coming. If you can't make this change, do you really think you'll be ready to make potentially bigger ones? The unconscious ego likes to say, "Yes, I will." But my experience with people is, "No. You won't."

At times, the spiritual path gives us steps to build us up to bigger things. When need to embrace these initial challenges. They seem big at the time, but later on, they seem much, much smaller. Reducing or eliminating free sugar intake is likely to be like that. It seems big now, but later on, it's not. Furthermore, the body tends to feel better when we take care of it better. The fewer physical issues someone has, the less their ego has to be upset about. Interpreting intuitions and other body sensations are also easier to do when the body is healthy and those signals are not mixed in with a bunch of other distressed or confused body signals.

In general, the health of the body informs a lot of how we feel and think, and so to heal that area makes it easier to deal with a whole host of other ego issues from a clear, grounded, and strong space in the body.

Making Big Life Changes After Awakening

Comments

  1. I've been on the ketogenic diet for almost year and my physical health has been amazing. I don't get sick, I don't get cramps, I don't get hungry all the time. I pretty much each no sugar, very low carbs a day and very high amounts of fat! Feeling superb physically

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad this diet works for you, Zedrico. Just don't turn it into a belief as the only way to eat. Trust your body. Your body knows what nutrition it needs.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts