Avoiding sugar quickly leads to sweeter future, research says

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09 Aug 2017 --- Cutting out sugar, and particularly fructose, quickly improves metabolic function. This is according a review published in the August edition of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA), which says that measures of health can be seen after less than two weeks of sugar reduction.

The findings could be the catalyst for a new approach to dieting advice. The public conversation should move from weight to health for overweight children and adults, osteopathic physicians suggest, asking patients to reduce their sugar intake to see measurable improvements in metabolic function.

Dangerous sugar
In particular, avoiding sources of fructose like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can help to deal with health issues including obesity, fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). Fructose speeds up the conversion of sugar to fat.

“Fructose provides no nutritional value and isn't metabolized in the brain. Your body converts it to fat, but doesn't recognize that you've eaten, so the hunger doesn't go away,” explains Tyree Winters, an osteopathic pediatrician focused on childhood obesity. “Many young patients tell me they're always hungry, which makes sense because what they're eating isn't helping their bodies function.”

The JAOA review points out that glucose metabolizes 20 percent in the liver and 80 percent throughout the rest of the body, while fructose is 90 percent metabolized in the liver and converts to fatty acids at rates of up to 18.9 times faster than glucose. It also produces increased levels of liver fat.

HFCS is found in 75 percent of packaged foods and drinks, mainly because it is cheaper and 20 percent sweeter than raw sugar, according to the AOA. Fructose turns on the metabolic pathways that convert it to fat and stores it in the body, adding weight. At the same time, the brain thinks the body is starving and becomes lethargic and less inclined to exercise.

Benefits of limits
“If we cut out the HFCS and make way for food that the body can properly metabolize, the hunger and sugar cravings fade. At the same time, patients are getting healthier without dieting or counting calories,” Dr. Winters says. “This one change has the potential to prevent serious diseases and help restore health.”

Once people have put on a significant amount of weight and developed eating habits that rely on packaged and processed foods with HFCS, change can be daunting, notes the AOA.

Physicians have often told patients to change their diets and start exercising heavily, making a plan to check back after a month or more. That approach rarely works, the AOA says, pointing to the obesity epidemic that continues to grow.

Instead, Dr. Winters suggests checking blood work about two weeks after patients agree to begin limiting their sugar intake to help patients see the benefits of their efforts.

“That single change in diet improves metabolic results in less than two weeks,” Dr. Winters explains. “Imagine the power of doing a ‘before and after’ comparison with a patient, so they can see for themselves that their health is improving. Seeing those results, instead of just stepping on a scale, can motivate them to keep going.”

The study, “Conversion of Sugar to Fat: Is Hepatic de Novo Lipogenesis Leading to Metabolic Syndrome and Associated Chronic Diseases?” can be found here.

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