My personal journey with sugar

I can’t recall a time in my life when sugar was considered a healthy ingredient. Throughout my lifetime I have heard that we are consuming too much sugar with refined sugar being the worst! It seems now, however, that the volume of criticism about sugar has been raised and is being addressed in the US Dietary Guidelines and by the World Health Organization. As I indicated in an earlier post, sugar is the new fat. The number one topic on this blog site to this point has been sugar. The increased attention has brought me to consider my life with and without sugar.Sugar was an important ingredient in the many of the foods I consumed as a child. I ate sugar-coated cereals; drank sugared beverages including sodas, Kool-Aid and Fizzies; enjoyed mother’s homemade pies, cookies and the dough before they were baked; and loved ice cream. I do not remember eating these to excess, but by today’s standards I definitely consumed too much sugar in my childhood. I continued to enjoy products with sugar on into my adult years. Did it make me obese? No. The highest weight I have ever been placed me clearly into the middle of the overweight class. Now I am on the borderline between desired (aka normal) weight and overweight. I weigh myself when I get up each morning. Some days I am a desirable weight and other days I am overweight.

A few years after starting my life as a member of the University of Georgia faculty, I decided that I needed to do something about my sleeping problems. I had an early-awake sleeping disorder. I had no trouble getting to sleep, usually out by the time my head hit the pillow. The problem was waking up at 3:00 or so in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep. My local doctor administered a glucose-tolerance test. My blood-sugar levels were tested by pin prick just before drinking a 6.5-ounce bottle of Coke and every 30 minutes thereafter. My blood-sugar level shot sky high, stayed up high for a while before crashing. My doctor diagnosed me with “chemical diabetes” or what would be known as “prediabetes” today. I took this test and diagnosis very seriously, and cut way back on my sugar, but not necessarily my carbohydrates. White bread, potatoes and pizza remained some of my favorite foods. I continued to consume sweets but primarily those sweetened artificially. Was all that sugar I consumed in my childhood and youth to blame? Maybe or maybe not.Every six months I would visit my doctor’s office and have my blood tested after an overnight fast and then two hours after a big breakfast. Both values were well within tolerances. Several years later I read about a new test to see how well blood sugar was being controlled called glycated hemoglobin. The idea behind the test is that excess sugar latches on to hemoglobin in red blood cells. A low value indicates that blood sugar is being controlled reasonably well over the past three months. A medium level is a warning of a prediabetic state. A high level is an indication of lack of control. The more common term is the A1C test. My A1C levels indicated that my blood-sugar levels were under control for more than 30 years. Lately I have been consuming a little more sugar and my A1C values have crept into the prediabetes range. I do not monitor my blood sugar as I have not been able to get a decent spot of blood on the strip without smearing it. If my A1C starts moving into the poorly controlled range, I will learn how to properly prick and test myself. BTW, at my annual eye exams, I am told that there is absolutely no evidence of damage to my eyes with respect to diabetes.

Today I control my blood sugar by diet. When I am out with friends, I seem to be much more concerned with the amount of sugar that I consume than anyone else in the group. Does my weight history disprove the idea that too much sugar as a child leads to obesity as an adult? Does my onset of diabetes as an adult demonstrate that too much sugar as a child can be a cause for development of diabetes? No on both counts. Too often we use such anecdotal evidence as conclusive proof or disproof of a theory when it is only a single data point. My doctor and several specialists were not able to cure my early-awake sleep disorder. It was probably due to a combination of psychological trauma due to my father’s early death and work stress. Without his diagnosis of “chemical diabetes” and my ability to control my diet, I might have remained unaware of my disease until it was a full-blown case and probably would not be alive today to write this blog. Thank you Dr. D.

Next week Salt reduction

 

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