For the past 74 days I’ve been working towards eliminating sugar from my diet. We're all influenced by news alerts about how sugar and its substitutes neutralize our immune system. How is something that tastes so good, so bad for us? And why are sweets so difficult to resist? Here’s the story…
22 Million years ago, our ape ancestors lived in the African rain forest. They survived year round on the fruit of the trees, sweet with natural sugar. Their livers stored the sugar as glycogen, the instant fuel our bodies access as we need it.
But 17 million years ago, there was a climate change that affected everything: a cold wind blew, the seas receded, and the ice caps expanded. Instead of an abundance of fruit, there was famine. In more than one of the starving apes, a mutation occurred that made them wildly efficient processors of the sugar in fruit. In addition to the ready energy stored in their livers, the surviving apes became able to store sugar as fat - a huge survival advantage when food is scarce and the glycogen in the liver is used up.
Along with this fat storage capability came an increase in appetite. Instead of eating to satisfy only the hunger of the moment, pleasure cravings arose to extend the need to feed.
These genetic changes endure. As apes evolved into humans, we inherited both the fat storage capability and the sugar cravings.
The mutation that saved our ape ancestors millions of years ago, is alive in us today. We crave fructose, and fruit is still a healthy source of energy. But we’ve learned how to extract sugar from plants. Today sugar and sugar substitutes are ingredients in too many foods and beverages. As a result, satisfying our sweet cravings can push our bodies beyond healthy tolerance. That's why I’ve decided to eliminate sugar from my diet.
When I started writing this, I was successfully sugar-free for 74 days. But last night the temptation to eat my favorite dessert, Tarte Tatin, crushed my resolve. Today I begin again.
Join me? Day 1…
P.S. Read my blog, "Perfectly Imperfect."
Sources: Dr Robert Lustig, endocrinologist: “Sugar is a poison by itself when consumed at high doses.” Richard "Bug man" Fagerlund, entomologist: "Aspartame, an artificial sweetener, is a powerful ant and mouse killer." National Geographic, Authoritynutrition.com, World Health Organization.