Category Archives: Sugar

Is It Time to Get Back Off the Bus?

In high school at Stillwater (MN) I ran cross country in addition to running track and skiing cross country. Fall of my senior year, I was selected as captain on the varsity cross country team. Things started out slow and our team was just not competing at the level we knew what we should.

Get Off the Bus

So one day after doing particularly poorly in a meet at the Battle Creek Regional Park across the highway from 3M headquarters, I decided to get off the bus about 5 miles from the high school and run the rest of the way. Partly I just didn’t feel worthy of sitting on the bus, partly I didn’t want to be around anyone right then and maybe subconsciously I was looking to shake things up. Either way, I got off the bus and ran the rest of the way home. The next time I did it a few people got off and ran with me and by later in the season most of the team was running with me as well.

This turned out to be a great team building exercise and in retrospect was partly responsible for creating some very strong friendships that are still active today some 40 years later. It also may be a great model for what I and many other Baby Boomers need to do right now.

Going After My Best Self

With news every day about how older people and people with chronic diseases and challenges such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, diabetes, heart disease etc. are more likely to suffer more or die from COVID-19, it has inspired me to get back to focusing on health, fitness and nutrition. I knew that all of these challenges were bad but I just kept putting off addressing my fitness again and again.

While I don’t suffer from all of these things, I am well on my way so how do I start. 1) stop eating crap, defined as heavily processed foods roughly defined as foods with added sugar and process grain. This actually leaves a lot to still be enjoyed from butter and coconut oil and avocados, to any organic, locally-sourced meat to fish and olive oil. It also leaves out a lot as well but all of it is pretty much poison. Forget about whether you want to be Paleo or Vegan, Vegetarian or Keto. Just eat less crap. More on this later. And, 2) Exercise or movement. Start exercising and define this as pretty much any movement more than you were doing before. This could be walking, walking every day, jogging, lifting weights. It really doesn’t matter just start doing more tomorrow than you were doing today.

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Can You Recover from This Bar?

While wasting a perfectly good Sunday browsing through Amazon, I was served up an advertisement for a tasty and potentially healthy sounding Gatorade Whey Protein Recover Bar – Chocolate Chip flavor. Since I had just gotten back this past Friday from attempting to climb Mt Rainier, I was desperately in need of some recovery. Also, as regular readers here will know, recovery is one of the most important aspects of an older athletes regimen.

Before I pushed the magic Amazon “Buy with One Click”, however, I thought I would do a little due diligence.

As you can see from the photo, one of these “Recover” Bars has 41 grams of carbohydrates and 29 grams of sugar. It also has 360 calories. Is the bar itself what we need to “recover” from after the Insulin spike?  This really seems like a lot of sugar for a single bar whether I am recovering from something or not. However, to avoid the politics of low carb diets vs vegetarians and Paleo vs vegans and also considering that I am not a doctor or nutritionist, I went to the World Health Organization (WHO) for guidance.

Lo and behold, apparently the WHO in March of 2014 dropped its sugar intake recommendation from 10% of your daily calorie intake to 5%. Or, for an adult of a normal body mass index (BMI) that works out to about 6 teaspoons or 25 grams of sugar.

So, assuming that my trusty elementary school math hasn’t deserted me, the 29 grams of sugar in the Gatorade Recover Bar is about 4 grams of sugar more than an adult with normal BMI should be consuming in an entire day. Huh? Perhaps this isn’t such a good choice after all. 

Furthermore, if you look at the label even more closely you will see that the 41 grams of total carbohydrates are supposedly about 14% of your daily values.  And below it says that Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet and that your daily values may be different depending on your calorie needs. Interesting, so the 14% is for some fictitious person and not for you so beware of what the percentages are for you. But also realize that at 2000 calories in order for 41 grams of carbohydrates to be only 14% of your Daily Values, you need to be getting more than 60% of your calories from carbohydrates or about 293 grams and 1172 calories per day. This seems a bit high to start for your daily intake of carbohydrates.  Also if I am only eating 2000 calories per day, I just used up 20% of my whole day with the 360 calories in this one bar.

What’s the lesson? Buyer beware. Just because it says something like “organic” or “healthy” or “natural” or “recover” on the label doesn’t mean it is good for you so make sure to read the fine print. Better yet try to eat as little processed food as possible or just try to avoid eating something with an ingredient label at all. For the record, a banana has about 100 calories and only 14 grams of sugar so maybe try that next time you are looking to recover.

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Is our health the nation’s biggest problem?

Almost half of Americans in a new Associated Press-NORC poll say health care is their top concern going into 2018. Health care outpaced other issues, like taxes, immigration and climate change, by more than 15 percentage points, according to an article in AXIOS.

Why it matters: Congress and President Trump rushed to pass an overhaul of the tax system after failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Although Republicans may not spend more political capital on health care next year, the issue won’t go away as the public continues to grapple with high health care costs.

In other words, while the government and its opponents are going back and forth on taxes, the economy, the environment, and other important issues, preventable diseases driven mostly by our poor nutrition and lack of exercise are killing us.

According to the Global Wellness Institute and its new Wellness Moonshot focused on creating a world free of preventable disease: 

  • 69% of all deaths globally each year are a result of preventable diseases. Centers for Disease Control, 2017
  • More than 1 in 3 adults aged over 18 years is now overweight. World Health Organization, 2014
  • The global cost of largely preventable chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes, and mental health) could reach $47 trillion by 2030. World Economic Forum, 2017.

One single potentially preventable disease, Alzheimer’s could bankrupt our healthcare system. Payments for care of Alzheimers in 2012 were estimated to be $226 billion (with a B) —and more than 15 million Americans provided unpaid care for persons with Alzheimer’s. Without a cure, these figures will nearly triple by the year 2050 (CureAlzheimer’s Fund).

The question then is if our government is not focused on it, how can we make an impact. The answer is simply that we each need to take responsibility for our own health and wellness by improving our diet and adding exercise wherever we can.

Are you a Carboholic?

Sugar is addictive, perhaps more addictive than cocaine. And, the actions it produces in our bodies such as releasing insulin are wreaking havoc on our systems, driving the obesity epidemic and the plague that is known as metabolic syndrome: a pernicious cocktail of high blood pressure and high blood sugar that can lead to stroke, heart disease, diabetes and dementia.

According to an article in the NY Times: “Sugar stimulates brain pathways just as an opioid would, and sugar has been found to be habit-forming in people. Cravings induced by sugar are comparable to those induced by addictive drugs like cocaine and nicotine. And although other food components may also be pleasurable, sugar may be uniquely addictive in the food world.”

The article continues: “Today added sugar is everywhere, used in approximately 75 percent of packaged foods purchased in the United States. The average American consumes anywhere from a quarter to a half pound of sugar a day. If you consider that the added sugar in a single can of soda might be more than most people would have consumed in an entire year, just a few hundred years ago, you get a sense of how dramatically our environment has changed. The sweet craving that once offered a survival advantage now works against us.”

In another article in the NY Times by renowned science writer Gary Taubes, it states “Since insulin levels after meals are determined largely by the carbohydrates we eat — particularly easily digestible grains and starches, known as high glycemic index carbohydrates, as well as sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup — diets based on this approach specifically target these carbohydrates. If we don’t want to stay fat or get fatter, we don’t eat them.”

“This effect of insulin on fat and carbohydrate metabolism offers an explanation for why these same carbohydrates, as Dr. Ludwig says, are typically the foods we crave most; why a little “slip,” as addiction specialists would call it, could so easily lead to a binge.”

So what do we carboholics do? The easiest thing to say is to just stop eating sugar. But unfortunately this is as difficult or more as quitting smoking or worse. You can’t just stop eating sugar. You need to start doing other healthier things in return like eating more healthy natural foods: fats and proteins to reduce the cravings and put you back in charge of your life.

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