Ten steps to get in shape this year

The New Year has just begun, so it is a good time to decide to get in shape for the summer and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

Ten steps to get in shape during 2019

Whether you have decided to lose some weight, eat better or do more exercise, these ten steps will help you reach your goal!

1. Personal Commitment

It won’t be an easy task to get back in shape, so before you start, you have to be convinced that you will see this through.
Make a commitment to yourself, after all, you are doing this for yourself, to feel better, fitter, healthier.
Make yourself a promise and honor it. You deserve it. It will help you feel motivated.

2. Write down your plan

Yes, put it down in writing. When you write something down, you are actually deciding what’s pertinent and reinforce your commitment to your plan.
All plans must be S.M.A.R.T., so make sure that yours is too!:

S, stands for Specific. You want to add some exercise to your daily activities, for instance walk more. This could be written down as: “walk every day after work”.
M, means Measurable. You have to set a measurable goal, so that you can know if you accomplished it or not. For instance: “walk 3 miles” or “walk for at least 20 minutes”. You could download
a step-counting app to keep track of the distance and time.
A, is Agreed, in this case it is what you have defined as feasible, and written down, so it is clear that you have agreed internally that you can and will do it.
RR stands for Realistic, so, if you have defined that you will walk after work, it means that you have the time to do so or, if you have some committment you can rearrange your
schedule to walk at some other time of the day to compensate. Realistic goals are fundamental.
T means Time-phased, in other words set yourself a time frame, such as “for the next three months”.

The plan will therefore look like this: “I will walk 3 miles every day after work, for the next three months”.

3. Exercise more

Exercise and diet (in step 4) are the two key factors to becoming fitter and losing weight.

Diet will reduce the excess calories that you eat (and improve the quality what you eat), but exercise will burn energy, consume the fat,
strengthen your muscles, and make you feel more energetic and vital.
Follow the link for some tips on how to improve your Energy & Vitality

4. Diet: make healthy changes

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is a must.
Drop the junk food, the sugary empty calories, cut the booze and focus on eating your recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
Aim at nutritious unprocessed foods. Include nuts, whole grains, fiber-rich food in your diet. Eat smaller portions.
Visit our Healthy Eating Plan webpage and learn all about a balanced and nutritious diet.

Cut your calorie intake

Work out how much calories you need based on your weight, gender, age and level of physical activity and then reduce that by about 20% to cut your energy intake. This will force your body to
use its fat reserves to keep on going. You will lose weight (Try our Diet Calorie Calculator).

5. Get more sleep

Sleep is a fundamental part of our lives, it helps you recharge and reset your body and brain for the next day.
Lack of sleep makes you feel tired, fatigued and is a great excuse for not having enough energy to exercise.
Go to bed earlier, keep a constant sleeping schedule, avoid too much artificial light during the evenings (especially the “blue light” from mobiles, TVs, laptops and ipads).
We have some useful tips on How to Sleep Better at our website.
You will be surprised to learn that:

Sleeping less than 7 hours per night on a regular basis is associated with adverse health outcomes, including weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, and increased risk of death.
Sleeping less than 7 hours per night is also associated with impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risk of accidents.

man cycling on bike
cycling is good for your health and fitness

6. Keep Active in your day-to-day life

You can exercise more by trying to be more active in your daily life. By keeping active you burn more calories, keep flexible and build stamina and muscle.
Here are some things that you can do very easily:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park your car further from wherever you are going: walk more
  • Walk your dog a few extra hundred yards
  • Get up, stand, walk around when you make a phone call. Standing burns more calories than sitting
  • Take a stroll during lunch break
  • Have walking meetings with colleagues
  • Rake leaves, do gardening, play outside with your kids, ride a bike…

7. Keep Track of your Goals – update your plan

Keep tabs on your progress, once you reach a goal, set the bar higher, walk further or faster or more frequently.
Add more S.M.A.R.T. goals, review the plan.
Use a chart to track your progress you can use it to write down your weekly goals and keep track of your daily and weekly progress: Download chart here

A Chart to track your physical activity on a daily basis
chart to track your physical activities on a daily basis. Keep track of your goals with this chart

8. Keep yourself motivated

It will not be easy: extra physical activity, less food, less junk food, no alcohol or sugary foods.
You may have some setbacks (i.e binge eating for instance), but this is natural, we all stumble sometimes. The main thing to remember is to keep on track:

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself, one day doesn’t ruin everything
  • Focus on your weekly weight loss plan
  • Don’t starve yourself or over exercise to compensate
  • Stick to your plan, focus on eating your balanced regular meals
  • Avoid temptations (to avoid making the same mistake in the future)
  • See yourself through the plateaus -when weight loss stabilizes.

Think about the “new” and “fitter” you, and how well you feel now compared to before you started your shape-up program.
And also reward yourself:

9. Reward success

As you accomplish your goals, give yourself a compliment, a pat on the back and a non-food reward.
It could be going shopping to buy clothes to fit your now slimmer body, a night out, a ticket to a play, a nap, a manicure, some gadget.
This will help keep you motivated and go through the rough spots.

10. Don’t relapse. This is a permanent change

A common setback for dieters is that once they have accomplished their goal, after a hard period of extra exercise and food intake restriction,
they fall back on the old bad habits.
Weight gain follows and in no time at all they are their old fat and flabby selves.
But not you!
You must strive to make these changes permanent.
Stay active, exercise regularly, control what you eat, rewrite your goals into a weight and fitness maintenance plan.
Consider an alternate fasting diet on a regular basis.
You worked hard to be the “new” and fitter you. It will be easier to maintain your weight than to go back to the “old” you.

Visit our website to Get Started on your weight loss plan

A. Whittall – Patagonia Wellness

Anthocyanins the antioxidants in berries (and many fruits and veggies)

Anthocyanins are water-soluble plant pigments that give flowers, fruits and leaves their blue, red and purple colors (some red-colored vegetables however are not pigmented by anthocyanines but by betalains).

The word “anthocyanin” comes from two Greek words: “anthos” which means flower and “cyan” wich means blue.

different types of berries: raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, strawberry
Berries, packed with healthy antioxidants

Over 500 different types of anthocyanins have been detected and isolated from plants. The food industry uses them to color foods because they are not
known to be toxic.

They are extracted from grapeskin, a byproduct of grape juice production. But other sources are red cabbage and aronia.

Berries are a very important dietary source of anthocyanins, they are tasty, easy to include in your diet and, as we will see below, very good for your health.

Anthocyanins have strong antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, and scientific studies have shown in different tests involving animals,
clinical trials with humans and cell culture studies that they have some surprising health effects (source):

  • Improved visual health
  • Improved neurological health and neuroprotective effects
  • Prevention of Cardiovascular disease
  • Anti-cancer properties
  • Diabetes management

Visit our website to learn more about the Health benefits of berries

Eat a varied and colorful diet

According to one study
Americans obtain their anthocyanines from different sources such as berries (20%), wine (16%), grapes (11%), non-citrus fruit juices (6%), yougurt (6%).

A regular daily intake of colorful fruits and vegetables is crucial for your health (read more about the role of fruits and veggies a balanced diet).

This study also asserts that not reaching the recommended daily intake levels of fruits and vegetables cause arond 1.7 million deaths each year, glocally. These deaths are due to heart disease, stroke and gastrointestinal cancer.

Anthocyanin concentrations in different types of food

Below we list the “TOP” vegetables and fruits according to their anthocyanin contant (see full list):

The values are given in mg per 100g of vegetable or fruit:

  • 1480 – chokeberry
  • 1375 – elderberry
  • 687 – black raspbery
  • 487 – wild blueberry
  • 476 – blackcurrant
  • 387 – cultivated blueberry
  • 322 – red cabbage
  • 245 – blackberry
  • 140 – cranberry
  • 120 – concord grape
  • 100 – red radish
  • 92 – red raspberry
  • 86 – eggplant
  • 48 – red onion
  • 44 – back bean
  • 42 – strawbery
  • 12 – red delicious apple

As you can see, berries occupy the top positions, but there are some veggies there too (red cabbage, eggplant, black beans and red raddish).

Anthocyanins are found in black carrot, purple corn, purple potato, edible flowers (red clover, red pinepple sage, red hibiscus).

Eat them fresh or frozen

During the summer berry season you can eat them fresh, adding them to your breakfast cereal or yougurt. You can garnish salads with them or use them as
savory healthy snacks.

You can also freeze them or buy frozen berries, because several studies (Syamaladevi et al. (2011) and Rizzolo et al., 2003) have shown that storage temperature does not degrade anthocyanins.


Sleep duration, naps and risk of cardiovascular events

A study involving 115,000 participants from 21 countries from all over the world (from Bangladesh to Zimbabwe and Canada to Sweden and Argentina), who were part of the “Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology” or PURE for short looked into how sleep influenced the risk of a cardiovascular event – CV event (that is a heart attack or stroke).

The subjects were followed up for an average period of eight years and their lifestyle, family history of health problems,  Researchers followed up with the participants for an average of eight years, asking them questions about their lifestyle habits (smoking, drinking alcohol, diet, exercise) and family histories of health problems.

Around 4,350 people died during this period and roughly another 4,350 had a CV event.

white pillows with a drawing of a heart and an ECG line on them

The study found that:

  • An estimated total sleep duration of 6–8 h per day is associated with the lowest risk of death and a CV event.
  • The individuals who slept more than 9 hours per day, when compared with those who slept from 6 to 8 hours daily, were usually women, smokers, hypertensives, less educated, rural inhabitants and aged over 50 years.
  • Those who slept less than 6 hours per day were fatter (had higher BMI and waist-to-hip ratio) and were more likely to have diabetes but, less likely to drink alcohol.
  • The median sleep duration of all individuals was 8 hours per day.

When it came to cardiovascular risk, the researchers noticed the following:

  • Those who slept between  6–8 hours per day had the lowest incidences of all causes of mortality.
  • Mortality risk was significantly higher in those sleeping more than 8 hours.
  • It was high, but not statistically significant in the subjects that slept less than 6 hours.

Three groups showed an increased risk of death and major CV incidents when compared to those who 6–8 hours at night and did not take daytime naps:

  1. Those who slept the same amount at night and also took naps during the day.
  2. Those who slept less than 5 hours at night and didn’t nap during daytime.
  3. Those who slept longer at night (avg. 9.6 hours per day) with or without napping.

Looking into the impact of  daytime napping , the study found that there was a higher risks in those who slept more than 6 hours each night, but not in those who slept less than 6 hours nightly, for this group, the authors suggest that daytime napping somehow mitigated the fact that they slept less than 6 hours per night.

© 2018 Patagonia Wellness
Visit our website: www.patagoniawellness.com


(1) Chuangshi Wang, Shrikant I Bangdiwala, Sumathy Rangarajan, Scott A Lear, Khalid F AlHabib, Viswanathan Mohan, Koon Teo, Paul Poirier, Lap Ah TSE, Zhiguang Liu, Annika Rosengren, Rajesh Kumar, Patricio Lopez-Jaramillo, Khalid Yusoff, Nahed Monsef, Vijayakumar Krishnapillai, Noorhassim Ismail, Pamela Seron, Antonio L Dans, Lanthé Kruger, Karen Yeates, Lloyd Leach, Rita Yusuf, Andres Orlandini, Maria Wolyniec, Ahmad Bahonar, Indu Mohan, Rasha Khatib, Ahmet Temizhan, Wei Li, Salim Yusuf; Association of estimated sleep duration and naps with mortality and cardiovascular events: a study of 116 632 people from 21 countries , European Heart Journal, , ehy695, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehy695

How flying impacts on your health

Flying affects your body


Did you know that a six-hour flight has the same effect as sitting atop an 8,000 foot-tall mountain in the Atacama Desert (which by the way, is the driest place on Earth)? Well, it does.

This post will explain the negative impact that flying in a commercial airline has on your body.

When you fly, you are exposed to the combined effect of low atmospheric pressure (and therefore less oxygen), very dry cabin air and inactivity due to the fact that you are sitting immobile for several hours.
Add to this (in the case of long flights), lack of sleep due to the cramped seating arrangements of modern aircraft, and the outcome is that you will feel tired and maybe even dizzy during a flight.

atacama-aircraft dryness are the same 15 percent humidity

The cabin of an airplane is as dry as Atacama Desert. A. Whittall

If you add alcohol or caffeinated beverages (Coke, Pepsi, coffee or tea) you may even feel much worse.

You can’t avoid all of these factors, but there are some things that you can do to minimize some of their side effects:

1. Low Air Pressure during the flight

Your body is adapted to working at sea-level atmospheric pressure, which is equivalent to a column of water 33 feet (10 meters) high pressing down on you. This is a pressure of 14.7 psi (pounds per square inch) all over your body.

As you move up, away from sea level, this pressure falls for simple reason that there is less air mass above you, pressing down on you.

You don’t usually notice this difference in pressure, that is, as you climb in altitude you will not feel lighter. However the pressure drop experienced as you climb has an important consequence on your body.

As pressure decreases so does the quantity of molecules in a given volume of air (for the nerds among my readers, this is expressed by Boyle’s Law). And less molecules of air means less quantity of oxygen and this is the cause of what is known as “Altitude Sickness”: at higher altitudes there is simply not enough oxygen in the air for your body to use. (This is what happens to those who try to climb the Everest, and to most people who go above an altitude of 6,550 ft. (2,000 m).

But aren’t planes pressurized?

Yes, but….

At the normal cruising altitude of an airplane (35,000 ft., or 10.650 m) atmospheric pressure drops to 3.8 psi, which is roughly one-quarter of the sea level pressure. This means that the quantity of oxygen in the air is also 26% of that found at sea level. This amount of oxygen is far too low and could lead to death due to hypoxia (lack of oxygen).

For this reason aircraft cabins are pressurized, but, and this is the “Big Secret”, they are not pressurized to sea-level values for cost reasons!.

Let’s explain this in detail:

The structural strength of the airplane determines how much differential pressure the cabin can tolerate (Differential pressure is the difference between the internal and external pressures).

Aircraft can withstand pressure differentials of about 8 psi. Yes, they could be built to withstand higher pressures but they’d be stronger, with more resistant materials and therefore much heavier. Weight is crucial, as a heavier plane would use more fuel, becoming far too costly to fly.

For this reason, airplanes are pressurized to an intermediate value between dying of hypoxia and sea level pressure.

The limit is imposed by the external pressure at cruising altitude (35,000 ft.): 3.8 psi. So, with a maximum differential pressure of 8 psi, the inner pressure can’t exceed 11.8 psi.

This pressure of 11.8 psi is equivalent to flying at an altitude of 6,214 ft (1,894 m). Which is quite reasonable as it falls below the limit which makes most people feel uncomfortable.

This altitude has roughly 81% of the oxygen content you have at sea level. So, it is a tolerable trade-off.

For this reason air flight regulations limit the maximum cabin altitudes to 8,000 ft. (2,440 m). But do airlines comply?

A study which analyzed 204 flights found that the average value of air pressure complied with this limit but, some airlines flew with a higher altitude: the maximum value was 8,915 feet (2.717 m), which can be distressing to some passengers.

Hypoxia – lack of oxygen

With the 6,214 food limit you should not have nasty side effects (hypoxia) because most people start to notice the effects of lack of oxygen at altitudes beyond of 8,200 ft (or 2.500 m).

But unfortunately, some of its milder symptoms can be felt by sensitive people at lower altitudes.

These side effects include sleep disruption, oliguria (the medical term for peeing less), a racing heartbeat (tachycardia), dizziness and even nausea.

To make matters worse, sitting in the cramped seats that modern airlines confine its passengers to, for several hours, and not drinking enough fluids can cause additional health risks.

Being immobile and dehydrated can reduce blood flow to your legs, reduce oxygen levels in your body’s cells and cause localized hypoxia.

All of these factors may make you feel faint if you stand up all of a sudden during a flight. So you should do so slowly, and flex your arms as you stand up. You should get up, walk down the aisle and to the “gym” movements suggested by your airline’s magazine or media recommendations. It will keep blood flowing and minimize the risk of thrombosis (blood clots).

In-flight flatulence

Yes, farting is another side effect of low pressure. Reduce the pressure and gases expand: a volume of 100 ml at sea level becomes 130 ml at (6,000 feet – 1.830 m). That is a 30% increase in volume for ALL gases, and this includes those gases located inside your body cavities: for instance your middle ear. This lower pressure is what makes your ears pop with altitude.

Normally air expands and flows from your ear to your throat through two tubes (Eustachian tubes), and this equalizes the pressure gradually, however if this happens all of a sudden it causes a popping sound.

Very Important tip. If you have a nose, sinus or ear infection, the congestion will upset this flow of air and you may feel pain. It could even rupture your ear drum: Avoid flying if you have these conditions.

Expanded gases inside your gut, will bloat you, and also your fellow passengers. This means that you will all pass more gas inflight. Unfortunately, farts are part of the airline cabin experience! whether you fly business or economy class!

How to prevent bloating (and farting)

Try to eat foods that reduce flatulence before you fly: rice, dairy products and fish are ok. Keep away from peanuts.

A bloated stomach can be uncomfortable: Stay away carbonated drinks before flying; if you drink a soda before takeoff, the gas will be trapped in your stomach and, as the plane climbs, it will expand by 30%, stretching your tummy.

2. Extremely Dry Air

As we said, the cabin air is pressurized, and the process that pressurizes it makes it very dry:

The aircraft’s turbofan (jet) engines compress a stream of air, this heats it, so it then has to be cooled. Which eliminates humidity (which at 30,000 feet is already very low, roughly 1% water content).

Then it is then mixed with air that is recirculating from the cabin (yes, with flatulence included). Its temperature is adjusted to keep it comfortable for the passengers.

The only source for humidity (water) in the aircraft is the original humidity of the cabin air when the plane took off. Add to this the moisture that is lost by the passengers and crew as they breathe and perspire during the flight.

So, relative air humidity during a flight is very, very low!

Those interested in the facts should read this paper and this article.

Air humidity decreases inside the cabin to values of around 10 to 15%. And the longer the flight, the drier it gets.

This value is lower than the relative humidity of the Driest Place on Earth, Atacama Desert in Chile

which averages 17.3% RH!


Atacama Desert is very dry! – David Bebber

Risks caused by the dry cabin air

Your body is used to an average relative humidity of around +60%, which is the typical value in temperate countries so this extremely dry in-flight atmosphere hurts you. These are the negative side effects of very dry inflight air:

  • According to this paper flu virus survive for longer, and also spread much more easily in dry air.
  • Your nose will dry out and this will irritate your sinus membranes. The same happens to your throat and bronchial system. If you suffer from asthma keep your medication handy.
  • It will also dry out your eyes (your tears will evaporate faster in the dry air), and this loss of moisture will irritate your eyes. During a flight you should use glasses instead of contact lenses and use moisturizing eye drops.
  • Your skin loses far too much moisture and will become dry. Keep it moisturized with lotion or cream and also use lip balm.
  • Your body loses water due to evaporation (as you sweat and also, as you breathe). You can become dehydrated! Less water makes your blood more viscous (thicker) which means that your heart has to pump harder to circulate it through your body. Blood flow becomes more inefficient which causes oxygen levels to drop slightly inside your body’s cells. Also waste toxins build up inside the cells.

    Blood stagnation is worsened by sitting for long periods of time: it accumulates in your feet and lower legs, which swell and may produce blood clots This is very dangerous.

    So please, get up, flex your feet and walk to the back of the plane frequently. It will keep blood and oxygen flowing through your legs.

Read more about how to avoid Dehydration.

Closing comments

You should drink one glass of water every hour you fly, avoid booze and caffeine and carbonated beverages (the gas will make you feel bloated)

Get up and walk around the cabin regularly, flex your muscles and move your feet.

Always ask for water when you fly. Not coffee. just plain and simple water

© 2018 Patagonia Wellness – A. Whittall




Sugar: the poison added to our food

Sugar has a characteristic sweet taste which nearly all mammals can detect. This isn’t surprising because glucose is a very good source of energy for the body and even more important than that, maintaining a constant level of blood glucose is crucial for survival.

Most sugars are produced by plants (Honey is the result of bees harvesting sweetness from plants, so it isn’t an animal source of sugar), an exception is the sugar lactose which makes milk sweet, which is of animal origin.

Sucrose (found in sugar cane, honey, sugar beet and sugar maple sap) and fructose (found in fruit) are the prime source of glucose (animals, including us, humans, can convert them into glucose). Both of them are sweet.

Starches and some short-chain polysaccharides (composed of multiple molecules of sugar) can also be broken down by our gut into glucose, but starches don’t have a sweet taste.

In the distant past, when food was scarce, finding a source of sugar was a bonanza: fruit or honey provided quick and tasty energy, but nowadays in the modern world, where food is over abundant and our lives are too sedentary, eating too much sugar can be a problem.

Added Sugars

When we say “too much sugar” we don’t mean that people are eating too many apples, oranges or pears. Fruit has “natural sugars” and although you can also put on weight by eating too much fruit, the natural sugars in fruit are accompanied by fiber and vitamins which make them a healthy option.

Actually, the problem is the “extra” sugar that is added to processed foods. These “added sugars” are used to enhance flavor, provide texture, color and stability to foods.

As fat has been pinpointed as the main cause of obesity and heart disease (more on this below), the food industry has developed a full range of “low fat” or “reduced fat” foods.

But when you take the fat out of food, it becomes unpalatable and bland. So the food industry replaced fat with sugar!

The most common type of added sugar is known as High fructose corn syrup or HFCS, which contains roughly equal amounts of fructose and glucose and is found in yogurts, bread, salad dressings, crackers, ketchup, apple sauce, relish, cold cuts… you name it, and it will have added sugar.

spoon with gold colored high fructose corn syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup sweetens most of our processed foods

Currently the intake of added sugars approaches 15 percent of overall energy intake in the average western diet.

And it is the added sugar that is being scrutinized by scientists who are trying to explain the wave of obestity and health risks associated with being overweight, that is flooding the world.

Because your body stores (as fat) all the unused refined carbohydrates (starch) and sugar that you eat.

Not all sugars are the same

Studies with rats (2) by Kanarek and Orthen back in 1982, showed that animals eating sugar plus a standard diet ingested more calories, gained weight and put on fat along their midsection in comparison to the rats eating a normal standard diet.

Rats eating sucrose plus the normal diet got fatter but didn’t eat more food. Rats eating other sources of sugar put on even more weight (sucrose solution, fructose solution and glucose solution).

The rats eating fructose solution had the highest levels of triglycerides in their blood, compared to the other groups.

The conclusion is clear: sugar intake makes you fatter, and somehow makes you feel more hungry, so you end up eating more.

To make matters worse, being fat is linked to a series of health conditions and an increased risk of disease (diabetes, cancer and heart disease).

But what about fat?

Nowadays we are warned to regulate our intake of fat, especially saturated fats. Fat has been blamed for the obesity epidemic and is demonized in most studies, however an overlooked fact is that back in the 1950s it was sugar that was under scrutiny: (3)

The first links between coronary heart disease (CHD) and sugar were detected in the 1950s. But the “Sugar Research Foundation” (SRF) whose members included growers and processors of beet and sugar cane across the US and also Canada and Haiti, quickly funded research projects which singled out fat as the cause of CHD, and at the same time covered up the evidence that showed that sucrose intake
was also a risk factor.

During the 1960s and 70s, the SRF actively funded, reviewed papers’ drafts and submitted them for publication but did not disclose that it was a sugar related food-industry funded foundation.

SRF’s efforts were successful, they portrayed fat as the main culprit of CHD, effectively clearing sugar from any suspicions of being a CHD risk factor.

The debate continues, but the picture that is emerging shows that sugar and refined starches (carbohydrates) play an important role in heard disease.

Let’s look into the health risks associated to eating too much sugar:

Obesity and sugar

As mentioned further up, we, mammals love sugar, but again, not all sugars are the same (4) Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain in human subjects
has shown that it responds differently to fructose or sugars containing fructose, when compared to glucose or a non-caloric sweetener such as aspartame.

Eating fructose leads to greater hunger and a desire for food than eating glucose does. Fructose seems to activate brain regions involved in reward processing, promoting appetite and feeding behavior. (5)

This confirms what Kanarek and Orthen had first found in rats in 1982: fructose makes you feel more hunger, so you will eat more and put on more weight.

But sugar also triggers other mechanisms that make us put on weight (6) it promotes insulin resistance, leading to high insulin levels which cause obesity (insulin is a fat-storing hormone).

Fructose causes the cells that metabolize it, to get inflammed, and when fatty cells under the skin metabolize fructose, this inflammation provokes the release of cortisol -as your body reacts to calm this inflammation. However cortisol has an unpleasant side effect: it displaces the fatty acids from these subcutaneous fat cells and moves it into the abdominal cavity, padding the internal organs with visceral fat.

As a result of this inflammation visceral fat increases considerably (Read more about the Dangers of Belly Fat at our website).

Another study with mice (9) found that eating high fructose corn syrup lowered the secretion of dopamine in their brains. Lower dopamine function is linked to compulsive behaviors (such as compulsive eating) and to lower energy expenditure. So the sugar makes mice eat more and burn less energy, making them gain fat and weight.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

If fructose is metabolized in the liver, this inflammation causes fatty liver (more fat is stored inside the liver itself). (6)(1)

At one time NAFLD was believed to be the consequence of a sedentary lifestyle and overeating, but new evidence suggests that “diets high in sugar -from sucrose and ⁄ or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)” increases the risk for NAFLD.

Your Gut’s microbiota is also altered

Studies with mice (7) found that high-glucose or high-fructose diets could increase insulin, fat mass and blood sugar levels without necessarily increasing body weight. These mice were “Thin on the outside but fat inside”, a very nasty tipe of thinness.

The extra sugars that the mice ate altered the microbes that colonize their digestive tract and this provoked intestinal permeability and a condition known as “metabolic endotoxemia”, which causes an increase in pro-inflammatory chemicals and free-radicals which promote inflammation, accumulation of fat and fatty-liver as observed in cases of “normal-weight obesity”.

Alzheimer’s disease and sugar

A study by Pase et al., (2017) (8), reports that “Excess sugar consumption has been linked with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology in animal models“, the extra sugar came from
drinking sugary beverages (such as fruit juice -not fresh fruit, but sugar added juice).

Drinking more than one sugary beverage per day was associated with a “lower total brain volume… poorer performance on tests of episodic memory… lower hippocampal volume” and these are markers of precinical Alzheimer’s disease.

Sugar is addictive

Another study (10) which used animals, found that sugar produces symptoms associated to addictive substances such as bingeing, craving, tolerance and withdrawal effects, reward and opioid effects, among others.

Apparently from the point of view of brain neurochemistry, in animals and humans sugar abuse and drug abuse have similar effects.

The cause seems to be the natural opioids released by the brain when sugar is eaten (yes, the sweet taste gets you high on your own endogenous opioids!).

skull shaped teaspoon of sugar
Sugar isn’t good for your health!

Coronary Heart Disease and sugar

A study by James DiNicolantonio and James H O’Keefe (2017)(11) reports that one out of every six deaths in the USA is caused by coronary heart disease (CHD), and overconsumption of added sugars, has been associated with an increased risk of CVD and mortality due to cardiovascular causes.

DiNicolantonio and O’Keefe state that there is a relationship between insulin levels and risk of cardiovascular disease, and that it is independent of blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids. As refined sugar makes insulin levels spike (much more than starch for instance), they say that “this provides compelling evidence that overconsuming added sugars (sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup) may lead to an increased risk of CHD through raised insulin levels.

The good news is that a diet low in added sugar and refined carbs reverses these metabolic problems.

Which brings us to the otucome of a Finnish study involving 4,842 adults aged 25 to 74 years (12):

  • Younger people eat food with more added sugar and less natural occurring sugar (less fruit for instance) than older people.
  • People eating more added sugar tended to eat less fiber
  • And they also ate less fruit (women) and vegetables (men).
  • Higher added sugar consumption was associated to higher butter consumption (more sugars and more fats).
  • More intake of naturally occurring sugars was linked to an overall healthier lifestyle (more physical activity, less smoking).

Closing Comments

Fat, as a nutrient, and specially saturated fats, has been blamed for obesity and the health risks associated with it. However since the 1950s, sugar has been known to increase heart disease risk and cause weight gain.

Effective lobbying by the sugar industry in the US managed to shift the focus from sugars to fats and in the process remove fat from our processed foods and replace them with “added sugars”.

These added sugars now account for around 15% of our daily caloric intake, and they are present in almost every single processed food that we eat, from ketchup to salad dressing, from crackers to cold cuts.

Among these added sugars is high fructose corn syrup, which, as we have seen further up is linked to obesity, visceral fat, fatty-liver, an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It is an addictive substance
that makes you eat more (not only sugars, but all types of food) and feel hungrier, it also makes you burn less energy. The perfect mix for obestity and the chronic health conditions linked to it: diabetes and heart disease.

The best option is to eat a healthy and balanced diet, with the right mix of nutrients, including fruits which have “naturally occurring sugars” and fiber, whole grains, vegetables and less red meat and more fish.

Keeping physically active will also help control weight, feel better and improve your wellness.

Sources and Further Reading

(1) Jensen T, Abdelmalek MF, Sullivan S, et al. (2018). Fructose and sugar: A major mediator of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. J Hepatol. 2018;68(5):1063-1075

(2) Kanarek RB, Orthen-Gambill N. (1982), Differential effects of sucrose, fructose and glucose on carbohydrate-induced obesity in rats. J Nutr. 1982 Aug;112(8):1546-54.

(3) Cristin E. Kearns, Laura A. Schmidt, Stanton A. Glantz, (2016). Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research – A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(11):1680-1685. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.5394

(4) Murray S, Tulloch A, Criscitelli K, Avena NM., (2016). Recent studies of the effects of sugars on brain systems involved in energy balance and reward: Relevance to low calorie sweeteners. Physiol Behav. 2016;164(Pt B):504-508

(5) Luo S, Monterosso JR, Sarpelleh K, Page KA., (2015). Differential effects of fructose versus glucose on brain and appetitive responses to food cues and decisions for food rewards. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015;112(20):6509-14

() DiNicolantonio JJ, Mehta V, Onkaramurthy N, O’Keefe JH., (2017). Fructose-induced inflammation and increased cortisol: A new mechanism for how sugar induces visceral adiposity. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2018 May – Jun;61(1):3-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2017.12.001. Epub 2017 Dec 8

(7) Do MH, Lee E, Oh MJ, Kim Y, Park HY., (2018). High-Glucose or -Fructose Diet Cause Changes of the Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Disorders in Mice without Body Weight Change. Nutrients. 2018;10(6):761. Published 2018 Jun 13. doi:10.3390/nu10060761

(8) Pase MP, Himali JJ, Jacques PF, DeCarli C, Satizabal CL, Aparicio H, Vasan RS, Beiser AS Seshadri S., (2017). Sugary beverage intake and preclinical Alzheimer’s disease in the community. Alzheimers Dement. 2017 Sep;13(9):955-964. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2017.01.024. Epub 2017 Mar 6

(9) Meyers AM, Mourra D, Beeler JA., (2017). High fructose corn syrup induces metabolic dysregulation and altered dopamine signaling in the absence of obesity. PLoS One. 2017;12(12):e0190206. Published 2017 Dec 29. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0190206

(10) James J DiNicolantonio, James H O’Keefe1, William L Wilson, (2018). Sugar addiction: is it real? A narrative review BJSM, july 2018. Vol 52:14.

(11) James J DiNicolantonio and James H O’eefe, (2017). Added sugars drive coronary heart disease via insulin resistance and hyperinsulinaemia: a new paradigm. BJSM, November 2017, Vol 4:2

(12) Kaartinen NE, Similä ME, Kanerva N, Valsta LM, Harald K, Männistö S, (2017). Naturally occurring and added sugar in relation to macronutrient intake and food consumption: results from a population-based study in adults. J Nutr Sci. 2017;6:e7. Published 2017 Mar 8. doi:10.1017/jns.2017.3


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