Select Page

SUGAR METABOLISM

I very often come across people saying they do not have a sweet tooth but the moment we start talking about their daily diet, it soon becomes clear that they do not even realize how much sugar they really consume. For instance, they would admit to be a caffeine lover but will only take one teaspoon of sugar per cup – six cups a day adds up!!

The next problem is sitting behind a desk with your caffeine, sugar and a peanut butter sandwich or a rusk.

What happens in your body if you consume food that you do not use for energy?

THE PROCESS OF SUGAR METABOLISM

All sugars and carbohydrates are converted to glucose and the body will use the glucose to produce energy. Energy is produced in the cells but the glucose is now in the blood. When the blood glucose is increased, the pancreas reacts by producing insulin. The function of insulin is to carry the glucose into the cells for energy production. Therefore it causes a drop of glucose in the blood and an increase of glucose in the cells.

If this energy is not used, it is stored in the liver as glycogen and fat. If you drink something sweet or eat anything within 2 hours, this process is repeated.

However, if you do not consume anything, the body starts to make its own plans after 3 hours. The brain sends a message to the liver to produce another hormone called glucagon. The function of glucagon is to increase the blood sugar and this is done by burning the fat around the liver and release the glycogen that was previously stored. This is now converted back to glucose and your blood sugar slowly returns to normal. After 5 hours without food, your blood sugar returns to fasting level.

SUGAR METABOLISM vs SUNDAY BRAAI

We can compare this process to our Sunday braai. We braai more meat than needed for the meal and we keep it in the freezer. Wednesday night you work late, there is no time for cooking and you warm up your frozen reserve. We have to be careful to keep a balance – if we do not use all the frozen meat, come Sunday and we either have to skip the braai or waste the frozen meat.

To keep the balance between using energy and storing it, we have to make a few changes.

Reduce the sugar or starch intake by replacing some coffee with water – not sweet, flavored water!!

Stop eating behind your desk – take a lunch break, get up, go for a walk and eat a meal containing fiber. DO NOT EAT WITHIN 5 HOURS!! This is closely linked to intermittent fasting.

I will discuss the importance of fiber and its influence on blood sugar in my e-book on diabetes.

Not eating for 5 hours is very important in this process because this is the time it takes for the body to go through the process of  releasing glycogen, breaking down fat ( especially around the liver) and blood sugar to return to fasting level. If you eat in between, you produce insulin which stops the burning of the fat. This process is also very important for cholesterol control.

Why is it so important to get rid of the fat in and around the liver and other organs?

The fat that collects around the middle, triggers insulin resistance. Equally important, the fat that collects in the liver causes a fatty liver. This condition is known as Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and just like alcohol, also causes cirrhosis of the liver.

This is in a nutshell one of numerous processes that are continuously happening inside your body. There are also lots of other factors that are role players in sugar metabolism and energy production. For instance internal factors such as  probiotics (all the good bacteria), vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc…

External factors such as stress, exercise, infections, glycemic index and glycemic load, fiber etc…..

I trust that this will help you realize that you do not have to be yet another victim of diabetes. Small changes can have a big influence on your health in the long run.

Until next week

Petro Beauvais