This will be a list of all the changes, both mental and physical, that can happen to your body if you go a week without eating refined sugar.
1. What are some physical, mental, and emotional changes you might notice if you stop eating refined sugar for a week? For each, please explain why the change may occur.
- Intense craving: a person habitually consuming high glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates activates the brain’s reward centers. When this energy source is removed, carbohydrates are craved, leading to feelings of sadness.
- The sweet tooth is not satisfied: Following a meal, many consumers love to eat a high GI dessert to satisfy the brain’s reward centers. If they skip the dessert, they feel deprived, and may compensate for the perceived loss, by eating less healthy foods.
- Less food is eaten: Simple sugars have less satiety (less food consumed in the subsequent meal) and appetite-suppressing properties than slowly-digested carbohydrates and some fats. By the end of a week, there could be an overall trend for less food consumed daily.
- Changes in energy levels: Just hours after replacing a simple sugar with a more slowly digested sugar, subjects in a published study, reported on a questionnaire, feelings of improved mental energy and physical energy, and reduced physical fatigue. The translation could be better ability to concentrate and focus, and this is particularly relevant for school age children now “deprived” of their sugar-laden breakfast cereal or sugar-heavy soft drink. Over the course of one week without simple sugars however, some individuals will miss the “energy highs” associated with simple sugar consumption, that occurs as soon as 20 minutes after simple sugars are consumed. Sugar spikes are fastest when added sugars are added to simple liquids. The energy highs do eventually lead to energy lows in response to swings in blood sugar, related to insulin and glucagon release.
- One can notice behavioral and physiological changes when simple sugars are avoided or minimized within 20 minutes, so yes, one week is sufficient time to notice differences.
- Humans and other mammals do not have an obligate requirement to consume any sugars or carbohydrates in the diet. Sugars are not “essential” macro nutrients because they are amply made in our bodies via biochemical pathway known as gluconeogenesis (“new glucose”). In whole- and less processed foods, sugars are mixed with fibers and other substrates, slowly digested, and in a lean individual who exercises, the intrinsic sugars can be a great energy source without deleterious effects. So, it is wrong to condemn sugars as a whole nutrient class. It is also wrong to single out fructose. The deleterious effects of sugars are manifested when they are consumed in excess, and they are high glycemic, typically as added sugars. Why are excess sugars bad? Excess, simple, added sugars are readily and efficiently converted to body fat, contributing to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, diabetes, and obesity. Excess sugars contribute to oxidative stress by providing too much substrate to be utilized by the mitochondria for energy, and this leads to formation of destructive reaction oxygen species (ROS). Excess sugars become attached (glycosylated) to proteins, and this can impair protein function.