Dr. Dennis Van Hoof, PhD, CLC
“Diabetes or not, we all need sugar”
The bitter-sweet truth
Without sugar, you die. Diabetes is proof of that.
Sugar (also referred to as carbs, which is short for “carbohydrates”) exists in simple forms and complex forms:
Glucose is a simple form that quickly enters your blood after a meal. Sugar cubes are a bunch of individual glucose molecules all sticking together.
Starch is a complex form that takes longer to digest (which means breaking it down into simple sugars for absorption into the blood). Starch is made out of long chains of glucose molecules that are linked together.
The speed with which the type of sugar enters your blood stream is indicated with a glycemic index (GI) number, which differs for each type of food; the higher the number, the faster the type of sugar is absorbed. The value of glucose is set to 100 as a reference for other types of carbs. Combining sugary/carb-rich foods with protein and fat (as is usually the case in a complete meal) will slow down the sugar absorption speed.
Your body can store only a limited amount of glucose in the form of glycogen, which are molecules consisting of thousands of glucose molecules linked together on a bush-like structure.
Once your body has reached its maximum capacity to store glycogen, it starts converting any additional glucose into fat, and our storage capability of fat is practically unlimited.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not increase your risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes (if you are already predisposed) by just eating too much sugar, but by being overweight. Since over-consumption of carbs, fat, or both will make you overweight, reducing only your carb consumption while increasing your fat consumption is not going to prevent you from developing Type 2 Diabetes, and may increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Glucose is the main source of energy that fuels the processes going on inside the cells and organs in your body. If you do not eat enough carbs, you may feel chronically fatigued and not have the energy to be active. Especially your brain relies primarily on glucose to function, it requires about 120 grams of glucose per day (and that doesn’t increase if you are thinking very hard). Trying to maintain an extremely low blood glucose level may result in brain damage; cases of Alzheimer’s disease have been suspected to be linked to extremely low blood glucose levels over longer periods of time. If there is not enough glucose in the blood, your body needs to switch to alternative processes to create glucose from other sources: fat and protein. This process is called gluconeogenesis.
Generation of glucose from fat – During the conversion of fat into glucose, glycerol and ketones are formed as a by-product. Accumulation of ketones makes your blood acidic; this is called ketoacidosis. Acidic blood is very dangerous and damaging; it is even deadly if your blood becomes too acidic for too long.
Generation of glucose from protein – Another way your body can generate glucose is from amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Amino acids can come from two sources: food or your own muscle. It is obvious that you do not want your body to start consuming its own muscle to generate glucose; but eating more protein to compensate for too few carbs is not the best way either. The waste product of the amino acids that are converted into glucose is ammonia, which is highly toxic. Ammonia is converted into urea and secreted into urine.
Both your liver and kidneys need to work very hard to convert all the toxins into less hazardous compounds and expel them from the body. All that hard work puts a lot of stress on these organs, which may lead to complications or even permanent damage and organ failure. This is one of the reasons why consuming less than 130 grams of carbs per day is not healthy when done for a long time, and can even be life-threateningly dangerous to diabetics.
Optimal ratios and portion sizes of carbs, protein and (unsaturated) fat that support your physical activities are the key to a sustainable healthy lifestyle.
If you wish to design your personal, individualized lifestyle that that is healthy, but does not require dieting or avoiding sweets, then contact me for a free Introductory Coaching Session. Or register for one of the upcoming Workshop series to learn The 3 Steps to Sustainable Lifestyle Changes© (see this Blog Post for more information).
To make a healthy and active lifestyle sustainable, it needs to be enjoyable and fun!
Keep an eye out for my next blog, and I hope to see you soon to get you started on the journey to your new life!
Dr. Dennis Van Hoof is a Certified Life Coach (CLC) with an academic PhD degree in Biochemical Physiology. By combining 20 years of first-hand personal diabetes experience with his in-depth scientific background, he developed a method to efficiently manage his own diabetes in a sustainable way. To learn how you can do this too, reach out for personal Diabetic Lifestyle Coaching or follow a group workshop that is specifically tailored to people with Type 1 or 2 Diabetes as well as pre-Diabetics and those at risk due to being overweight or obese. His clients thrive with their challenges and become an inspiration™ to others — with or without diabetes.