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Sugar: The good, the bad and the ugly (1)

Sugar comes under the family of carbohydrates in our food and Carbohydrates are the main source of energy in the body. However, all the carbohydrates can’t be absorbed by our body as such.

During the process of digestion, polysaccharides and disaccharides get broken down into monosacchraides or simple sugar which is absorbed by the blood. Liver converts all the monosaccharides into glucose which is then transported to body cells. Glucose is oxidized in the body cells to produce energy for carrying out body processes.

It may be noted here that it is not only the direct sugar eaten by us which adds sugar to blood but the starch etc., which initially may not appear like sugar, also gets converted into sugar after digestion and adds blood sugar in our body.

If the glucose or sugar in the blood is in excess of the immediate need of the body, then a part of glucose is converted into polysaccharides ‘glycogen’ which gets stored in liver and muscles. If it surpasses the body’s capacity to store glycogen then the remaining glucose is converted into fat and stores in various parts of the body in the form of adipose tissues.

In the case of excess demand of energy by the body, these glycogen and fat get reconverted into glucose and supply the necessary energy.

As carbohydrates from ingested food is absorbed following a meal, the level of glucose in the blood usually rises and then falls gradually until it hits the fasting level resulting in onset of hunger.

When the blood sugar level rises above 180 mg/100 ml, the condition is known as hyperglycemia. This occurs in diabetes cases where the lack of insulin (a hormone which controls blood sugar level) reduces the rate at which glucose is removed from the blood to the body cells for use as energy.

Under these conditions blood glucose level gets so high that the kidneys, which normally reabsorb sugar to prevent its loss from the body can’t reabsorb the excess and sugar appears in the urine.

Blood glucose level below 70 mg/100 ml is known as hypoglycemia. This condition is followed by poor neuromuscular coordination, weakness, palpitation, sweating and eventually may lead to unconsciousness.

Brain is an important organ to be considered as far as glucose requirement concern.  Brain burns 2/3rd of the body’s glucose and it is highly dependent on the blood for a steady supply of this fuel, day and night. Its billions of  electrical circuits are always turned on even  during sleep. Glucose generates 20 to 25 watt of electrical needed to conduct the brain’s electrical business and also to produce the neurotransmitters.

Unlike muscles, brain doesn’t have any store of glycogen of its own. So if you skip a meal or two and your blood sugar is running low, your body turns to its glycogen storehouse – liver, which contracts and supplies the demand. Daily intake of sugar for a sedentary adult is expected to be around 20 gm (direct sugar excluding complex carbohydrates).

However, it is important to note that, it is not that sugar is bad for the body. Body has a definite requirement of sugar. But it is the quality and excess quantity of sugar which may produce harmful effects in the body. Sugar also increases the entry of tryptophan (an amino acid) to the brain.

There it produces ‘serotonin’ (a neurotransmitter) which is called a calming chemical and makes an individual feel good.  • To be continued


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