By Dr. Norman K. Brown
UTU Medical Consultant

When I want to get started on a job that I have been putting off, I eat a few chocolate chip cookies (think sugar), and my enthusiasm picks right up and I am on my way.  

Unfortunately, there is a downside to our easy access to energy-packed food – sugars.

If we eat more sugars (think calories) than we burn up in a day, our bodies, being good stewards, turn this spare energy into fat. When we continue this, day-after-day, excess fat can make us vulnerable to many medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks and liver ailments.

Please note that I say sugars, not just sugar, since there are many sugars, and newer information indicates which ones we eat may make a difference.  

Table sugar contains both fructose and glucose. Some believe that high fructose corn syrup, a relatively new product, which is added to sweeten many foods, especially sodas, is contributing to our obesity epidemic in America. 

Despite the controversy about this form of sweetener, all agree that it can be sweeter than table sugar, and appears more likely to turn into fat in the liver and may not be good for us. While the jury is still out, please consider limiting foods containing this additive.

Our ancestors took in their sugars, including some fructose, through sweet fruits, such as berries, that also contain a lot of fiber. The mixed in fiber slows the sudden surge of sugars into our bloodstreams, such as may occur after a soft drink, and many experts believe the slowing is beneficial. Turning that idea around says that sugar, without fiber, is less healthy for us.

Sugar substitutes are now very available in the form of saccharine, aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda) and Stevia. Studies have been inconclusive as to whether each is totally safe, but if one helps you to keep down your sweet intake, do consider using it in small quantities.

The bottom line is that each of us should work hard to keep our calorie intake in balance with our calorie expenditure so we are not carrying much excess fat.  

The bathroom scale and our waistlines are the best monitors of how we are doing.  Reading labels on packaged foods about sugar content also can help. 

Fructose in processed foods appears to be especially worrisome. While I believe we will one day learn which of us can or should eat what foods to our best benefit, I personally have found that a diet high in protein and lower in carbohydrates and fat helps me most in keeping my own weight down while still having the energy to pick on myself and UTU members about our eating habits. 

By Dr. Norman K. Brown
UTU medical consultant
Hold the ketchup. Did you know that ketchup contains fructose, a processed sugar? I’ll get back to this shortly.
Many of our common diseases are aggravated by — or even caused by — the way we live, especially how we eat, how much we exercise, and if we use tobacco.
Michelle Obama repeated what her daughters’ pediatrician said: “Your girls are carrying more body fat than is truly good for them.” She is now urging an improved diet for all Americans, and good for her.
A recent medical study determined that people who eat better quality diets (less meat, and more fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread), have a lower body mass index (a measure of the waist compared to height), exercise regularly and do not smoke have a significantly lower incidence of heart disease, strokes and cancer, and live a longer life.
Medical studies document that table sugar and high-fructose sweeteners, such as are found in many processed foods, including ketchup and soft drinks, appear to play a role in triggering weight gain and the onset of diabetes as they create a continuing craving for more calories. My theory is that this is because the molecules in table sugar, and its chemical cousin, fructose, race right from your intestine to your blood stream.
Of course, we all receive a pleasant jolt of energy and optimism after eating sugar. If we burn it up in a workout quickly, then fine — our bodies won’t have so much work processing it, or turning the leftovers into fat. But the truth is most of us don’t burn up table sugar and high fructose sweeteners quickly in a workout.
Medical studies also document that if we reduce daily salt intake by one-half a teaspoon, we can reduce the incidence of strokes and heart attacks as much as restricting the intake of cholesterol (from meats) and tobacco products.
A lot of our salt, which can raise blood pressure, comes not only from the salt shaker, but also from processed foods, soft drinks including diet drinks, and restaurant meals. High blood pressure contributes to many body problems over time, as we all know.
We are surrounded by so much good tasting food, along with advertising to remind us, that we have to work very hard every day to improve the quality of our diet. It’s drudgery to improve our diets, but the result on improved health and a longer life span is good reason to eat what we need to stay healthy rather than what is fun to eat.
Yes, I hear you saying, “Okay, okay, if I do everything you are telling me, I will live to be 100, but I will be miserable.” Excellent. Now I have your attention.
Let’s make a deal: meet me half way. You become one-half perfect on this program of improving the quality of your diet, but also include some foods that are fun to eat. Strive for a life span of 85 years rather than 100. In doing so, I promise you will feel better in your mind and body on the way there. It’s not easy. I struggle every day to meet my own goals halfway.
Improving our life styles is hard work, but we can do it, and be happier for it over the long haul. I want UTU members to be in the front of this newly forming American parade, not bringing up the rear.
Please think about it. The life you save will be your own. And your loved ones will be grateful for your effort.