Sugar, Exercise, and Diabetes

It is widely accepted that overindulging in sugar can be very detrimental to your health. Many feel it is driving our epidemic of obesity. So many foods are laden with sugar, and even worse, high fructose corn syrup. Too much sugar intake for a sedentary person can be a very bad thing. It can cause a cascade of events that ends up resulting in adult onset diabetes. But a number of recent studies are showing that if you exercise, sugar can actually be beneficial. A new study published in March in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise demonstrates the positive effects of sugar on a body in motion. In this study cyclists were told to ride to exhaustion. Their livers were measured pre-exercise and post-exercise. It showed that after exercise the liver got smaller. This is due to the liver being an important reservoir of glycogen, the stored form of glucose. Glucose is what the body uses for energy. In this experiment, the livers of the cyclists after exercise were smaller than they were prior to exercise. This means that the body used up the stored energy in the liver to power the biking. After measuring the liver, the cyclists were given different types of sports drinks, some with milk sugars, some with fructose, some with sucrose, some with high fructose corn syrup. Those who drank the fructose laden drinks showed the best recovery in their livers. Their livers gained some of the volume back quicker. This means that drinking fructose while exercising will help to replenish the glycogen, or energy stores, of the liver, quicker than drinking other types of sugary sports drinks. During a long, hard workout energy levels can fade. But if you take in a fructose laden sports drink, it wil help you to recover your energy stores and therefore help you keep up your energy levels throughout a long and stressful workout. Does this mean that if you go for a 30 minute walk you should drink a sports drink? Studies show that you will not burn through all of your body’s stores of energy in that short amount of time. If you are exercising for more than 2 hours then a sports drink will be beneficial to maintaining energy levels and intensity. But a half hour walk will change how your body metabolizes sugar. Activity can “significantly reduce the health risks associated with fructose and other forms of sugar,” said Dr. Richard Johnson, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado. If a sedenetary person ingests large amounts of sugar, it will mostly be broken down in the liver, and can be associated with developing fatty liver disorder. This disorder will cause the liver to develope resistence to insulin, which helps to metabolize sugar. This will cause the person to develope adult onset diabetes. Exercise can alter this process though. A recent review of studies concluded that exercising can lessen the amount of fat in someone’e liver, even if that person did not lose any weight. Exercising for 30 minutes 5 days a week can aid in the control of blood sugar, according to a review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “Exercise may make you resistent to the undesirable effects of sugar,” Dr. Johnson said. Sugar is not all bad, but it is not good either. The best sugar comes packaged in a small dose of all-natural fructose, called fruit.

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