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  • Kaelyn Turner

LaCroix isn't actually gross. It's just your brain.

Sugar, Sugar. Aww, honey, honey. You are my candy girl, and ya got me wanting you.

If you have never seen Now & Then with Christina Ricci et al... you probably never will. Because I don't think it made it past VHS but...dangit. One of my all time faves.

SUGAR! Ahhh, yes. The drug of all ages. We love it. And it's a Casanova.

"He looks like a cool drink of water
But he's candy-coated misery."
-Carrie Underwood

It has a terrible reputation that you just can't resist. It's attractive. It's well dressed. It notices you, from across the room. It makes you feel good and you never suspect it's cheating on you. Until out of nowhere... You're zombied out in the exam room waiting way too long for the doctor to come in to give you your annual lab results. You're fully ready to get on with it, "Everything looks good, see you in a year. Make sure you're exercising and watching what you eat," and get back to your mile-long to do list. You even got the 8am appointment, you came fasting, just in case they needed anything else - and hydrated for everything's sake. Don't ask me if I drank my water because you can't find my vein, ma'am. It's giant, can't you see it?? I can see it from the parking lot. Can't stop thinking about the latte and breakfast sandwich I'm about to smash from CC's on the way to work.

*knock knock*. YEEESSSS.... "Hey Ms. Landry, how are you? Allright so let's talk about your labs results for this year." Doctor sits down.

Excuse me? There is no "oh shit" handle in this room?! What is this doctor about to tell me? Why is she sitting down? Cancer. OMG. I have cancer. OMG, she's never wanted to talk about anything before. Why is her computer so slow? OMG.

"Your labs have changed since last year. Looks like your blood sugars have been running a little higher and your average came up some. Anybody in your family diabetic?"

Gulp. Only both of my grandparents on my mom's side and my grandfather on my dad's side and my mom. I mean come on, lady this is Louisiana, who doesn't have a family with diabetes in it? "Um. Yeah. A couple are diabetic, but they're older."

"Well. Your average blood glucose looks like it's been running about 120, and your A1C, which tells us your average levels for the last 3 months, is 5.9. Your blood sugar spot check that day was 122. These numbers tell us you may be pre-diabetic. Were you fasting for at least six hours of all drinks and food before you had your blood drawn this day?"

Yes, of course I was fasting. "I think so. I mean I can't remember exactly, I may have had coffee but that's it, if anything."

"Okay, well, let's redraw your blood to be sure the results are right. Don't worry or stress. We'll double check first. I'm not sure if you knew, but your weight is 12# higher since you were last here. Just, in the mean time, make sure you're exercising and watching what you eat, okay? You're young, we can get a handle on this. No need to start any medications or anything today."

"Okay, did everything else look okay?"

"Yeah, everything else looked okay. Your cholesterol is a little higher than I'd like to see it. Blood pressure is alright, no dangerous numbers, you were probably just a little nervous because you're here - white coat syndrome, right?"

Um, no? I've never had abnormal blood pressure before. "Yeah, probably so."

*Panic* *Get me out of here*

Great. Now I have to go on a diet. Immediately. I have to fix this. DIABETIC, I mean are you serious???? I don't even know where to start. Let me text my friend. She probably has some ideas. Gross food with no flavor here we come. *Eye roll*. This should be REAL fun.

There's that friend again. She's so annoying with her blog texts!! Ugh. I'll read it.

Trigger Warning: LaCroix isn't actually gross. It's just your brain.

That's right. I said it. LaCroix (insert ______ any other flavored sparkling water sans sugar or artificials) isn't actually gross. Water isn't actually gross. Black coffee isn't actually gross (unless you are just not a coffee person in general). Strawberries are delicious without sugar sprinkled on them. Diet Dr. Pepper is, in fact, not "healthier". T r i g g e r e d.

And, as I've said before ...... I love reality checks. Yum.

Why did I write this particular blog?

I have a passion for primary prevention. Preventing problems before they occur. Not inviting chronic diseases in that are avoidable with good habits. I want to tell you how SMART and ADAPTABLE your brain is. You is smart. I want you to outsmart the marketers. I want you to know that you can start retraining your tongue, stomach and brain now, to enjoy foods that are less offensive to your pancreas and waistline. I have seen firsthand, thousands of times, how diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome RAVAGE people's lives and bodies in the most detailed ways. I don't want that to happen to you.

Your old brain can learn new tricks! Life-saving, kidney-saving, toe-saving, heart-saving, eye-saving, money-saving tricks. Putting your prize-winning dog to shame!

Sugar has MANY aliases. Many ways to trick you into thinking one is better than the other. And, perhaps some are. But sugar hides EVERYWHERE. Even in your GUM.

Gum that is "sugar free" - is only SUGAR free - not SWEETENER-free. You have been lied to through very intelligent marketing. In 1 of these piece of gum, there are SEVEN different artificial sweeteners. SEVEN.

Added sugars are those that a food product on top of the sugars that may naturally occur in that given food. Added sugars themselves may also be naturally occurring and not man-made. Extra sugar. Sugar on sugar.

These next two photos are delicious. I love them. They are packed with information, don't be overwhelmed, just skim, we're going make like Whitney Houston and hit the high notes.

1. Even just if you glance over this, I hope your first reaction is: WOW. That's a lot.

2. I want us to think about how often we actually turn the food item around to look at the ingredient list before we put it in the buggy to purchase it?

3. The little food pictures represent where the sugar types in each sweetener come from.

4. GI = Glycemic Index = Foods get grades based on how much or how little they spike your blood glucose level when you eat or drink them. Many factors contribute to this grade. I'm sure you can guess ("You is smart.") that the lower the glycemic index, the better a food is for you in terms of blood glucose (excluding situations of hypoglycemia or "low blood sugar"). Some food manufacturers disclose the GI score, or may indicate that a food is "Low GI" on the label. Others, you'd have to look up yourself. Foods that have zero carbs in them naturally (chicken, fish) are not assigned a glycemic index number, or I suppose you could give them a zero if you think of it that way.

5. The line I want to zoom you in on, is the blue bar in both photos that says "sweetness compared to sugar." This is where they have you by the tongue, cat.

Your tongue is a hairy muscle. With smart hairs. To match your smart brain. These smart "hairs" are called papillae, and they are the equivalent of the tip of the iceberg. The iceberg being a taste receptor cell buried just under the surface of your tongue, and the tip of said iceberg being the papillae, which you appreciate as dots when you hang your tongue out in the mirror to study it. You can't taste all tastes on your whole tongue. As far as research knows, there are zones where each specific taste category (salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and.... umami - real word - for meaty flavors) cells live on your tongue.

These taste detecting cells, in their zones, through a cascade of events, send super fast signals to your brain while you are eating, specifically, to what is most currently called the gustatory cortex. Goose-ta-tory. Cortex. A certain brain zone, where a cluster of nerves light up on an MRI when a person tastes sweet stuff. Taste sensation is super complicated and scientists still don't fully know how it happens! Crazy, right?

Y'all ever been hangry? I get hangry abboooooout once a day. I can't sit still and I can't eat enough to keep up with myself. So at some point, during the day, I will get irritable, nauseated, snappy, palm sweaty, brain foggy, shaky, weak - and then I eat - and all is right in the world. Common, right? Wait too long to eat and we are not happy campers.

Our taste buds also differ based on our genes. Some people have more sweet receptor cells, more bitter receptor cells, less salty receptor cells, etc. Ya either love or hate cilantro. Love or hate coffee (and if you hate coffee I suspect you are an alien). Sweet or salty, and so on.

With sugar, though - there is a concept called Post-oral sugar conditioning. Stay with me, don't get out ahead of the crowd to get to your car, we're on the last set of this concert. Sugar doesn't just taste good and stop there. It keeps pursuing you. Sugar has been proven time and time again to be detected by receptors in the gut that then cause the brain to release Dopamine. What is Dopamine? Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (neurotransmitters are the microscopic stuff your brain squirts out in a domino effect that makes your cells talk to each other and your bodily functions possible).

Thanks, neurotransmitters, you the MVP.

"Dopamine is released when your brain is expecting a reward.
When you come to associate a certain activity with pleasure, mere anticipation may be enough to raise dopamine levels. It could be a certain food, sex, shopping, or just about anything else that you enjoy."

Are your ears up and your tail straight? Does that sound like the basis of addiction? It should.

But, you are SMARTER than that! You will recognize this process of "conditioning" with the example of your dog hearing their leash and collar jingle. He or she knows what's coming next - GOING on an ADVENTURE!

He's losing his mind. Wagging, rolling, jumping, barking, so excited because he associates the sound of his collar and leash jingling, at the same time every day, with his favorite adventure part of the day = pleasure. This is where your brain squirts out Dopamine.

"Other findings indicate that glucose-specific sensors mediate sugar conditioning and do so partly by activating the brain dopamine (DA) reward system. (3941)"

Let's zoom in here on sugar and "LCS". LCS = low calorie sweeteners. Yellow packs, pink packs, and blue packs amongst all the others. I'll tell you the verdict is still out on whether or not LCS cause or are correlated with increased appetite or weight gain.

Warning: Opinion ahead: The science contradicts itself. I'm going to share 2 research studies that used genetically modified rats. Each study modified the rats for different reasons, but, yeah, GMO rats. Some rats were stripped of their ability to taste sugar. The others were stripped of their ability to use the "GLP-1" their bodies squirted out. So, here are two lines that strike me like lightening from only 2 in a million research studies on sugar and artificial sweeteners as they relate to diabetes and obesity:

Study A: "A single, oral, or i.g. [put directly into the lab rat's stomach] dose of sucralose (79,80), aspartame (80), or acesulfame-K (80) also did not modify plasma [your blood] concentrations of GLP-1 and peptide YY (peptide YY is also secreted by L-cells and reduces hunger)."

"First, LCS ingestion by humans and animals does not cause the hypothesized changes in blood glucose or hormone levels. For example, rats given acesulfame-K, saccharin, stevia, or sucralose by gavage showed no change in blood concentrations of GLP-1, GIP, and glucose (75)."

ENGLISH, PLEASE. Yes, simplified, GLP-1 and peptide YY are 2 substances, squirted out by your body that do 2 things. First, when you ingest sugar and fat, GLP-1 then causes your body to squirt out insulin, bear hug that sugar and walk it through your stomach lining into your blood stream and finally into your cells. If you've ever watched TV, you have seen commercials for diabetes drugs, like Metformin and Trulicity. Pills or shots, that are "agonists" for GLP1 receptors - they boost the functioning of those sensors - when you take them. These drug commercials tell you these drugs can help control your diabetes and may even help you lose weight. Now you'll know why :) But, GLP-1 is only 1 member of the band.

Peptide YY "is secreted alongside the hormone glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1)...[and] Binding of peptide YY to brain receptors decreases appetite and makes people feel full after eating."

But.... don't we want that to happen when we eat? YES! Of course we do! Lightbulb.

That study just said that when they gave lab rats those 3 artificial sweeteners (or LCS)...that their levels of GLP-1 and Peptide YY did not change?? Yep, you got it.

The SAME study goes on to say, "Second, LCS ingestion does not increase food intake or body weight." Now that you are learning to be a critical reader, you look at that and say... Okay, but if I choose to eat the same foods, but with LCS instead of actual sugar...will it DECREASE my body weight? That's great that it won't increase my appetite or my weight - but the whole point is for me to DECREASE those things...... Daaaaammmnit.

Study B: These scientists birthed some more genetically modified rats. GMO rats. Yum. These rats were fed a certain type of fiber that is known to decrease body fat, and increase your levels of GLP-1 and Peptide YY! The GMO rats had their GLP-1 sensing capability taken away... All of the rats in this study were assigned to groups. 1 group had a regular diet and the other had a diet that was 30% that special fiber ("RS"). All of the rats had Peptide YY blocker juice injected into their abdomens every day. Remember, Peptide YY decreases appetite and tells you you are full. "Among many beneficial effects of dietary RS [1-9], we consistently found RS fed rodents have decreased body fat and improved glucose tolerance, associated with elevated circulating GLP-1 and PYY [10-18]. GLP-1 and PYY are gut-secreted hormones with anti-obesity and anti-diabetic actions."

GLP-1 and PYY have anti-obesity and anti-diabetic actions.

But... the first study said that consumption of low-calorie/artificial sweeteners has no effect on these two levels in the rats compared to sucrose (table sugar)...

This study B goes on to say that the rats with higher circulating levels of GLP-1 and PYY had better blood glucose levels, and lower body fat. That's what we all want, no?

Here's what else:

...those bright, colorful charts earlier said that some of the most common artificial sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K, stevia and sucralose) are anywhere from 150 to 600 times SWEETER than table sugar?! Not to mention HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup, everybody's favorite thing to hate since trans-fats) is 120-160x sweeter?!?

Friends. THAT is where the money is.

People who make and sell food for a living, want to SELL food. People buy food that tastes good. And, all too often - people want to have their cake and eat it too - all "sugar free".

This sugar-free revolution is the equivalent of the fat-free everything revolution of the 90's. It's a trick. If you are a person (NO judgement!) who regularly consumes sodas, diet sodas, foods marketed as having "great taste and 0 carbs!" or that are "sugar free" (i.e. your energy drinks), and these artificial ingredients are the only things the manufacturer is using to make them taste good - no extra fat, no extra sugar - your brain is CONSTANTLY being bombarded with this heightened experience of super-sweet, super-tasty substances.

It's been....... conditioned.

Your gum. Your little mint gum, has 7 different artificial sweeteners in it, in minute amounts, yes, but do you see my point now? They are everywhere.

Low calorie sweeteners have their place - they DON'T raise blood glucose. If you are a hard-to-regulate diabetic, have your LCS. But if you are embarking on a new food journey for weight loss, appetite control, and avoidance of full-blown diabetes, STEP AWAY from everything artificial! They have you tricked into thinking these foods are "guilt free". Of course calories in / calories out still matters - but if you are consuming "guilt free" junk, processed foods all the time, and have been coerced into believing they are better for you, plus you are not yet diabetic - how easy do you think it would be for you to justify having more of them than you would if they were the real deal? When something tastes good - we want more of it.

Final thoughts, if you've been consuming these super-sweet, super-flavored foods regularly for any amount of time, how much harder do you think it'll be for you to get off of these foods, and onto foods with real, old-school sugar, and then subsequently onto a low glycemic index lifestyle?

HARD, right? It's not fair. But you are smarter than that, you can wean yourself off of these substances. Awareness is the first step. Read the ingredients. I did not even touch on a host of other problems that high sugar, high sweetener diets are known to cause, or side effects of artificial sweeteners (like diarrhea and headaches).

SO, for the ENCORE: play it again! If your brain is CONSTANTLY being bombarded with this heightened experience of super-sweet, super-tasty, dopamine-squirting substances...

It's been....... conditioned.... and that's why you think LaCroix is gross.



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