How to look after yourself this holiday
This will undoubtedly be one of the strangest and hardest Easter holidays. For many people around the world it is a time where families get together, children take part in egg hunts and people gorge on the most popular treat on the planet - chocolate.
Unfortunately, the chance to spend time with your family who don’t live in the same house is not possible. Meeting friends and neighbours is too dangerous with social distancing measures and multiple children running around searching for eggs together is a recipe for disaster (even more than usual).
One thing that most governments haven’t put any rules around yet is partaking in the ability for anyone and everyone to devour their own body weight in chocolate.
Once considered a treat for special occasions, many now see confectionery as a daily snack between meals. Something you can put in a lunchbox alongside a sandwich and soft drink.
When did this happen, and when did we ignore the fact that’s it’s bad for our health?
Our obsession with the sweet stuff has been going on for years, with chocolate taking centre stage in the majority of our cultural gatherings - birthdays, Christmas, Easter, weddings, funerals, days that end in the word ’day’. We can now find literally any excuse to purchase a cake crammed with delectable and detestable sugar.
Sugar - The unparalleled oxymoron
A plant that divides AND unites us. After fat, sugar is one of the most vilified foods on the planet and yet also one that we give as presents to cancer patients.
How are we getting this so wrong?
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Truth)
When you turn over to the back of a chocolate bar wrapper - what do you see? Have you ever looked at the nutritional information? Do you even care what’s inside?
Many don’t. I didn’t for a long time. Certainly, growing up I couldn’t have cared less. It took years of playing sport and then college for me to take notice. and even then, the information provided was starkly inaccurate to what I know now. In hindsight, my grandmother was the epicentre for sensible consumption of confectionery.
Only once you’ve had your dinner. A small amount and very infrequent. And ONLY if you’ve been a good boy!
As adults, we play down the severity of eating confectionery. We always have. A little bit here, a little bit there. It’s always little bits. But they amount to lots of bits, and the result is not pretty.
In small quantities and eaten infrequently, it can be argued that chocolate is not bad per se, and 50 years ago this was likely to be the case. It could well be argued though, that the diet back then was far superior to today's, with less processed and refined ‘fake’ food. Home-cooked, fresh produce which always involved your meat and three veg.
It was rare to eat out and take-away was practically non-existent.
Therefore, if you were to follow a healthy diet, whereby you steered away from processed and refined foods, exercised and didn’t smoke or drink too much, a small amount of chocolate might not be so bad. You might win the prize for world’s most boring person, but you could afford to have a KitKat now and again if you wanted.
There’s also a lot of antioxidants in chocolate (dark chocolate only). In fact, if you only had a good quality dark chocolate of over 80% cocoa, you’d be getting more antioxidants than any fruit, including blueberries and açai berries.
There's obviously a pretty large caveat to this. Chocolate is loaded with refined sugar and even the high-cocoa dark chocolate will have moderate amounts. Plus, 100 g (3.5 ounces) comes in at a whopping 600 calories, so moderation is the key.
It’s worth us all knowing what’s in a chocolate bar. So we'll start with a Goliath in the sweets industry.
The Mars bar was invented in 1932, in the UK. According to calorieking.org - the humble Mars Bar has the following:
31.4 g Carbohydrate
26.1 g Sugar
11.5 g Fat
1 g Fibre
4.1 g Protein
The ingredients list is:
Sugar, Glucose Syrup (Sources Include Wheat), Milk Solids, Vegetable Fat, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Barley Malt Extract, Cocoa Powder, Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin), Salt, Egg White, Natural Flavours (Vanilla Extract).
The above lists the ingredients first to last based on amounts. I.e. sugar is the main component with 26.1 g followed by Glucose Syrup (another form of sugar), then Milk solids etc.
That means roughly 85-90% of a Mars Bar is refined sugar.
It will also take you over an hour of walking to burn off this small and inconspicuous treat, usually eaten in less than 2 minutes.
But what about the affect of the ingredients on your body?
The impact on your blood sugar is substantial and prolonged. You will need a significant amount of exogenous insulin or other insulin-lowering medication, which will in-turn increase your risk of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia.
Due to the fat content, the blood sugar response could be slower, which will make it more difficult to 'time' your medication.
Your insulin levels will follow your blood sugar rise, so as stated above, you'll need more injected insulin or your body will be forced to produce more. Either way, this is not good news for a diabetic. It will increase the likelihood of insulin resistance for a type 1 (double diabetes) and compound insulin resistance in a type 2.
Side note: Type 1 diabetic obesity rates have now surpassed that of the general population. That means half of all T1D's are overweight or obese - significantly increasing their chances of metabolic disease ON TOP of an autoimmune disease. To read this study, click HERE.
Food scientists have known for a very long time that when you combine carbohydrates and fat your body releases endorphins (dopamine - the same neurotransmitter released during sex) which makes you want to go back for more, sooner. The result is a lot of bad calories, more often. Looking further down the line and you're looking at more fat stored on your body and around your organs.
Carbohydrates (particularly refined and processed) cause severe spikes in blood sugar and insulin. This causes inflammation (your bodies response to injury), and your body also releases androgen - a hormone created in the adrenal glands, fat cells and the ovaries, which is converted to oestrogen.
Coincidentally, Tumors in the adrenal glands and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) both cause too much androgen. Which may be why we are seeing diets low in carbs help people with both conditions.
On a purely anecdotal note: "When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I was also diagnosed with Rosacea - a skin condition characterised by small pimples on the face, giving me the look of 'rosy' cheeks. When I started taking exogenous Insulin, it disappeared.
I later found out that Rosacea and metabolic disorder/Insulin resistance are related and have similar pathogenic pathways."
Source:Johnson RJ, et al. Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.Trusted Source The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007.
As you can see from the graph above: Our rate of sugar consumption runs in-line with obesity and metabolic disease over time.
This is, of course, only part of the diet / obesity picture, but added sugar certainly plays a key role in metabolic disease and a host of severe conditions.
The Ugly (Truth)
Food manufactures rely heavily on misinformation and misdirection. I.e. They'll claim they can be eaten as part of a healthy diet. Plus, they put the fault firmly onto the consumer - you.
That means that if you become fat and sick after over-consumption of these foods, it's your fault.
No-one is forcing you to eat it, after all.
There is also a lot of evidence that if you provide sugary sweets to your kids, they will grow up addicted and dependent. Do you think that is excessive? Try and go without any type of added or naturally occurring sugar for a week.
Then, next time you're in the supermarket, try and find a packaged, processed or refined food that isn't a carbohydrate or doesn't contain added sugar. Food manufacturers know it is extremely addictive, and they can get away with adding it. You will also find sugar addiction under the 'drugs' section of the addiction centre website - HERE
What else does sugar do in the body?
Finally, we should point out that putting on some weight, getting spots and struggling with managing your blood sugars isn't the only thing you have to worry about.
Hyperglycemia (chronically high blood sugars), hyperinsulinemia (chronically high insulin levels), caused by excessive carbohydrate consumption - sugar is carbs - carbs is sugar, results in the following:
* Increase risk of Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
* Accelerated cellular and skin ageing
* Increase risk of Alzheimer's
* Increase risk of Kidney disease
* Increase risk of depression
* Increase risk of Cancer
* Increase risk of heart disease
Diabetics are already at an increased risk of the above, so why would we rub salt into the wound?
Enjoying Easter for the right reasons
This year, Easter will be hard enough. We will make it through with the help of technology - speaking with loved ones via Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Houseparty, Google Hangouts etc etc.
We can play games, cook proper homemade food and watch a movie from one of the languishing movie production companies (times are changing).
We don't have to buy-in to the dizzying amounts of marketing from food manufacturers targeting our children, making us feel awful if they don't get several large chocolate eggs, accompanied by several more smaller chocolate eggs and sweets.
Stand up for you and your families health this holiday by rebelling against companies that profit from your ill-health.
People with diabetes are at the forefront of this assault. We will reap the negative consequences of bad food choices far earlier and quicker than a non-diabetic. We also know the true impact of these foods on our body.
Our CGM's don't lie.
With all that being said, we can still have chocolate.
We now have an abundance of sugar-free, keto or low-carb chocolate available. They may not taste the same but the impact on our body is tiny in comparison. We'll also need substantially less insulin-lowering medication to eat it, lessening the risks to us and our family.
It doesn't take a long time to change a habit and there's no better time than now.
Good Luck and Happy Easter.
Believe the hypo
Di Feliceantonio et al., 2018, Supra-Additive Effects of Combining
Fat and Carbohydrate on Food Reward, Cell Metabolism 28, 1–12
Weight Management in Patients with Type 1 Diabetes and Obesity.
Johnson RJ, et al. Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.Trusted SourceThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007.