Juvenon Health Journal volume 2 number 1 january 2003
Escaping the Sugar-Fat-Disease Connection
Most people know that too much sugar – in such forms as candy, soft drinks and refined grain products – is bad for them. But why? What makes it bad, and do the bad effects amplify as we age?
In recent years the answers to these questions have become clearer, and they point to steps that everyone can take to promote healthy aging. In particular, recent studies are supplying novel information to help unravel the complex biochemical events affected by a high consumption of simple sugars, and the resultant high level of blood sugar.
What happens when we ingest a food containing a high level of simple sugars? On an empty stomach, such foods are rapidly converted to glucose and dumped into the blood stream. Glucose is an oxidant that must be removed from the blood before it can damage tissues. Our bodies have a specialized organ, the pancreas, which recognizes the glucose molecules and responds by secreting the hormone insulin. Insulin, in turn, removes glucose by promoting its entry into cells to be utilized for energy.
Problems arise because the pancreas is not able to handle a huge level of blood glucose. This organ evolved over several million years, during which our predecessors subsisted on roots, berries, nuts and meat – foods containing few simple sugars. A minimal amount of insulin was needed to remove small quantities of glucose, and the utilization of glucose for energy was balanced with that of fat and protein for energy. The high levels of glucose frequently found in the blood of people in developed countries today can stress the insulin-secreting cells. When insulin production is insufficient to remove the glucose occasioned by a high-sugar diet, something has to give. The result is the accumulation of fat in muscle, liver and fat cells, and damage to tissues and organs.
How does this happen? When the supply of glucose exceeds the amount the body requires for energy production, it is converted to a chemical storage form known as glycogen. However, when the cell’s glycogen stores are filled to capacity, the glucose is, instead, converted to fat. Two new problems can then occur. First, the person gains weight. More importantly, a high level of conversion of glucose to fat, and deposition of the fat in muscle tissue, culminates in a condition referred to as insulin resistance, or the diabetic state. This means that the body’s ability to remove excess glucose from the blood is reduced because the receptors on the muscle cells no longer respond to insulin to let glucose enter the cell.
A vicious cycle ensues, as higher levels of glucose are required to enter the cell because of a less sensitive insulin receptor, and the higher levels damage the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. This condition of high blood glucose is toxic if it continues for an extended period. The glucose reacts with proteins in tissues to form what are known as advanced glycation end products, or AGE. A high level of AGE products creates an inflammatory condition in the vasculature, which is implicated in the development of heart disease, as well as damage to organs such as the kidney. AGE products bind to vascular receptors that promote inflammation of the vessels, culminating in calcium deposits, plaque formation and blood clots. Furthermore, high blood-glucose has recently been demonstrated to activate a cell-death pathway, apoptosis, in the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
High sugar intake, therefore, has many negative effects on the body. This doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a slice of pie or a soft drink on occasion. Most people can offset the negative side effects of too much simple sugar. Using common sense to limit the intake of sugar-laden foods is the first line of defense. If the temptation is too great, it’s OK to give in once in a while, particularly if you eat a balanced meal before the sweet dessert. This will help prevent the sharp elevation of glucose in the blood and attenuate the amount of insulin that will be released if that sweet temptation is eaten on an empty stomach. Avoiding sharp increases in insulin release will also help prevent overeating, since a precipitous decline in glucose, the result of the high insulin release, will lead to more hunger.
Maintaining a proper diet with a minimum of simple sugars is important to the health of people of all ages, but even more so as we age. As we grow older, we become less physically active and consequently burn less energy. Very often, however, our food intake doesn’t change. Thus, the diabetic condition is more common as we age. To keep the machinery operating optimally, we need to readjust our energy intake to match the energy burned.
One proven method to increase energy demand is through exercise. Exercise will not only burn the excess glucose, but will enhance the entry of fat into the mitochondriato be burned as fuel. It has been demonstrated that exercise can increase fat oxidation by well over 20-fold, and that translates into significant fat removal. So if you have a weakness for sweets, make sure you clean up your act with exercise. Exercise will aid in removing glucose from the blood, since it will be utilized as fuel to meet the increased demand for energy, and ultimately lead to an increased sensitivity to insulin and a healthier body.
Increased utilization of energy, as occurs with physical and mental exercise, also promotes a biochemical state that signals muscle and brain cells to increase the number of energy-producing organelles, the mitochondria. The net result is a body with significantly greater energy reserves and ability to convert food to the chemical form of energy. This is a body that, in turn, can afford to yield a little more often to a sweet temptation.
Dr. Treadwell answers your questions about Juvenon™ Cellular Health Supplement
QUESTION: I am a 73-year old woman with a recent spate of high blood pressure. I have noticed that my blood pressure has returned to normal readings after starting on the Juvenon Formula. Is this a common effect of the Juvenon Formula?
H. H., via email
ANSWER: Juvenon Energy Formula™ is a dietary supplement. It should not be considered a treatment for high blood pressure. Nevertheless, some people have reported an ancillary effect of lower blood pressure. The following offers a plausible biochemical explanation for this effect.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that dilates and relaxes blood vessels. Relaxed blood vessels promote less resistance to blood flow, and lower blood pressure. Two compounds in the Juvenon Formula may increase levels of acetylcholine.
One of the Juvenon compounds, acetyl-L-carnitine, can serve as a donor of its acetyl group to a chemical present in the body, choline, to form acetylcholine. There is evidence that another Formula component, alpha lipoic acid, has a stimulatory effect on the enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of choline to acetylcholine. The net effect may well be to increase levels of the vasorelaxant, acetylcholine, and ultimately to reduce blood pressure.
In a recent study, lipoic acid was also demonstrated to have a significant effect on the production of nitric oxide by cells lining blood vessels. Nitric oxide functions as a molecular signal to muscles of blood vessels, resulting in their relaxation and lower blood pressure.
A year-long clinical trial is currently under way at a major medical research center in Boston to assess the effects of Juvenon Energy Formula™ on blood flow and blood pressure in patients with cardiovascular disease. Results are expected late in 2003.
Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D., is a former Harvard Medical School associate professor and member of Juvenon’s Scientific Advisory Board.