Former "sugar addict" Connie Bennett says she was once plagued by fatigue, anxiety, depression, mood swings and headaches—all of which she later linked to her over-consumption of sugary sweets, candies and other fast-acting, simple carbs. After kicking the habit, Connie says her health dramatically improved, prompting her to co-author a book with cardiologist and nutrition specialist Dr. Stephen Sinatra, called Sugar Shock! How Sweets and Simple Carbs Can Derail Your Life—and How You Can Get It Back on Track
. Dr. Oz talks to Connie and Dr. Sinatra about the negative effects sugar has on the body and what you can do to improve your health by limiting sugar intake.
- Sugar creates an insulin response in the body, but Dr. Sinatra says that too much sugar causes surging levels of insulin that go up and down. The yo-yoing of the insulin is inflammatory in nature and causes tremendous irritation of the inner lining of blood vessels. Over time, symptoms such as those experienced by Connie can arise, he says.
- Dr. Sinatra says excess sweets and refined carbohydrates are linked to cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. "Sugar is public enemy number one when it comes to heart disease, not cholesterol," he says.
- If you think you are among the estimated millions of Americans who have difficulty processing sweets or refined carbs, Dr. Sinatra recommends having your doctor measure your insulin. "If [your insulin level] is over 17, it's a tip-off that there is profound insulin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes," he says.
- Generally speaking, Dr. Sinatra says that if your waist size is over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women, that's another absolute tip-off for insulin resistance.
- Turn your diet around, Dr. Sinatra and Connie both say. Limit your intake of simple carbs and eat a noninflammatory diet rich in omega-3s, complex carbohydrates (lentils, chickpeas, broccoli) and good quality protein at every meal.
- Get moving. "Exercise will drive insulin into cells," Dr. Sinatra says.
- Dr. Sinatra also recommends taking natural supplements such as alpha lipoic acid, gymnema silvestre and cinnamon to combat the effects of excess sugar. "[Cinnamon] works phenomenally in lowering the blood sugar," he says.
- Read packaging carefully. Connie says sugar is hidden in many packaged and processed foods where you wouldn't expect it, including beverages and many savory foods.
- If you're going to have sweets, eat either a healthy meal ahead of time or a little bit of protein afterward to slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, Connie says.