The Fate of Carbs – Sustaining Life vs. Making You Sick
We know that carbohydrates are our body’s major source of energy, and we know how they get digested into their simplest forms. We also understand why digestion needs to happen, right?
So then what happens to all the carbohydrates once they are digested and absorbed? Understanding the fate of carbohydrates will help you make decisions in life that may be the difference for you between long-term health and long-term illness.
We know that carbohydrates are eventually digested into their smallest components:
glucose, fructose,and galactose.
Let’s examine what happens to them.
- The Fate of Galactose.
Galactose is converted in your liver cells to glucose. See “The Fate of Glucose” below for more.
- The Fate of Fructose.
Before we even learn about how your body metabolizes fructose, we need to learn some brand new information about what happens when you ingest fructose in the first place.
Read the brief Yale News article linked here.
Then talk to your neighbor(s) about why eating Twinkies and Skittles and other junk made with high-fructose corn syrup is yet another example of food marketing mind-control madness! To do this you need to know one new vocabulary word:
“Satiety” means fullness or satisfaction.
Bonus points: Name a hormone the author is likely referring to when she writes, “Fructose ingestion produces smaller increases in circulating satietyhormones compared with glucose ingestion.”One such hormone is called:______
When fructose is absorbed through the villi of our intestines and into our bloodstream, it is transported to our liver. You can indicate this on your page 81 diagram. There it is converted to a substance called glycogen. Glycogen is our body’s first way of storing carbohydrates for later on! Yay! Storing potential energy for later on obviously keeps us alive. Let the dopamine flow!
However, many 21st century folks are eating A LOT more fructose than our ancestors ever dreamed possible. And that’s a big problem…
In the liver, excess fructose is converted to fat. In brief, this can result in liver disease. Your liver performs hundreds of vital chemical reactions for you. Here’s a brief list of what your liver does for you.
In short, don’t abuse your liver with fructose (or anything else, for that matter)!
In addition, high levels of fructose can harm you in other ways.
Circle the bullet next to the health issues you think areassociated with excess fructose:
- elevates triglycerides, the building blocks of fat, whose buildup in blood vessels can lead to heart attacks and strokes
- increases harmful LDL cholesterol
- interferes with production of disease-fighting antibodies
- promotes the buildup of fat around organs (visceral fat)
- increases blood pressure
- reduces melatonin production, causing sleep deprivation and, therefore, increased stress
- makes tissues insulin-resistant, a precursor to diabetes
- increases the production of free radicals, energetic compounds that can damage DNA and cells.
For more on the dangers of fructose, you can read the source article from Harvard Medical School here.
In short, excess fructose consumption is dangerous.
But do you think the people at “It’Sugar” want you to know that the sucrose in their candy provides toxic levels of fructose?
- The Fate of Glucose.
When glucose is absorbed into our bloodstream, it’s used in one of three ways.
- It goes into your cells where it is burned to produce immediate energy. Bonus points if you remember the organelles in the cells where the burning occurs:______
- Excess glucose gets transported to the liver and muscles where it is stored as ______for later on, just like fructose.
- Once your liver and muscles are “full”, if you have even MORE glucose in your bloodstream, it gets stored as ______in specialized cells all over your body.
Excess glucose leads to lots of fat storage on the body, and it can lead to the same health issues as excess fructose.
So you storeextra glucose in two forms: ______and ______.
And guess which one your body uses first when you exercise?
Glucose can’t do anything by itself. It can’t get into cells to be used for energy, it can’t get converted to glycogen for storage, and it can’t get converted to fat for storage UNLESS it has help from insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas, and it has a very specific role to play in helping you utilize glucose. Your cells are literally locked when glucose comes knocking, and insulin is the key.
We will dramatize what happens when glucose and insulin work together (and don’t work together) in your body. We will act out:
- Normal glucose metabolism
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Insulin resistance
- Type 2 Diabetes
We will also look at the effects of untreated diabetes on video.
As a way to learn more about diabetes, play the “Diabetic Dog” game linked to the Food, Nutrition and Digestion page of the website.
- Take a screen shot when you have earned at least $1000 dollars in the game.
- Then write at least three sentences that show what you learned about controlling diabetes while doing the online game.
In the Diabetic Dog Game I learned several things about treating diabetes. First, I learned that blah blahblahblahblah. I also noticed that blah blahblahblahblah. I saw that there was a relationship between blah blahblahblahblah; every time my dog…..
So what does it all mean?
There’s a clear relationship between the ubiquity of sugary foods, sugary food advertising, increased sugar consumption, and sugar- related illnesses. Here’s just one example:
More than 8% of Americans have diabetes, and most have Type 2 which is preventable. Diabetes costs the nation $174 billion per year (
And that’s JUST diabetes. As you read before, excess sugar is now implicated as a major contributor to cardiovascular disease (heart attacks, strokes), which we’ll learn about in the next unit. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the US.
What if the best way to stay alive would be to cut back on excess sugar?
Could you do it?
What if having a healthy society meant we all had to cut back on excess sugar?
Would we do it?