It is easy to over-consume sugar in juice and sweet drinks, as they contain mostly water and sugar. One glass of orange juice can contain concentrated sugar from five or six whole oranges. And while it is easy to drink that much sugar, you would be less likely to eat that many oranges in one go.
Fizzy drinks do not make you feel full as quickly as foods do. This makes them easy to over-consume. And a small fizzy drink contains nine teaspoons of added sugar, so drinking just one can means that you have almost reached your recommended maximum intake for that whole day.
When we eat something that contains carbohydrate (sugar), it is broken down into smaller glucose molecules and this signals the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. Insulin must attach to the insulin receptor on the cell to allow the glucose to pass through the cell membrane. Once inside the cell, the glucose proceeds to the mitochondria where it is converted to the energy molecule adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP). This is the molecule used by the entire body for its source of energy.
But what happens when we go for long periods of time without food? Our bodies are only able to store enough glucose in the liver to last about 48 hours. After that it begins to convert muscle into glucose. This process can last for up to 40 days but after about two weeks we would consume so much muscle that survival would no longer be possible.
What happens is that the body begins to use its store of fat for fuel. Triglycerides are the storage form of fats. These are converted into fatty acids and then into what is known as ketone bodies (molecules). Ketones can be used as fuel for the cells, replacing glucose, and have the further advantage that they do not need insulin to pass through the cell membranes. Ketones can be used by the brain, the heart and the muscles and help people stay alive during periods of starvation.
The tremendous advantage of using ketones over glucose as fuel for the body is they bypass the need for insulin and restore blood glucose to healthy low levels without overtaxing the pancreas!
As we fast overnight when sleeping, a small amount of ketones are made, but as soon as we eat a typical breakfast, they disappear. If we continue to fast for two or more days, the levels of ketones are increased significantly.
Ketones can be produced in the body by exercise and diet. The Ketone Diet is the most fascinating area of nutritional research being conducted in medicine today.* It has therapeutic possibilities in a wide variety of neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, headache, Parkinson’s disease, brain cancer, autism and multiple sclerosis. (3)
As Dr. Newport points out in her book, Alzheimer’s disease is increasing becoming known as a metabolic condition of poor sugar metabolism in the brain. Insulin is needed in the brain to allow glucose to cross into the cells to produce ATP. However insulin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier to get into the brain.
Until 2005, it was commonly thought that insulin was only produced in the pancreas. Then it was discovered that the brain makes its own insulin. A new body of thought is developing that insulin resistance or a deficiency of insulin in the brain are responsible for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are now commonly referring to Alzheimer’s as “type 3 diabetes.” As such, the Ketone Diet is a promising therapy to reduce insulin resistance in the brain and prevent deterioration from the disease.
Dr. Dominic D’Agostino is a leading researcher into the uses of the Ketone Diet for disease conditions. He discusses how all cells are fueled by glucose. When glucose is not available, the cells have the ability to switch over to the alternate fuel, ketones. Except for cancer cells. They have a defect that does not allow them to shift over. So, by using the Ketone Diet, cancer cells are selectively starved and die. “It just absolutely amazes me that medical science is just now finding this out,” he said. (4)
And, to get back to the origins of this article, a Ketone Diet has been shown to be effective in improving sugar metabolism and reducing the need for medications in patients with type 2 diabetes. (5)