Special report: Sugar addiction Part 2, breaking it

Sugar can be found in most processed food and breaking a dependency on it is not easy. Nutrition experts weigh in on how to cut sugar out of your life.
BAKERSFIELD, CA - Sugar is found in just about every processed food.

"Any word that ends in 'o-s-e' is most likely sugar," said dietitian Cheryl Leighter.

Leighter said her clients at Kaiser Permanente have trouble losing weight or regulating their insulin, because they aren't aware how they're tricked into consuming more sugar than their bodies can use.

"So it [bottle of Gatorade] says there's 14g of carbohydrate," said Leighter.

"People with diabetes, we teach them you can have 14-15 grams of carbohydrates to just start raising their blood sugar. They'll look at this and go 'Wow! I can drink the whole thing!' But, then they overlook that there's two and a half servings in this bottle. So you have to multiple that 14 by 2.5. So you end up within 8oz there's four teaspoons of sugar, but in a whole bottle there's nine."

Professional bodybuilder and trainer Jake Cagle said removing sugar from a diet is a trick professional bodybuilders have been using for years to cut the fat.

"You get any kind of sugar in your body, especially sugar itself, just refined sugar, it goes through your body so fast that [the body] stores it if you're not going to use it up," said Cagle.

"If you're not going straight to the gym right after you have a Baby Ruth and use that energy up, it's going to store in your body and that converts to fat."

Cagle's client Michele Peters spent 16 weeks preparing for her first bikini fitness competition. The first thing she had to do was cut out sugar.

"When I took that sugar out, I saw that my body fat dropped tremendously," said Peters. "I saw a difference about four weeks in, so it was pretty quick."

CSUB physiology professor Todd McBride said there are no nutritional benefits to consuming sugar, just empty calories. McBride agrees with Cagle. If a person isn't active immediately after consuming sugar, the energy won't be used and it'll be processed in the liver as fat.

"Once it's stored as fat, it stays as fat and it has to be burned or utilized as fat as an energy source. It can't be converted back to carbohydrate or sugar," said McBride. "So, too much sugar is bad no matter what kind of sugar."

However, Dr. Richard Johnson, one of the leading researchers on sugar in the country, said fructose is by far the worst with potential toxic properties that can change cells.

"Fructose has a relatively unique metabolism," said Johnson. "Normally when you eat a nutrient, it's used to produce energy, but when you eat fructose there's actually a period where the energy falls dramatically inside the cell."

Johnson said fructose is found in high doses in most soft drinks, but fructose from actual fruit is a different story. You'd have to eat dozens of oranges to meet the harmful effects of soda fructose.

"Natural fruits have all these wonderful ingredients," said Johnson. "They have Vitamin C, they have antioxidants, they have flavonols, they have potassium, fiber and all of these things actually block the effects of fructose."

Getting off a sugar addiction is not easy for many people. Cagle recommends his bodybuilding clients go 'cold turkey.'

"Everybody in the world, they're worried about high fat, 'Oh I don't want high fat. It's going to make me fat.' No, fat does not make you fat," said Cagle. "Fat is actually good for you. It is the sugar that hurts you."

"At the very beginning, it's like anything, I feel like it was harder at the beginning," said Peters, who was surprised to find sugar in bread and her favorite brand of toothpaste. "The longer and longer you go without sugar the easier and less you crave it."

Leighter said her clients find it easier to not subtract the sugar, but to add more vegetables and fruit in their diet.

"We really focus on where they're missing out on their nutrition, which is typically fruits and vegetables," said Leighter.

"If we can get people to eat more of those things that's filling up their stomachs, then maybe they won't have those extra chips, extra french fries or cookies later in the day. If they meet their nutritional needs, we hope it takes away the cravings for the other things."

Nutrition experts recommend carefully reading ingredients to check for sugar content. Simple substitutions can make a difference in diet. Instead of using milk in your coffee or for baking, try natural sugar-free almond or coconut milk. Replace ketchup, which contains sugar, with hot sauce.

To get rid of the fat you already have, McBride recommends low impact cardio for a longer duration. For example, keep your heart rate at 60 percent by spending more than 30 minutes jogging, walking on an incline, using the Stairmaster or cycling.

And, stick to drinking water if your objective is to lose weight.

"If you go to the gym and you're on the treadmill for a half hour and you burn 300 calories, if you down a bottle of Gatorade, then you've just replaced all those calories that you spent so much effort to try to lose," said McBride.

17 News weekend anchor Leigh Paynter has been following a no sugar diet, with a once per week cheat meal, for the last seven months. For a few no sugar, sweet-tooth craving recipes, you can check out her blog: http://fiercelyfitfitness.blogspot.com/2014/02/delicious-healthy-treats.html

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