How Sugar And Fructose Slowly Damage Liver
Here's how to reverse diabetic or pre-diabetic stage to non-diabetic by following this simple and consistent diet
I distinctly remember that day in May, 1988 when we, as young IPS officers, had come to New Delhi for Parliamentary attachment for one week. Apart from exposure to the working of the Parliament in the largest democracy of the world, we were privileged to have lunch in the Parliamentary canteen serviced by the Indian Railways. As youngsters, many of us who had come from a limited resources background, what we found the most tempting was buying ice cream cups at a rate, maybe one third of the market price. I do not remember exactly but I, like many others in our batch, might have gorged on, maybe half a dozen ice cream cups that day. We had never had so many ice creams in a day till that day.
Now in November, 2020 I am amused at this memory. Today, even if I am having an ice-cream for free, I will not even touch it. The reason is the knowledge which I have acquired in about the last one year as to how our bodies process the fructose, which is 50 percent of sugar which we indulge in as one of the most palatable foods.
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Like ice cream, the chocolates, sweets, cakes, biscuits, soft drinks were my favourite food, as it is for most of us who find sweet things irresistible. In between came the non alcoholic fatty liver disease, NAFLD, Grade I sometime in 2008 which progressed to fatty liver Grade II in February, 2019. This raised an alarm for me. I had no idea as to what fatty liver disease is and how it compromises our health. That time I did not know that unchecked, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can deteriorate to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and liver cirrhosis which requires liver transplant and in its absence can lead to even death.
The fact that 31% of adult Americans and 13% of their children have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease had no consolation for me. I was told that there is no medicine to cure NAFLD and diet restriction is the only way to contain and possibly reverse this disease. This made me get initiated into the field of nutrition studies and diet control.
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I discovered that sugar, consumption of which has progressed phenomenally in the last 100 years in the world including India, is composed of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. While every cell in the body can use glucose, the fructose in sugar can be metabolised only by the liver.
So if one eats 100 calories in a cup of the tempting ice-cream, the entire body uses 50 calories in the form of glucose. The remaining 50 calories consisting of fructose is reserved for the liver to metabolise as no other organ of the body can use it. So as a guided missile the fructose rushes to the liver and virtually overwhelms it. In an average person of 75 kilograms, the weight of the liver is roughly 1.5-2 kilograms. While the entire body of 75 kilograms uses 50 calories in ice-cream glucose, this small liver has to valiantly metabolise 50 calories in the form of fructose. One can understand the extra workload the liver has on its hands. Mostly the excess calories in fructose is converted to fat and some of it remains in the liver. This causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease when even 5% of its weight is retained.
I also came to know that there is absolutely no nutritional value in sugar we consume and there is no physiological requirement the body has of sugar. On the contrary sugar is said to cause obesity, diabetes, diseases of heart, liver and pancreas, apart from its association with Alzeheimer, cancer and several other diseases.
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These facts made me give up all added sugars in ice-cream, soft drinks, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, sweets or all things made of sugar. Even if I take anything having sugar, it is very small in quantity and that too only occasionally. There is a remarkable improvement in my health and well-being ever since
I have given up sugar and fructose. In April, 2019 I was diagnosed as prediabetic with my HbA1C being 6.0. Had I continued my earlier indiscretions I would have been a diabetic soon, like some of my family members, having a history of diabetes in the family.
There is a constant improvement in my HbA1c which has constantly come down to 5.9, 5.8 and then to 5.6 making me non-diabetic at the age of 58 years. They say it takes about 12 to 14 years and constant indiscretions for a non-diabetic to turn diabetic. It is rare to turn the clock back and become non-diabetic from pre-diabetic. I intend to continue to be discreet and have no love for sugar or fructose or things made from them. While the doctors generally say that diabetes is a progressive disease and cannot be reversed, I have a suggestion for those who are diabetic and prediabetic that by restricting carbohydrates in general and fructose in particular one can prevent getting diabetic and even reverse one's diabetes.
What is more important is that within one year of the new found restriction of sugar and fructose, I could reverse my non-alcoholic fatty liver disease from Grade II to Grade I in January, 2020 and and if things continue the way it is, I am sure to have a normal liver soon.
As regards the pleasures of life, I find, ever since I have given up sugar, life has become simple, happy, apart from being healthy. They say sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine. I can only say that if you give up or reduce sugar consumption, there is less of an urge to take it. One easily avoids lots of food items which are unnecessary and which do not have any nutritional value. Rather, after giving up sugar, one can select and eat and drink what is healthy and beneficial for us.
(The author is an IPS Officer of 1987 batch, is presently Joint Secretary with Ministry of Home Affairs)