By Michael A. Smith, MD
Carbohydrates are interesting. The basic building block of all carbohydrates, whether simple or complex, is a single sugar molecule called glucose.
This means that all carbohydrates, from whole grains to table sugar, will eventually break down into a single glucose molecule.
Glucose is the main energy source for all cells, including your heart, brain and muscles. But here’s where it gets interesting: Sugar, if it’s not burned immediately, can actually be stored in two forms.
Glucose Stores as Glycogen or FatGlycogen is one form in which the body stores excess glucose. Glycogen is a long chain of glucose molecules stored in mostly muscle tissue. But there’s a problem with storing sugar as glycogen. It requires water and the muscles have limited storage capacity.
To get around this, the human body developed a pathway to convert glucose into fat. That’s right — sugar can become body fat. And eventually the increase in body fat will increase the number on your bathroom scale.
Burning sugar calories through exercise will make your body less likely to create body fat from excess sugar. But if we are honest, many of us don’t follow the recommendations of fitness experts to exercise 30–45 minutes, 3–4 times per week.
This means that leftover glucose will be converted into fat and an increase in weight is likely to follow.
Sugar is an Issue for All of UsIn case you’re thinking that excess sugar isn’t an issue for you, keep in mind that simple sugars can be found in many everyday products.
Anything in a box or a can is definitely going to contain an ample amount of simple sugars. Energy drinks, smoothies, low-fat foods, cereals, breads, teas and sodas are literally loaded with corn syrup and table sugar.
Again, all of this breaks down into the single sugar molecule called glucose. And if it’s not burned immediately, the body will eventually store it as glycogen or body fat.
So unless you’re carefully watching your diet, you’ll need to prevent sugar from reaching your bloodstream. The good news is that some specific foods and nutrients can accomplish just that.
Soluble Fiber Inhibits Sugar AbsorptionTo inhibit sugar absorption, first eat more soluble fiber, which can be found in beans, legumes and sprouted grains. It’s a complex carbohydrate that has a unique property unlike other types of carbs.
Soluble fiber can swell in your gut and trap excess sugar calories. This not only prevents sugar from absorbing into your bloodstream, but also has the added benefit of making you feel full.
A very effective soluble fiber is called propolmannan. It does a great job of trapping sugar calories and slowing the rapid emptying of ingested food into the small intestine, reducing the surge of glucose entering the bloodstream.
How does this translate into weight loss? In placebo-controlled human studies, those taking propolmannan before meals lost 5.5 to 7.92 pounds after eight weeks without changing their diets.
The placebo groups in these studies showed no significant weight loss. The propolmannan groups also showed reductions in blood lipid/glucose levels.1,2
We suggest taking 2-4 grams of propolmannan right before your biggest meal of the day. This way you’ll inhibit sugar absorption and feel full faster.
What Other Nutrients Can Help with Sugar?White kidney bean extract is another nutrient geared toward inhibiting sugar absorption.
In a study published in the International Journal of Medical Science, white kidney bean extract was shown to inhibit sugar absorption and result in 6.5 pounds of weight loss and a loss of 2.1 inches in just 30 days.3
Green coffee extract is another natural compound that holds a lot of promise. In fact, a 400 mg dose was shown to induce a remarkable 24% drop in after-meal blood sugar after 30 minutes while 200 mg generated a 14% drop.4
The reason is chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol found inside the green coffee bean.
Lastly, there’s African mango extract. It’s been shown to decrease appetite plus inhibit sugar and fat absorption. A study published in Lipids in Health and Disease showed that it can also inhibit fat cell creation.5
What You Need to KnowEven modestly elevated glucose has been shown to not only increase body fat composition, but to also be an independent predictor of cardiac death.
This underscores the need for all of us to pursue safe, effective, natural strategies to help bring blood sugar under control.
Fortunately, recent research has uncovered new interventions that help inhibit sugar absorption and decrease after-meal sugar spikes.
These may be worth looking into if countering the negative effects of sugar is something you’re interested in.
- Int J Obes. 1984;8(4):289-93.
- Curr Ther Res. 1989 Nov;46(5):908-12.
- Int J Med Sci. 2007 Jan 24;4(1):45-52.
- Nagendran MV. Effect of Green Coffee Bean Extract (GCE), High in Chlorogenic Acids, on Glucose Metabolism. Poster presentation number: 45-LB-P. Obesity 2011, the 29th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Obesity Society. Orlando, Florida. October 1-5, 2011.
- Lipids Health Dis. 2008 Nov 13;7:44.
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