The Two Ton Sugar Burden

Source - Pancreatic beta cells needed to produce insulin.

Atlas carried the weight of the heavens on his shoulders. Americans may be carrying a burden of almost two tons of sugar from a lifetime of satisfying their sweet tooth.

The New York Times article "Is Sugar Toxic?" describes the risk in a compelling way:


Yes, the average American consumes 3,550 pounds of sugar in a lifetime, according to USDA estimates. The recommended daily intake of sugar is far less than the US average of 11.9 teaspoons:

How much is just right?

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that's no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it's 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. For more detailed information and guidance on sugar intake limits, see the scientific statement in the August 2009 issue of Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association.

I show a picture of pancreatic beta cells above, because these are the key cells in our body that produce insulin to regulate blood sugar or glucose. My research group has studied such cells by growing them in different conditions, ranging from low levels of glucose to high levels.

While the physiology of diabetes is complex, the effect of high levels of sugar on these very special cells is clear and dramatic - they die, an effect referred to as "glucotoxicity." Without healthy pancreatic beta cells, one's ability to make insulin and maintain a healthy level of sugar becomes increasingly worse. Gain weight, and this effect becomes more dramatic, creating a downward spiral.

Something to think about the next time you decide to order a giant 32 ounce sugary soda!

Photo above of pancreatic beta cells, figure caption:

Nephrin, a known target of immune attack in type 1 diabetes, is expressed in pancreatic islet beta cells (green). Upon glucose stimulation, it acts as a major regulator of insulin vesicles release (red). Thus, therapeutic strategies targeting nephrin may allow for preservation of cell function in diabetes and islet transplantation.

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Pet peeve: Atlas carried the heavens on his shoulders, not the world.

I can't believe you blogged all this bad news and didn't offer a sweetener....