Why do our bodies burn sugar before fat?

pngtreeIt is a simple fact of biology that our body’s will preferentially burn carbohydrate over fat whenever both are in the blood stream. But why is this?

Some people mistakenly believe that this is because the body prefers carbs as a fuel over fat, or that carbs are a better source of fuel. The truth is far more deadly than that.

The reason the body will burn carbohydrate in the blood first is because nothing will kill you quicker than a lot of sugar coursing through your blood steam with no where to go. In fact, sugars in the blood are so dangerous that the body will inhibit all other digestive processes until it can get that sugar out of the system and safely store it in your liver, muscle and fat cells. Oh and just in case you where wondering. If your liver, muscle and fat cells are already full, no problem. The body just makes more fat cells to store the excess.

Why is sugar in the blood so dangerous?

So why is it that sugar is so dangerous? Well think of it like this. Imagine you got a can of coke and pored it over your keyboard and left it there for a few hours. It would make a pretty sticky mess right? The keys would be sticking and the whole thing would just be become unusable.  Well it is exactly the same inside your body. Blood is a water based substance so sugar will dissolve pretty well in it. This is great at insuring that the sugar you have digested can get to every part of your body. The problem is that it’s sticky nature also means that it can gum up every part of you body too.

It does this by first sticking to other things that are floating about in your blood stream, proteins, HDL’s and LDL’s for example. This creates little sticky balls of flotsam, (called AGE’s, Advanced Glycation End Products)(1). Now one problem with flotsam in your blood is that it doesn’t really have a place to go. You see the body works a bit like chemical Lego. Some bits like proteins and fats, fit together with other bits and they form muscles and veins and cell walls and neurons and bones and all the other stuff that make up, you. But little sticky balls of flotsam don’t fit anywhere.  They don’t have a purpose. So round and round they go inside your body, wherever your blood flow takes them. They will even grow as they meet and stick to other bit and bobs they meet a long the way… Then one day, as they are flowing through one of the tiny capillaries in your body they get stuck. They are now to big to go any further. Over time more of theses little stick balls,  build up in these capillaries and they can stop the blood flow completely. This is what can happen to diabetics and it is the reason they can lose fingers, eyes and even legs. But you do not need to be diabetic for AGE’s to harm you.

So who is at risk of a build of of AGE’s.

Well the obvious at risk person is the obese or over weight person but don’t think just because you are thin you are not at risk. Remember being over weight is just a symptom of a poor diet and not every one who has a poor diet suffers from that particular symptom. In fact you could say that being over weight can be a savior because at least you are forewarned of the possible dangers. Thin people often only ever find out that something might be wrong when they are stuck down by disease.  In fact there was a study which showed that over weight people with otherwise good health had fewer AGE’s in their blood stream then thin people with a malady.

Simple put, anyone who eats to much sugar and carbohydrate is at risk.

High levels of AGE’s, are associated with the majority of chronic diseases seen today. These include heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, kidney failure and high blood pressure, among others (2, 3, 4, 5).

One study examined a group of 559 older women and found those with the highest levels of AGE’s in the blood were almost twice as likely to die from heart disease than those women with the lowest levels (11).

There was another study that found that among a group of obese individuals, those with metabolic syndrome had higher blood levels of AGE’s than those who were obese but had no other health issues (13).

Insulin resistance in also a good sign that you need to lower you sugar rich carbohydrates. If you want to know how insulin resistant you are, take a look in the mirror. The more giggle bits you have the more insulin resistant you are likely to be.

How to lower you your risk.

The body has it’s own ways of  breaking down unwanted or damages stuff that it finds floating around in you body, so lowering AGE’s is very doable. In fact it’s quite easy.

  1. Lower the overall amount of of sugars you are consuming on a day to day basis, this includes even complex carbohydrates.Reduce how often in any given day you are consuming sugars.
  2. Make sure you are eating plenty of Antioxidant rich foods. This will help to reduce the amount of other bits the sugars in your blood can stick to.
  3. Get some exercise. Exercise will clear out the sugars stored in your muscles, leaving more room to store them safely when you do eat them.
  4. Experiment with fasting. Fast’s, even short ones of 12-18 hours can trigger your body to start breaking down and using AGE’s for fuel and for disposal.

Oh and don’t panic. i know reading something like this can sometimes be scary but small changes can go a long way. Start with simple changes, and add to them as you go. Sugar is addictive so take it one day at a time and remember long term changers are not perfect, they practice imperfectly but consistently and they don’t dwell on the mistakes, they embrace the little success’.

Aaron