Fast-Acting Sugars Vs Slow-Acting Sugars & The Ballooning Of A Nation

October 14, 2021 8 min read

Person biking on a dirt forest trail.

From the late 70’s to now we see the percentage of obese adults in the US go from about 12% for men and 16% for women, up to over 40% for both.

This is the third article in a series on Insulin, Insulin Resistance, Sugar and Body Fat, as a well as an overall series on hormones, so stay tuned! (See the first article here.)

Alright, so we know that when sugar comes into the body Insulin is released to shuttle that sugar into the cell. And if the cell is full, then it connects the sugars in chains and stores them as something called Glycogen in your muscle and liver cells for use later on. And if those are full then it connects the sugar to fatty acids and stores it as body fat. And, while Insulin is in the blood stream, fat burning is prevented. 

We also know that, given too much sugar for too long, the cells start resisting it and refusing to let it in when Insulin tells them too, causing them to have less sugar to make energy with as well as causing more of it to be converted to body fat.

But just natural sugars don’t do this. And definitely not to the degree we’re seeing today.

So let’s get into the real nitty-gritty now on what’s actually happening here. 

You may have heard or read about the Glycemic Index. This rates different sugar sources on a scale from high to low. Sugars higher on the scale are digested, absorbed, and put into the blood stream faster, while sugars lower on the scale are digested, absorbed and put to use more slowly. 

Yes, in the end it’s all sugar. But we’re in the third dimension now, and how these different sugars enter the body, or, in the case of processed sugars, how they slam into the body, determines the body’s immediate response to them. And how much, if any, fat is created.

Slow-digesting carbs raise Insulin slowly over time and to a lesser degree, while fast-digesting carbs, coming in very suddenly, can rocket Insulin levels, putting your body into shock. 

With Insulin resistance we have a vicious circle — as the cells didn’t get their sugar, because it was stored as body fat, they’re still hungry and so demand more sugar!

You see, Insulin isn’t released in exact amounts.

It’s not one squirt of Insulin for 5 grams of sugar, two squirts for 10, and so on. 

No. For a slow digesting carb it’s maybe a “little bit” let out over time, just enough to shuttle it into the cells. But for a few donuts, some Ben & Jerry’s, and a Coke, where leaving that high amount of sugar in the bloodstream for too long can cause real damage to your blood vessels, it’s: “Release the Kraken!”

In fact, if you’re used to a high processed sugar diet you may not even notice it at this point (your body can go numb to its effects). But once we get you off these for a bit, go grab a box of Krispy Cremes and oh boy will you feel it.

So we have these fast-acting sugars not only releasing Insulin faster, but in greater quantity overall. Add in Insulin resistance on top of this, where the body already needs to release more Insulin just to get the cells to take in the sugar, and we get even higher levels of Insulin and fat storage. 

This is because, as the cells won’t take it in, the body thinks more Insulin is necessary. It needs that high level of sugar out of the blood — now. So it keeps releasing Insulin until either the cells take the sugar in or the sugar is converted to fat. One or the other, Insulin doesn’t care. 

In fact, if you’re Insulin resistant you’ll find that if you consume a natural, slow-acting sugar it will feel like it doesn’t satisfy you like processed sugars do. This is not just because it’s slower-acting, it’s also because the processed sugars force the body to release so much more Insulin to take them in, but the slow-acting sugars make it release less, so it’s much slower to get into the Insulin-resistant cells as there’s less Insulin to force it in. 

So how much Insulin does the body release? It depends on how fast-acting the sugar is and how Insulin resistant the person is.

But now, with Insulin resistance, we have a vicious circle — as the cells didn’t get their sugar, because it was stored as body fat, they’re still hungry and so demand more sugar.

So you eat more. 

But the cells still don’t get enough, because they won’t let it in. So you eat more…

So we get much more Insulin being released to force the sugar into Insulin resistant cells, and even more Insulin being released due to high levels of processed sugars vs natural sugars. And all of this Insulin is forcing the creation of new body fat and preventing the burning of it — no matter what exercise you do.

After about 5 years of this we pass the point of Pre-Diabetes (very high insulin resistance) and enter Type 2 Diabetes, where the body, sick of producing so much Insulin for so long, just… stops producing it. Or at least produces much less. 

And as the cells are Insulin resistant already, this lowered level of Insulin isn’t enough to get them to take in sugar — even when they need it. So we get much lower energy levels, much more fat creation, higher blood pressure due to increased fat in the arteries, and much more. 

This is when Insulin shots become necessary. And fat-burning is definitely off the table. 

The current processed sugar levels are why seven year old type 2 diabetics are now common. They weren’t just rare before. They didn’t exist.

Now, this could be you or not to one degree or another, but this is at a very high level these days, mainly because of the very high levels of processed sugar in almost all of our foods and drinks — even the “healthy” ones. 

If those carbs have been processed at all, even if organic, they will in most cases now be fast-acting sugars.

In fact, when it comes to sugary drinks in particular, like soda or juices with high fructose corn syrup added, they hit so fast that while they really are providing the same amount of calories as a solid-food carb source, your body is not recognizing them as calories in, and so they in no way lower appetite. They’re just pure added Insulin boosters.

Think about it. You can have a bowl of pasta — pure carbs — and feel like you ate something. 

Or you can have a can of Coke and get about the same carbs. But do you feel like you had a meal? Same amount of calories, but it’s how they are used.

Our bodies weren’t made for these processed sugars. They don’t know how to deal with them. They throw things off.

Most people, for the first half of the last century, still bought food that came from farms near them and prepared their own meals. And cane sugar was more expensive, so they bought less of it. 

And, as they weren’t accustomed to a lot of sugar, a little went a long way. Apple pie back then wasn’t apple pie today. You’d probably call it bland at best.

And our ancestors definitely didn’t have access to this stuff.

There were no candy bar trees or loaves of sourdough roaming the plains. 

Sugar sources were very few and far between. Maybe they lucked on some honey or a fruit tree, or planted maize and grains to eat. 

But these weren’t refined before use, something that turns them from slow-acting to fast-acting.

No, our bodies evolved on a low sugar diet,or at least slow-acting, natural sugars

The current processed sugar levels are why seven year old type 2 diabetics are now common. 

They weren’t just rare before. They didn’t exist.

Let’s look at some actual hard data here.

In 1970 a new kind of sugar came on the scene: High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Now, fructose — actual fructose — is just the sugar in fruits. But High Fructose Corn Syrup is something very different. And it hits hard and fast.

From 1970 onwards it started being used little by little. But it didn’t really take off until 1984 when, here in the US, Coke and Pepsi switched from sugar to this (it’s less expensive than cane sugar), followed soon after by other soda companies.

From there it started being used in more and more places: juices, foods, packaged foods, protein bars and candy bars, chips, crackers and even bread. 

High Fructose Corn Syrup is now in almost all packaged foods, even the ones that aren’t “sweet,” and under all sorts of different names. 

Why? Because it’s cheap and it’s addictive. 

It ensures return customers. 

But let’s look at how this product affected things.

This is high glycemic, processed sugars increasing Insulin levels and keeping them high, while prioritizing fat storage over fat loss and creating Insulin resistance.

Here is a graph of obesity rates in the US for the last many decades, courtesy of the CDC. On it you see statistics for overweight, obese and severely obese. 

Now, “overweight” is actually falling slightly. But that’s not because less people are overweight. No, they’re just moving up in the world — to obesity. 

From the late 70's to 2018, percentage of obese adults in the US showing a rise in over 40% for both men and women
Graph of children by different age ranges where their raising glycemic levels.
From the late 70’s to now we see the percentage of obese adults in the US go from about 12% for men and 16% for women, up to over 40% for both. Severe obesity is also rising starting at the same time.
And here you can see a graph of children by different age ranges, and you see the increase here starts at the same time as well.

This is high glycemic, processed sugars increasing Insulin levels and keeping them high, while prioritizing fat storage over fat loss and creating Insulin resistance. 

If we want to lose fat and keep it off, and gain muscle without excess fat, we need to change some things. And once we do, it becomes a breeze.

But these processed sugars affect much more than just Insulin. 

They raise your cortisol levels, the stress hormone that instructs your body to store fat and break down muscle for energy, that keeps you up at night and makes you feel stressed — even when you have no reason to be, and which increases your cravings for junk food.

They lower Testosterone levels (necessary for muscle building) and raise Estrogen levels (another fat storage hormone) in both men and women. 

High Estrogen levels lower Thyroid which regulates your metabolism (how your body burns and uses energy, including fat). 

They feed harmful bacteria in your colon which lowers the amount of neurotransmitters being produced, causing anxiety and depression, as well as feeding other harmful bacteria and parasites in your small intestine which cause gas, bloating & IBS.

And don’t worry, there are more articles coming on all of these topics.

But do you see how much this stuff affects our bodies? We need to get off these processed sugars more than anything else. 

They’re an artificially created sugar that didn’t exist 50 years ago, and which is destroying our overall health more than almost anything else today.

Learn more in the Guide to Sustainable Fat Loss and the Guide To Lean Bulking and start your 30-Day Challenge today!

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.