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CHRISTMAS COOKIES

{This blog is a little longer than I like – but worth it}

 Got thinking about sugar after leading a weekend of yoga teacher training a few weeks ago (post Christmas holidays), when I happened to make a reference to my past life efforts to get A’s in Christmas decorating, cooking, eating, and celebrating.   I would subconsciously try to create an atmosphere of safety, warmth, and security for myself, by not only getting a Christmas tree that was always way too tall and had to be lopped off at the top making it look like a 1950’s crewcut, but by going way overboard with shopping for slippers, robes, pajamas, socks, bags, hats, gloves, etc.

But much more than that, there was the obsessive need to recreate the warm, sweet (the operative word here) memories of my childhood Christmas by cruising the wonderful German bakeries and shops in New York City’s Yorkville and loading up on almond butter crunch, those chocolate covered things with pecans and caramel called turtles, ribbon candy, marzipan delights shaped into strawberries and pears and apples, and most importantly, every single shape and variety of those absolutely fantastic things universally called “Christmas cookies.”

I then went on to make a short comment about (what I hoped would soon be) the universally accepted attitude on the health dangers of eating sugar. A couple of my students (much younger) came to the defense of Christmas cookies, saying how emotionally wonderful and fulfilling it was to bake with “Mom,” and share special time with the children of the family laughing, hugging, and oh yes, decorating hundreds of sugary cookies with colored icing, powdered sugar, and sparkly colored sugar crystals, making smiley faces and happy designs. “Moments not to be missed,” they said. “They won’t always be here. I felt like I wanted to share that precious moment.”

I felt a little bad, bashing sugar like that, like I had attacked the foundation of American values – well, in a sense I had. But I didn’t feel bad for long, remembering that as much as 40% of US healthcare expenditures are for diseases directly related to the overconsumption of sugar. “Precious moment” it is not!!! More than $1 trillion are spent each year fighting the damaging health effects of sugar, which runs the gamut from obesity and diabetes, to heart disease and cancer. The link, for example, between obesity and sugar and an increased risk of cancer is now becoming well recognized.

From Dr. Mercola’s health report:

One of the key mechanisms by which sugar promotes cancer and other chronic disease is by causing mitochondrial dysfunction.

Since sugar is not our ideal fuel, it burns dirty with far more reactive oxygen species than fat, which generates far more free radicals which in turn causes mitochondrial and nuclear DNA damage along with cell membrane and protein impairment.

Research has also shown that chronic overeating in general has a similar effect. Most people who overeat also tend to eat a lot of sugar-laden foods — a double-whammy in terms of cancer risk.  Chronic overeating places stress on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), the membranous network found inside the mitochondria of your cells. When the ER receives more nutrients than it can process, it signals the cell to dampen the sensitivity of the insulin receptors on the surface of the cell.

Thus continuously eating more than your body really needs promotes insulin resistance by the mere fact that your cells are stressed by the work placed on them by the excess nutrients. Insulin resistance in turn is at the heart of most chronic disease, including cancer.

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One of the most powerful strategies I know of to avoid and/or treat cancer is to starve the cancer cells by depriving them of their food source, which is primarily sugar and excessive protein.  Unlike all the other cells in your body, which can burn carbs or fat for fuel, cancer cells have lost that metabolic flexibility and can only thrive if there is enough sugar present.

Dr. Otto Warburg was actually given a Nobel Prize in 1931 for discovering this. Sadly very few experts have embraced his metabolic theory of cancer, but have embraced the nuclear genetic theory that is a downstream side effect of mitochondrial dysfunction.

Make no mistake about it, the FIRST thing you want to do if you want to avoid or treat cancer if you have insulin or leptin resistance (which 85 percent of people do) is to cut out all forms of sugar/fructose and grain carbs from your diet, in order to optimize the signaling pathways that contribute to malignant transformation.

No wonder so many people get sick with colds and the flu at Christmas holiday time and feel like crap when it’s over.

Final word: Find other things you can do with “Mom” and the kids that are emotionally satisfying and aren’t going to kill you (or them).