To Your Health: Simple Sugars, Not Sweet

To Your Health: Simple Sugars, Not Sweet

Dr. Alan Safdi was one of the most popular speakers at the Telluride First Foundation’s inaugural Integrative Wellness Summit . He is scheduled to speak again at the 2nd annual conference, which takes place September 9 – 11 and also features Deepak Chopra (streaming live); Dr. David Agus; Chris Crowley and Bill Fabrocini, collaborators on the “Younger Next…” series; and more. Jewel is the Friday night keynote speaking on personal growth and wellness. The singer-songwriter also plans to perform songs that highlight life lessons learned. For more about the speakers, go here. To purchase tickets, go here.

A regular contributor to Telluride Inside… and Out, Dr. Safdi’s column is entitled “To Your Health.” (Search under the column name or Safdi’s name on our home page to find all his eye-opening posts)

In March, Dr. Safdi (and his colleague Dr. William Renner) spoke at a 3-day wellness symposium on a variety of hot topics in the field of health and wellness. Safdi and Renner continue that series this summer and fall at a continuation of the Telluride Wellness Summit. Talks are planned for August 2 – 4; at the IntegrativeWellness Summit on September 11; and again, September 28-30. Go here to register.

In the run-up to both events, to whet the appetite for what’s to come, Telluride Inside.. and Out is hosting a weekly series of podcasts on subjects in medical headlines today, including exercise, supplements, longevity, diet and nutrition, break-throughs in cancer research. 

This week, Dr. Safid examines the impact of simple sugars on our health. Scroll down to the bottom of the story to listen to his podcast.


Consumption of processed carbohydrates and sugary drinks may affect risks of breast and prostate cancers, according to findings presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s Scientific Sessions & Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology, 2016.

Compared with men who never drank sugary beverages, those who indulged a few times a week showed more than triple the risk of developing prostate cancer. Prostate cancer risk was also heightened among men whose diets were generally high in glycemic load. The study also implicated processed lunch foods, including pizza, deli meats, and burgers. Men who ate those foods four or more times a week were twice as likely to develop prostate cancer, compared to men who had them no more than once a week.

Women whose diets emphasized healthy carbs – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes – were 67 percent less likely to develop breast cancer, compared to women who favored refined carbs.

People with excessive amounts of added sugar in their diets carried greater risks of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Through a median follow-up of nearly 15 years, those who had 10% to 24.9% of calories come from added sugar were 30% more likely to experience cardiovascular death than those with less than 10%. In addition, the risk of death during the follow-up period jumped greatly – to 175% – for those getting 25% or more of their calories from added sugar.

A study published in the European journal Diabetologia looked at the increased diabetes risk for an individual based on data from 16,000 adults from eight European countries. That study found that for every 12-ounce can of sugar-sweetened soda a person consumed daily, the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes increased by 18 percent, after controlling for factors such as body weight and total calorie intake. Juice was not associated with increased risk.

Sugary beverages are linked to more than 180,000 obesity-related deaths worldwide each year, according to a Harvard study. About 25,000 of those deaths occur in the U.S. Three-quarters of these deaths are caused by diabetes, the rest by cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

Don’t worry about the naturally occurring sugar in fruit, milk, and plain yogurt. Added sugars are the concern.

Note: If a food has little or no milk or fruit (which contain natural sugars), the “Sugars” number on the package’s Nutrition Facts panel will tell you how many grams of added sugars are in each serving. Multiply the grams by 4 to get calories from sugar. Divide the grams by 4 to get teaspoons of sugar.

Below is a wake-up call in the form of  a blog from, “8 Signs You’r Eating Too Much Sugar”:

7 a.m. — The alarm wakes you up — along with your joint pain. 

The sugar connection: When you eat refined carbs (including the sweet stuff we’re focusing on), your blood sugar rises and your body reacts by releasing inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Your body is now in an inflammatory state, and that can make existing joint pain worse, says Marina Chaparro, MPH, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

7:30 a.m. — As you’re getting dressed, you notice that the pants you used to need a belt for are staying up just fine on their own.

The sugar connection: Any weight gain should make you take a hard look at your eating habits, but high-sugar diets are linked to added pounds specifically in your midsection. Too much sugar leads to high levels of insulin, and insulin likes to deposit fat in your belly more so than other areas of your body, says Roxanne Sukol, MD, doctor of preventive medicine and the medical director of the Wellness Enterprise at Cleveland Clinic.

11:30 a.m. — You squeeze in a dentist appointment between morning meetings, and the doc is less than thrilled with you.

The sugar connection: You’ve been hearing that sugar causes cavities since you were a kid, but you may not know just how big an influence your sweet tooth has on the rest of your teeth. A study that looked at diets and cavity rates around the world found that excess added sugar was the biggest factor in dental decay. Subpar brushing and flossing habits probably don’t help, but sugar is the key cause.

1:30 p.m. — You ate lunch an hour ago and you’re already dreaming about dinner. 

The sugar connection: If you had a high-sugar lunch (beware that processed sandwich bread, and these other surprising sugar bombs, you know there’s an energy crash coming, and you’ll quickly crave more food to replenish. There’s another reason you’ve got visions of supper dancing in your head right now though. If you’ve been overdoing it on sugar for a while, your insulin levels are likely elevated. That can mess with your hunger hormones, says Chaparro, increasing levels of the one that elicits a when’s-my-next-meal mindset (ghrelin) and lowering levels of the one that tells you you’re still full (leptin).

3 p.m. — You just snapped at the coworker who joked that you look like you need a nap (even though they’re right).

Continue reading here about the signs here…

Now check out this week’s podcast as Dr. Safdi provides answers to questions about simple versus complex sugars.

Editor’s Note: 

Our relationship with Dr. Alan Safdi started several years ago when we attended a Wellness Conference at The Peaks Resort & Spa. Dr. Safdi, is a gastroenterologist with a talent for offering evidence-based medical findings for healthy living in easily digestible sound bytes. We next heard him speak at Telluride First Foundation’s inaugural Integrative Wellness Conference, where the audience got just a taste of his encyclopedic knowledge on mind-body wellness.

“I have had a lifetime interest in nutrition and health, and I have attended other wellness conferences in the past. What makes the Wellness Conference unique is that the material presented is all based on scientific evidence and the speakers had no incentive for personal gain. The symposium provided such a wealth of information that would be great for everyone to hear. I hope that these talks continue on a regular basis in Telluride…,” Dr. Brad Taylor, (who attended the talks in March).

More about Dr. Alan Safdi:

Dr. Alan Safdi
Dr. Alan Safdi

Dr. Alan Safdi is a speaker, contributor, and serves on the advisory board of the Telluride First Foundation.

He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Gastroenterology and a Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology. A proven leader in the healthcare arena, Safdi has been featured on the national program “Medical Crossfire” and authored or co-authored numerous medical articles and abstracts. He has been an investigator in close to 600 studies and is President of both the Consultants For Clinical Research and the Ohio Gastroenterology and Liver Institute.

Dr. Safdi has been involved in grant-based and clinical research for about 35 years and is passionate about disease prevention and wellness, not just fixing what has gone wrong. He is an international lecturer on the subjects of wellness, nutrition, and gastroenterology.

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