CortisolCortisol is a steroid hormone, in the glucocorticoid class of hormones, and is produced in humans by the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex within the adrenal gland. It is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration.’ Wikipedia

The fact that the above statement can be found on Wikipedia, is a big clue as to the degree of disconnect, which exists between basic principles of biology, and popularly promoted health advice, particularly in relation to diet but also other kinds of lifestyle and treatment choices.

It’s easy to miss it, but this Wikipedia claim, has a great deal of significance in relation to metabolic health as a whole. It’s just a short paragraph, but if you read between the lines, you’ll see it tells many different stories.

For starters, it speaks to the fundamental relationship between blood sugar and stress. It’s not difficult to see, after a quick glance, that it’s pointing out that if blood sugar runs low, cortisol will be released in the body. Put simply, low blood sugar increases stress, and more stress generally means more cortisol. Unfortunately, as I will discuss further on, more cortisol also means more stress.

And what I’ll be talking about won’t be pseudo-science. Good quality scientific evidence showing the link between rising systemic levels of cortisol, and the progression of many kinds of inflammatory and degenerative diseases, is abundant. But it’s not just the science, it’s the logical nature of it.

By calling out the connection between stress and blood sugar, the Wikipedia quote above also leads us to the relationship between low blood sugar, and the release of other stress substances. They include estrogen, serotonin, bacterial endotoxin, nitric oxide, lactate (as well as the polyunsaturated fats and their inflammatory breakdown products), and a number of other things which promote increased stress and disease.

Here are some of the things that go on, in the relationship between stress and blood sugar. Whether it’s intended or not, the Wikipedia quote up top, also relates to rising levels of adrenaline, in the face of decreasing blood sugar availability. Adrenaline and stress also go together.

When exposure to biochemical stress increases, blood sugar requirements rise, and glycogen (the storage form of blood glucose) is diminished, increasing adrenaline. This is the same scenario which also leads to cortisol levels and other substances of stress, increasing.

Low glycogen promotes the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, and the subsequent release of adrenaline. One role of adrenaline is to find whatever glycogen remains in storage, and release it as a means to providing the energy required for cells to function properly.

When stress is high, and blood sugar is lacking, adrenaline also encourages the release of free fatty acids out of storage, as an alternative source of fuel, and this is an important factor in the promotion of inflammatory stress and metabolic interference.

Adrenaline then also promotes the release of cortisol, so as to raise blood sugar levels via the breakdown of muscle and other valuable tissue, showing again the broad significance of the Wikipedia quote up the top.

How much all of this feeds stress and the progression of illness (including the promotion of the stress substances, such as cortisol, serotonin, estrogen and others) depends upon a number of factors, one of which is the composition of fat stored in the body.

The polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are highly inflammatory, and so the more PUFAs in storage, the more get released under stress and low blood sugar, and this can be the beginning of a vicious circle of gradually increasing stress and inflammation, and metabolic damage.

So in an indirect way (and most likely by accident), Wikipedia is helping to increase awareness of the importance of consuming sufficient fuel (and the right kind of fuel) for the replenishment of glycogen stores. Wikipedia is also alluding to the potential consequences of consuming too many things that interfere with blood sugar stability. Wikipedia is by default, promoting sugar, and warning against the PUFAs.

This Wikipedia quote at the beginning, also helps to increase understanding of the connection between sugar restriction, stress and thyroid energy metabolism dysfunction. Low blood sugar, causes a rise in the substances of stress, and these substances (like cortisol, estrogen, serotonin and nitric oxide), directly interfere with thyroid function. Sugar restriction also increases the circulation of PUFAs throughout the system, and PUFAs are powerfully anti-metabolic.

Low blood sugar and high stress, also leads to the suppression of digestive function, encouraging bacterial overgrowth, subsequently increasing exposure to bacterial endotoxin. Endotoxin (LPS) is highly inflammatory and thyroid interfering, and is a major factor in the development of blood sugar dysregulation issues. This then can promote further release of cortisol and the other stress substances, and once again shows how much has been inadvertently hidden in a single Wikipedia quote.

Without realizing it, Wikipedia is also actually warning against many kinds of potentially very harmful dietary methodologies, especially diet regimes that encourage eating large amounts of fat, whilst avoiding sugar, to encourage rapid weight loss. Rapid weight loss is a well known symptom of serious illness.

When it comes to losing weight with this kind of method, much of the weight that is initially lost, stems from the wasting of muscle and other tissue (assisted by rising cortisol, adrenaline and other disease promoting things), and from the rapid release of fat into the blood stream, much of which tends to be PUFAs.

It can be an appealing idea, especially when weight loss is seen as the highest priority, but the long term results (because the method promotes stress, inflammation and metabolic dysfunction) commonly lead to all the weight that was lost plus more being put back on, or at the very least, faster aging and an increased risk of chronic issues stemming from the ongoing stress and inflammation, and eventually, serious degenerative diseases. Ironically, cortisol is known to be a major driver of obesity.

The scientifically demonstrated effects of high cortisol alone, makes it clear how Wikipedia has accidentally hinted at the relationship between sugar restriction and chronic stress, blood sugar dysregulation, inflammation, immune system suppression, and the possible development of many disease states, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and serious depression and anxiety disorders.

But the ‘diet/health industry’ continues to push a belief system basically stating that sugar restriction is necessary for good health. And they often use examples of short term rapid weight loss ‘success’ stories, as evidence of the scientific validity of this method, without concern for the actual long term results or effects. I’m not a doctor or health practitioner, but I know a very large number of people who have suffered long term damage because of misleading anti-sugar advice.

Just the connection between rapid weight loss, and diseases like cancer and diabetes, should alone be enough to wake people up to the possibility that something is not quite right with the anti-sugar agenda. There is no end to the amount of biological evidence available, showing how many diseases are exacerbated by rising levels of fat circulating through the system.

Not to mention the fact that many of the so called ‘high sugar junk foods’ being blamed for health problems like obesity and diabetes, are actually filled with anything but lots of white sugar. They are often filled with insulinogenic and inflammatory starches as well as PUFAs, and toxic anti-metabolic gums, heavy metals and numerous other harmful ingredients, that have been shown very clearly in the scientific literature, to be drivers of the diseases blamed on sugar.

These ingredients have also been shown to cause an increase in levels of those same stress substances (such as cortisol, adrenaline and serotonin) which rise when sugar is avoided, or when the proper use of sugar by cells, is prevented due to exposure to said ingredients. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to think this is elementary.

The suggestion that sugar is a harmful (not to mention addictive) substance, directly contradicts basic Wikipedia level physiology in lots of ways, and in fact it is backed up by very little in the way of legitimate biological evidence, or simply logical explanation.

Much like popular dogma with regards to cholesterol and saturated fats, anti-sugar propaganda helps with the growth of huge industries which make Big Sugar look like Little Sucrose, and which are the real villains behind a lot of the rising occurrence of what used to be rare diseases, mostly effecting much older people. Sugar consumption is not the thing that has risen dramatically over the last century. You only have to care enough about the truth to spend a bit of extra time searching the literature, to know this.

White sugar (sucrose) is basically no different to the sugar found in fruit. It is a crucial fuel source for the production of energy and for protection against stress (and inflammation). When removed from the diet, this can set off a cascade of interrelated and eventually very harmful physiological changes. That does not mean that all a person needs to eat is white sugar, and that other things like protein and vitamins and minerals are not equally important. But then, I never said that.

But the fact that when glycogen availability is low (because of stress or low intake of simple sugars like sucrose or fructose), cortisol tends to rise, converting valuable tissue into sugar for your brain (and other organs) for survival and good function, is not a small deal in the big scheme of things.

And yet this stress/survival mechanism, probably isn’t designed to be taken for granted. Yes, it plays a basic physiological role, but it can come with a price (not always immediately apparent). If the stress system is used as an ‘approach to health’ for long enough (how long depends on the metabolic resilience of the individual), it will cause damage to health that can be hard to reverse.

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intentional, but the Wikipedia quote at the top, when read with some of these things in mind, could spark an awakening regarding the many lies being told about sugar and lots of other things, including the causes of disease, and the approaches or methodologies, likely to promote prevention and recovery.

Obviously this can be looked at in far more detail, making the subject much more complex, but it is also important not to become confused about context, and to lose big picture perspective, because the true nature and importance of sugar can not be both good and bad in any genuine, non-contradictory sense.

A diet removing the PUFAs, with sufficient protein and other nutrients from milk, cheese or gelatinous meats, and plenty of sugar from sweet ripe fruits, fruit juice, white sugar and honey, is one possible approach to protecting against stress, improving blood sugar regulation and thyroid energy metabolism, reducing reliance upon excessive amounts of cortisol and other related defensive and inflammatory substances, and basically proving Wikipedia to be more right than they probably realize, at least on this occasion.

If you like what I have to say, and you want more information (including lots of studies), showing ways that stress and lack of sugar promote cortisol and other inflammatory disease increasing things, please check out some of my other articles, including ‘Sugar Helps Medicine Go Down’. And please share this and sign the email list up top.

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Low calorie dieting increases cortisol.

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High Long-Term Cortisol Levels, Measured in Scalp Hair, Are Associated With a History of Cardiovascular Disease

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Cortisol serum levels in familial longevity and perceived age: the Leiden longevity study.

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Acute stress persistently enhances estrogen levels in the female rat.

Cortisol responses to emotional stress in men: Association with a functional polymorphism in the 5HTR2C Gene

The Glucocorticoid Receptor Controls Hepatic Dyslipidemia through Hes1

High Cortisol and the Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Review of the Literature

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Dual-hormone stress reactivity predicts downstream war-zone stress-evoked PTSD.

Differential expression of placental 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases in pregnant women with diet-treated gestational diabetes mellitus.

Glucocorticoid receptor antagonism decreases alcohol seeking in alcohol-dependent individuals.

Oxidized products of linoleic acid stimulate adrenal steroidogenesis.

Low calorie dieting increases cortisol.

Cortisol response to stress is associated with myocardial remodeling in salmonid fishes

The Neuroendocrine Impact of Chronic Stress on Cancer

Psychological Stress in Children May Alter the Immune Response

Epoxy-keto derivative of linoleic acid stimulates aldosterone secretion.

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Cortisol Secretion in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes

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Elevated fasting plasma cortisol is associated with ischemic heart disease and its risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes: the Edinburgh type 2 diabetes study.

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Tumor-Associated Neutrophils and Macrophages Promote Gender Disparity in Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Zebrafish

11β-HSD1 reduces metabolic efficacy and adiponectin synthesis in hypertrophic adipocytes.

Effect of vitamin D supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors and exercise performance in healthy subjects; a randomised placebo controlled pilot study

[Age-dependent changes in the concentration of active sex steroids, their precursors, metabolites, and regulating agents in male blood].

Prolonged secretion of cortisol as a possible mechanism underlying stress and depressive behaviour

Beneficial effect of aspirin against interferon-α-2b-induced depressive behavior in Sprague Dawley rats.

Urinary Cortisol and Six-Year Risk of All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality

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