Metabolism Damaging Foods

These days it’s all the rage to talk about metabolism damaging foods, and even though it’s popular to suggest that sugar kills metabolism, this is far from true. In fact it’s the opposite of the truth. Sugar is pro-metabolic, let me count the ways.

Sugar Is Fuel For Metabolism>>

Metabolism is the combination of biochemical interactions that take place in the body, as a means to ensuring proper function, utilizing food to provide energy, to enable rebuilding or regeneration, and to allow for waste removal.

Generally speaking, whether or not metabolism is able to function optimally, depends on the balance between exposure to stress (both internally and externally), and the availability of nutrition and fuel in order to meet that stress.

A stressed or slow metabolism (where provision of energy is insufficient, and the adaptive, defensive stress mechanisms are working overtime) can be mistaken for a fast metabolism, and it can run this way for long periods of time. But this is not the same as an optimally functioning thyroid energy metabolism, where stress is low, overall metabolic performance is high, and protection from degeneration and disease is robust.

Sugar is so important for the ongoing running of metabolic processes, that as soon as metabolism detects that not enough is able to be provided, stress related functions kick in to ensure that a backup is ready to go. Unfortunately this comes with a cost, involving the use of valuable tissue (including muscle, skin and organs) for energy, as well as a change in biochemical conditions which can in and of themselves, add to stress levels, and lead to further interference with optimal metabolism.

Sugar Is A Stress Antidote>>

It’s probably not too much of a shock to discover that many of the biochemical changes that begin to occur when metabolism is stressed, respond to the provision of sugar, by no longer being as necessary. When glycogen stores run low, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, begin to rise, and this is often the beginning of interference with metabolism, which then leads to more stress. Sugar is known to lower the substances of stress. So in other words, the availability of sugar enables stress to go down.

Although it’s not always a black and white, immediate reversal back to optimal performance, it is fair to say that sugar is a remedy for stress. But ongoing exposure to the things that promote stress, can lead to changes in the function of metabolism, that can take time to create, and can be difficult to repair.

And to add to that, stress can have an impact that transfers from one generation to the next, and can interfere with the development of metabolism, and so metabolic function can be impeded from the beginning. This does not mean that the biological processes that keep the system going are different in every case, but it does mean that they can express themselves in a multitude of different ways depending on individual history and varying circumstances.

However you look at it though, sugar is necessary for optimal metabolic performance, and this only changes when the discussion moves to a different species, perhaps from a different planet. The problem is, that when metabolism has been damaged, the way the system deals with sugar can make it look like it is the sugar that is the problem, but there is always going to be a better explanation.

Sugar Supports Thyroid>>

Thyroid energy system function is at the heart of metabolism, to the extent that you can’t really talk about one without (at least indirectly) referring to the other. And you can’t really talk about a stress metabolism, without acknowledging that you are also saying that thyroid performance is sub-optimal.

Lack of availability of sugar prevents optimal thyroid function in many different ways, and it is not unscientific or irrational to suggest that sugar is a requirement for the proper functioning of thyroid metabolism, which is just another way of saying that sugar is pro-metabolic.

Sugar is one of the things that enables the conversion in the body of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into active thyroid hormone (T3), and when this conversion is hampered, thyroid systems cannot run as effectively. In fact, when conversion is interfered with, this can itself become a circumstance which further inhibits thyroid metabolic function. For example, lack of T3 supply lowers thyroid performance, but interference with conversion also means that inactive thyroid hormone (T4) can accumulate in the system, which can by itself have powerful anti-metabolic effects.

On top of this, when stress is high and glycogen stores run low, many of the stress substances which begin to rise in response to this, cause additional interference with thyroid performance (including preventing optimal conversion of T4 to T3), and so a vicious circle of more stress, and greater interference with metabolism, can be set in motion.

Sugar Improves Digestion>>

When stress is high and metabolism is interfered with, digestion is one of the first things that suffers, and this fact is central to what can then go on to cause damage to the proper function of thyroid energy systems, promoting the ongoing stress state.

A slow or impeded digestive system allows for bacterial issues to build up, increasing exposure to many stress promoting, thyroid metabolism inhibiting things. Bacterial endotoxin is just one of these, although it is powerfully inflammatory and anti-metabolic.

Lack of sugar is directly involved in this process firstly because of the effect that insufficient availability of sugar has upon stress and metabolism, and hence upon digestive function. When stress rises, energy is redirected away from digestion in order to prioritize other systems that are required more for immediate survival.

Unfortunately, interference with metabolism, due to dietary problems and other stressors, can create a chronic state of stress, and chronic suppression of digestive function, even when there is no real immediate survival danger. This can then cause a situation where it becomes more difficult to assimilate nutrition, and where there is a buildup of stress promoting inflammatory things within the intestines, which then go on to interfere even more with metabolism and add to the stress levels.

To add insult to injury, endotoxin can directly interfere with the ability of cells to properly utilize sugar for metabolic function, and so it can be said that one of the things that can happen when sugar is restricted, can also lead to circumstances where there will be insufficient sugar for energy, even when there is sugar available for use as energy.

No matter what you eat, metabolic systems have developed to attempt to ensure the provision of what is needed for proper function, and sugar is one of the most important things. In this sense, how stressed metabolism becomes, also depends upon how easy it is for the system to get the things that are required. As an example, in general, it is far less costly for metabolism to get sugar from something that has lots of sugar in it, than it is to get it from something that is low in sugar and high in protein for instance, or high in all sorts of things that get in the way of the absorption of sugar.

White sugar itself is easy to digest and, in the context of a diet that provides sufficient protein and other nutrients, helps to provide energy without fueling bacterial inflammatory issues, which then helps to up-regulate the thyroid systems which provide energy and protect against bacterial issues. Sounds like a bargain.

Sugar Improves Liver Function>>

Proper liver function is crucial to metabolism, and when stress is rising and sugar is restricted many things begin to happen that interfere with the ability of the liver to do the things it does to enable optimal metabolic performance, and this then leads to suppression of thyroid metabolism, which then further inhibits the liver. Not a good idea.

Not only is the liver responsible for the provision of the majority of metabolically active thyroid hormone (T3) throughout the system, but it plays a major role in detoxification processes, including preparation for the removal of many of the stress substances which increase in circulation, when stress is high, metabolism is suppressed, and liver function is inhibited. Sugar provides the energy which is required in order for the liver to do these things optimally.

When stress goes up, and metabolism is sub-optimal, estrogen levels tend to rise, and estrogen plays a big part in the promotion of the inflammatory metabolic conditions. The liver prepares estrogen for excretion, and when sugar is restricted and liver performance is slow, estrogen levels tend to build up in circulation, and estrogen itself directly interferes with the ability of the liver to carry out detox functions.

The liver is also involved in the processes that protect against the buildup of the inflammatory, anti-metabolic stress substances, serotonin and nitric oxide, both of which also rise in response to interference with digestion and increasing exposure to bacterial endotoxin.

Slow digestion, and rising endotoxin (as well as the other inflammatory things that rise when digestion is slow) also adds to the stress load placed upon the liver, and so because lack of sugar can prevent proper digestion, this is another way that sugar can help the liver.

A good way to help reduce the toxic stress load coming from the digestive system and take the pressure off the liver so that it can start to function better and heal itself, is to do a cleanse. One of the most important things for liver and digestive system cleansing, is the provision of energy (combined with protein and other nutrients), in the easiest and least stressful way possible. Attempting to cleanse in a way that allows for metabolism to be inhibited can be counterproductive, as the cleansing organs (and metabolism in general) need to be functioning properly in order to reduce production of, and properly excrete toxins. This is why sugar is a necessary part of an effective cleanse. In fact, providing enough sugar (and some other requirements) for proper metabolic function, can be a little like doing a continuous cleanse.

Sugar Protects Against PUFAs>>

The polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) and the substances that they break down into inside the body, suppress metabolic function in many different ways. They interfere with thyroid hormone availability and performance, they cause the stress substances to rise, they powerfully inhibit digestion and promote bacterial issues and they interfere with and damage the liver, promoting inflammation and degeneration. You could say that they are one of the most common metabolism damaging foods, although it is questionable whether they really are food for humans. Certainly not in the quantities which have only become a thing in far more recent times.

Sugar protects against the PUFAs in a number of different ways, but arguably the most important way is by suppressing stress and promoting metabolism. This is another one of those potential vicious circle type scenarios that can kick in when much of the sugar is purposefully removed from the diet.

By providing sugar for thyroid energy system function and by keeping stress at bay, the PUFAs can, at least to some degree, be prevented from being taken out of storage and brought into circulation as free fatty acids, where they cause a lot of damage to metabolic systems. At the same time, a high functioning metabolism assists with the safe removal of PUFAs via other means that do not have as much of an impact upon overall function.

The breakdown products of the PUFAs have been shown to be involved in the progression of inflammatory metabolic illness, and this includes heart disease, diabetes, cancer, autism, arthritis, MS, depression, alzheimer’s and an endless number of related conditions. This makes sugar a pretty important part of the diet, and not something to avoid intentionally.

Excess Sugar Can Be Turned Into Good Fats>>

Another way that sugar helps to protect against the PUFAs, and to assist with metabolic function, occurs if there is ever any excess which does not get used immediately for energy or as an addition to glycogen stores. Under these circumstances, sugar gets converted predominantly into saturated fats, which are protective against PUFAs, and have anti-inflammatory, pro-thyroid effects.

The only problem with this is that when sugar is available, and metabolism improves, it can be difficult to eat enough sugar in order to be able to have any excess left over for conversion into fat. And some people who have metabolic issues struggle to produce and store much excess fat too, and this can mean the stress metabolism can appear to be like a fast metabolism.

When healing metabolism in the beginning, saturated fat accumulation (from de novo lipogenesis) is probably more common, and there is reason to think that this can play a part in the processes that help reduce stress and inflammation (like a buffer) and eventually enable thyroid metabolism to start to function at a higher level.

Contrary to most popular dietary health advice today, a reasonably low fat diet, with enough quality protein, as well as lots of vitamins and plenty of sugar, can provide everything required (including some synthesis of fat) in order to maintain optimal metabolic performance and keep stress at bay. Including some saturated fats from butter or coconut oil and the like, can be helpful for lowering stress and improving metabolism in the beginning, even if there is some weight gain.

Sugar Increases Cholesterol Production>>

Even though you might be thinking otherwise, you need cholesterol for the proper functioning of metabolism and for protection against stress, and the first step is to ensure that you are able to produce enough. Sugar assists with cholesterol production in numerous ways.

Equally importantly, by helping to lower stress and improve metabolic function, sugar also assists with the conversion of cholesterol into the protective anti-inflammatory hormones, pregnenolone, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone.

It probably isn’t a stretch to argue that by improving the effectiveness of metabolism and by lowering stress, provision of enough sugar can gradually, over time, lead to a reduction in the quantity of cholesterol (and of the specialized protective hormones) needed, and as such, a reduction in sugar requirements. On the other hand, increased functionality can probably also increase energy requirements, so it could go either way.

Sugar Protects Against Inflammation>>

It’s very common to hear that sugar consumption is inflammatory. Luckily this is predominantly a misinterpretation of how metabolism functions, as it would be strange if something needed to improve metabolic function and lower stress, caused an increase in inflammation, especially since dysregulated inflammatory processes are connected to basically all disease.

The confusion probably arises because of the connection between blood sugar dysregulation issues, like for instance hyperglycemia and insulin resistance, and chronic, systemic inflammation. The good news is that it is mostly PUFAs (and some other highly stressful and inflammatory things), not sugar consumption per se, that causes blood sugar dysregulation, and so there’s nothing to stress about. It all makes sense as it is intended to.

Endotoxin is another thing that leads to inflammation (even more so in combination with too much of the PUFAs), and the relationship endotoxin has with stress, lack of sugar, and thyroid suppression, is an important link in the chain which explains the real causes of chronic inflammation and metabolic illness.

Iron dysregulation has been shown to be closely involved with metabolic disease, and results in part from excessive iron intake and from too much exposure to the PUFAs and endotoxin (and stress substances like estrogen), which interact to powerfully promote oxidative stress and inflammation. Sugar, by reducing stress and improving thyroid energy metabolism, helps to protect against iron related issues, adding to the list of potential anti-inflammatory effects.

Sugar Reduces Lactate Production And Insulin Resistance>>

Regardless of the fact that a lot of people are promoting the idea, you don’t really want to use the stress of sugar restriction for too long, as a way to improve metabolic health. It’s basically a contradiction, and although it can feel good for a while, the long term consequences can be dire, particularly when metabolism is already damaged.

Increased production of lactate is associated with disease progression and mortality, and occurs as a result of interference with oxidative metabolism. It’s important to keep in mind that a high lactate producing metabolism is a stress metabolism, and this makes sense in the context of all the other things that promote stress and blood sugar dysregulation. It also makes the very popular idea that sugar causes diabetes, extremely illogical and unlikely.

However you approach it, the end result is roughly the same. PUFAs interfere with the use of sugar, and lack of sugar increases circulation of the PUFAs. Insulin resistance promotes stress, which increases lactic acid production, and excess lactate can promote insulin resistance and stress. Endotoxin causes inflammation and interferes with thyroid energy metabolism, and a suppressed thyroid, and chronic inflammatory state, increases endotoxin exposure. Sugar protects against stress, insulin resistance, lactate, inflammation, and metabolic dysfunction, but that doesn’t mean you can just eat some sugar and instantaneously make everything go back to normal. Still, when I hear talk about paradoxes, I’m inclined to believe it’s just another way to justify the continuation of a false theory.

Sugar Increases Carbon Dioxide Production>>

I’m not sure if anybody has tried to directly argue that the production of energy is bad for health, but it probably won’t be too long. In the mean time, it’s worth noting that oxidative metabolism (thyroid energy system metabolism), which involves the breakdown of sugar to carbon dioxide (CO2), is the best way to produce energy under normal circumstances.

Sure, it’s important to have a backup for extreme conditions of stress and starvation, and one of the things that happens in order to make this possible, is the suppression of metabolism as a means to reducing energy requirements. But in general, it’s supposed to be a defense mechanism, for survival, and unfortunately it comes with a long term metabolic cost.

When there is a lack of sugar availability, metabolism slows down, and more of the fat stores are used to produce energy, but this generates less CO2 than sugar, which also means that metabolism slows, and stress goes up. Increasing sugar and decreasing fat, is one way to improve CO2 production and up-regulate metabolism, and increasing CO2 levels (bag breathing for instance), is a good way to lower stress, decrease fat circulation and increase sugar metabolism. Improving CO2 levels protects against all of the substances of stress, including lactate, and increasing stress is by definition an indication that CO2 levels are reduced. Sugar is therefore, anti-stress and pro-metabolic.

Sugar Helps Protect Against Obesity And Illness>>

Alzheimer’s, depression, diabetes, cancer, and the inflammatory metabolic illnesses in general do not only happen to people who are obese, and obesity is not caused by excessive sugar consumption.

The link between obesity and the metabolic illnesses, is biochemical stress and inflammation. The things that promote excessive metabolic stress and inflammation, and interfere with energy production, prevent the proper use of sugar. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, and none of this is meant as health or dietary advice, but it makes sense to me, that dealing with stress related issues, by taking sugar consumption out of the picture, only makes matters worse over the long term.

There are lots of things in the environment and in modern diets that are harmful to metabolic function, and many of them can no longer be easily avoided. From what I have come to understand, the PUFAs are one of the main things that have become ubiquitous in recent decades, and one of the things that can be largely removed.

Inflammation, and oxidative stress, and insulin resistance, and HPA dysfunction, and endotoxemia, and iron dysregulation, and hypothyroidism, and cholesterol oxidation, and chronic hypoxia, and many things that result from ongoing metabolic stress, and are known to promote disease, are closely associated with excessive exposure to the PUFAs and their breakdown products. Some say PUFAs are practically a necessary component for inflammatory disease.

Sugar isn’t the solution to everything, and often will not help as much as it can when other things are out of balance. Liver function, nutrient deficiencies, protein requirements, nervous system issues, lack of light, stressful environments, and lots of other things get in the way of thyroid metabolism and overall function. But sugar is very important, and is something that keeps the PUFAs, metabolic dysfunction, and stress in general, at bay. If you want to quit something, for starters, quit PUFAs.

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2 Responses

  1. Avatar Jay says:

    Dan, what would be great is if you posted a sample diet, macros %s! Thanks. I hope you’re not done writing. I appreciate your info and writing style. Thanks!!! Jay

  2. Avatar Jay says:

    I meant would recommend Ray Peat diet with milk, OJ, raw carrot salad, butter, eggs, expeller pressed coconut oil, Mexican coke (cane sugar, coffee, chocolate, liver, oysters, seafood, beef, little to no starch, avoid PUFA oils of course; carb ~50%, protein ~30%, fat ~25%.

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