Monday, 16 April 2012

The Toxic Effects of Sugar

Rosario Colomba MAT, CSCS
Personal training Manager - Xanadu Health Club

Those of us with children know that every study or news article regarding the latest research on children’s health catches our attention.

It’s out of love, and I am guilty of it as I assume you are! While doing research for this article I stumbled upon the work of Robert Lustig, a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California’s School of Medicine. I will share his findings with you and I believe that they will definitely catch your attention as they did mine. With that being said here is the sensational, over- the- top headline . . . Sugar Causes Cancer. Well, maybe. It has also been connected to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Most are aware that the over-consumption of sugar is linked to these life-threatening diseases, but cancer has never been connected with sugar, which is why the topic warrants further consideration. I will explain how the body breaks down sugar and provide insight into how this makes it so toxic - especially for our children.

Lustig uses the word sugar when referencing both sucrose (beet & cane sugar, whether white or brown) and high fructose corn syrup. The body metabolizes these differently than glucose which is a by-product of starchy carbohydrates and breads. Glucose is metabolized by every cell in our body, whereas sucrose and high fructose corn syrup is broken down primarily by the liver. When our livers are forced to metabolize sugar it is put through a great amount of stress, and instead of breaking it down it converts it to fat. This process is expedited when the sugar is refined and consumed through processed fruit juices, soda, & candies because the speed and volume at which it enters the liver is increased. When our liver begins to store fat, the body develops insulin resistance. This resistance to insulin reduces our ability to metabolize the food we consume and therefore will lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Over time, despite our resistance to insulin, our bodies will still have an elevated level of insulin which researchers call insulin-like growth factor. The reason for this is that our pancreas is working in overdrive to meet the demand of metabolizing the high content of sugar. Insulin- like growth factor has the same autoimmune effect on our cells that cancer does. It over feeds them and allows them to grow and become more needy than they were designed to be.

So how does this relate to our children? Studies have shown that in order for insulin-like growth factor to do its dirty work, it must have time. A child consuming a diet high in sugar has plenty of time for this to run its course. That is why it is so important to rid your cupboards of all foods & beverages high in sugar. Now you may be wondering about fruit. Fruit does contain fructose but in its natural state. Fruit also contains valuable nutrients and fiber that our bodies need. Need more reasons to get rid of all that junk? Keep reading!

UPDATE: According to a recent study out of Leiden University in the Netherlands, high blood sugar levels were also correlated to aging. They took pictures of over 600 men’s & women’s faces, aged 50-70 years old. Those with higher blood sugar levels were perceived to look older. A reason for these findings included the low nutrient content in sugar which robs your body of vitamins that are essential for healthy skin. Another more detailed study published by the American Aging Association took other factors into account including gender, body mass index, insulin levels, and whether the person is a smoker. Still, the findings indicated that higher blood glucose correlated to the older looking person. Maybe that handful of almonds doesn’t sound so boring after all.

(Adapted and updated from my previous article in Windsor Body Magazine )

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Minimalist Shoe Revolution

Ross Colomba MAT, CSCS, CK
Many questions have been raised about minimalist shoes. More and more people are beginning to wear them but are they good for everybody? Under what conditions should people use them? What is the benefit? I will attempt to answer these, among other questions.

The foot is an amazing part of our body. There is an estimated 100,000 – 200,000 exteroceptors in the sole of each foot. Exteroceptors are one of three types of receptors in the human body. Anytime sensory information is gathered from our environment, exteroceptors send this information back to the brain so that the brain can confirm that its original command is being executed properly. When walking or running, the exteroceptors in the feet send the majority of this biofeedback.

Daniel Howell, PhD, author of the Barefoot Book outlines a phenomenon called Shoe-Induced Neuropathy. Shoe-Induced Neuropathy is typical of the traditional running shoe. Its hard rubber outer sole & soft cushioned insole silence the biofeedback from the exterocpetors in our feet. This disables the brain to make subtle adjustments in our gait (proprioception) and can lead to inefficient and less graceful strides. Socks can silence this biofeedback even further.

The minimalist shoes produced today, by theory, are designed to give you minimal support so that all of those exteroceptors can do their job. Overtime, your body is said to get stronger through improvements in your gait and neuromuscular communication. A study done this year by the University of Memphis Neuromechanic Laboratory notes that although research is still premature “it is still possible that incorporating minimalist footwear into part of the training activity may lead to positive benefits for the athlete, such as improved running economy and improved proprioception.”

As a trainer, I would have to advise those trying these shoes for the very first time should have no other existing injuries or conditions to their feet or lower body. It is also important to prepare your feet by strengthening them.

The Vibram fivefingers website ( is a great resource and lists exercises one can do to prepare their feet to wear these shoes. Additionally, once you have strengthened your feet, allow them to get used to the shoes by wearing them during light activities and then gradually working your way up. As well, remember that deciding to wear these shoes will depend heavily on the sport you are playing or the activity you are taking part in. Stick to the regulations of your sport and wear safety shoes when necessary.