Are all sugars bad?

Are all sugars bad?

The “Sugar Tax” (aka The Soft Drinks Industry Levy) is now law as of earlier this month. It is hoped that this will help prevent or limit obesity – particularly in children.   Sugars are many different substances but they are all slightly sweet and glucose, the most essential of them all for our brains, is the particular villain of our time, as too much in our blood is the disease diabetes.

However, not all sugars are the same. Are there good ones?  Trehalose is a natural sugar that has now been found to deprive the liver of glucose and activate a gene that improves insulin sensitivity and triggers the burning of more fat so potentially reducing the chance of developing diabetes.   This natural sugar is made up of two glucose molecules, and in the past it’s been found to help clear up atherosclerosis.  In a new study, the team at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis investigated trehalose as a possible treatment for metabolic disease, by dosing the drinking water of test mice and seeing which genes were activated in their livers.

Mice that received trehalose were found to have a whole range of positive effects. They made better use of their natural insulin, burned more calories, had a higher body temperature, gained less weight, accumulated less fat (particularly in the liver) and had fewer fats and cholesterol biomarkers in their blood. Interestingly, trehalose-laced drinking water even protected mice that were fed a diet that would induce obesity, and those that were genetically prone to obesity.

The key, the researchers discovered, was a gene called Aloxe3, which trehalose activates by reducing the amount of glucose that reaches the liver.   But this can also be achieved by fasting for 2 days as this seems to be another way of activating the all important gene Aloxe3 – and it seems that this is also the mechanism by which a common diabetes drug pioglitazone (Actos) works.  Aloxe3 activation in the liver is triggered by both trehalose and by fasting, possibly for the same reason.   Fasting – or giving trehalose with a normal diet – triggers the liver to change the way it processes nutrients, in a beneficial way. And if glucose can be blocked from the liver with a drug, it may be possible to reap the benefits of fasting without strictly limiting food

The study appears in JCI Insight.

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Carol Willis - Diabetes Clinic Facilitator

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