Ask Dr. Nandi: Too much sugar overwhelms the small intestine

(WXYZ) - On this show, I've talked a lot about the dangers of eating too much sugar. It causes obesity and can lead directly to serious health problems like diabetes.

But a recent study sheds fascinating new light on how it’s actually processed within the body.

We used to think that fructose was handled mainly by the liver. But we now know it’s actually the small intestine that’s supposed to do the job. 

Here’s how it works. Normally, the small intestine is charged with the task of processing fructose. If you eat an apple, for instance, the small intestine can cope with it.

But it’s the processed foods and drinks that are the problem. They’re loaded with so much sugar that the small intestine gets overloaded.

So the excess sugar spills into the liver for processing. And that can eventually lead to fatty liver disease, or worse. 

A lot of these new studies coming out give credence to ideas that have been around for a long time, right? This is another one.

Researchers found that if they fed mice sugar after a meal, the intestine could deal with it better.

For a long time, guys in white coats like me have been telling patients to limit sweets to moderate quantities after meals, and avoid sugary drinks outside of meal times. This study supports that advice. 

Here are my prescriptions for helping your body to better handle sugar and fructose.

  1. The best way to do eat sugar is in the form of small amounts of fruit. 
  2. Sugar that’s not natural and added to food is called free sugar. Limit it to under six teaspoons per day. 
  3. One of the best ways to get over a sugar addiction is to simply remove sugary products from your living space. 
  4. If you use artificial sweeteners to replace sugar, do it sparingly because they come with health risks of their own. 

With effort, we all can reduce the amount of sugar we eat..which could lead to amazing benefits for your health.

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