Are There Hormones in Milk?

holstein dairy cattle in field with blue sky

This day and age, you would be hard-pressed to find a multimillion-dollar industry free of controversy. Dairy farmers know this reality all too well. The consumer perception of hormones in milk products is an example of marketing claims gone awry. Because of consumer misunderstanding, the dairy industry changed without any regard for science. Despite many validated scientific studies and numerous regulatory approvals, the use of rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin) has been reduced from dairy farming because of the fear generated by misinformed consumers and tactful marketing claims.

There is no such thing as hormone-free milk!

All milking cows are females that have recently given birth and have hormones. Just like humans! In fact, if female cows didn’t produce hormones, they would not be able to have babies and produce milk. Once a cow has given birth, she produces milk for approximately 10 months.

What is rBST or rBGH?

BST, or bovine somatotropin, is a naturally occurring protein hormone produced by a female cow’s pituitary gland. Somatotropin regulates the cow’s metabolism and determines how efficiently a cow converts her feed into milk. Bovine somatotropin (BST) is also referred to as Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). rBST is the synthetic version of BST— it is an exact replica of the naturally-occurring BST hormone, recreated in a lab. After decades of scientific research, scientists recognized that cows supplemented with additional somatotropin produce on average 10-15% more milk every day. There is no discernible difference between milk from treated or untreated cows. When comparing treated versus untreated milk, it is impossible to detect the use of rBST.

In the 1970s, the biotechnology company, Genentech, discovered the BST gene and proceeded to synthesize the hormone to create rBST. Pharmaceutical companies were then able to commercialize the technology in order to sell the product to farmers. Monsanto, for example, licensed Genentech’s patent and was the first company to receive approval from the FDA. Monsanto then sold their product to dairy farmers and cows across the United States were given rBST to increase milk production.

Milk is a commodity and for this reason, it is very hard to distinguish the milk from one dairy cow to another. Farm profitability depends on both the available milk supply and consumer demand.

In 1997, Oakhurst Dairy in Maine was struggling to differentiate their company from larger competitors. The owner of Oakhurst decided to give financial incentives to their dairy farmers and in return asked them to sign a pledge rejecting the use of additional hormones. Thus began the marketing and enticing consumers to drink ‘rBST free’ milk.

Even Oakhurst Dairy, which prides itself on being “America’s first Farmers Pledge” against rBST must also include “FDA states no significant difference in milk treated with artificial growth hormone” on their label. (Source: WGME)

How do we know rBST is safe?

BST (and the synthetic rBST) is a hormone that is specific to bovines. The human body does not produce it or have a need for it. So, if you are an avid milk drinker, you can rest assured that your body does not recognize BST as usable in the human body. Because it is a protein, the human body will effectively break it down (like any other protein) and eliminate it. Therefore both BST and rBST have no impact as a growth hormone in humans.

In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of rBST in cattle. The World Health Organization Committee (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) followed suit and deemed rBST safe for consumer use. Today, over 90,000 scientific reviews and studies document the safety of rBST on both humans and cows.

According to The American Cancer Society, consumers should not fear the insulin-like hormones, “at this time, it is not clear that drinking milk, produced with or without rBGH treatment, increases blood IGF-1 levels into a range that might be of concern regarding cancer risk or other health effects.”

Mary Kraft is a dairy farmer from Fort Morgan, Colorado. She explains hormone use in milk production and why she feels confident that the milk we all drink is safe and healthy.

rBST is proven not to affect human health or the nutritional quality of milk, but there are some studies that argue rBST causes mastitis (udder infections), reduction in fertility, and lameness in cows. These alleged side effects, along with the results from a 2003 meta-analysis confirming these findings, resulted in several countries banning the use of rBST. However, 11 years later, a 2014 meta-analysis, sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association, showed no ill-health effects to cows given rBST. Given these conflicting opinions, the Dirt-to-Dinner team was curious about what the farmer had to say— after all no one cares more about having healthy dairy cows than a dairy farmer. When speaking with various dairy farmers, they all agree that that the health of the cow depends on the farmer. Dairy cows are like Olympic athletes. If farmers feed their cows well, clean them properly, and monitor their activity they will stay healthy. For example, if they are given rBST and their udders are not monitored and cleaned there is an increased risk of mastitis, but if they are well-cared for the farmer can eliminate that risk!

The Sustainability Factor

The use of rBST can help the environment. Dr. Normand St-Pierre, a retired dairy specialist from Ohio State University, examined a recent study that calculated the number of various pollutants that were inevitably not produced with the use of rBST.

In the study, milk created by the one million dairy cows supplemented with rBST inevitably reduced the number of cows needed to create the same amount of milk. This reduced manure excretion by 3.3 billion pounds per year. It also reduced emissions of CO2 1.3 billion pounds per year—the equivalent of over 350,000 family cars.

The point? Technology often improves efficiency on the farm. In the case of rBST, the environment benefited through fewer carbon emissions and the consumer benefited through more affordable milk and milk products. Technology can lead to efficiency – more milk with less water, waste, and land use. From a farmer’s (and consumer’s) perspective this is a positive in terms of business and environmental impact.

Labels are often used as marketing gimmicks

The ‘BST Free,’ ‘rBST Free’, or ‘rBGH’ labels are often used as marketing gimmicks. This continued marketing ploy drives consumer perception. American farmers work with very thin margins. Our farmers are expected to produce viable dairy products on a specific amount of land, water, and resources. The average farmer produces approximately 38,000 glasses of milk a year, with the average consumer consuming roughly 325 glasses of milk a year. Why not allow farmers to produce this using fewer cows rather than putting stress on our environment?

Labels can be confusing. Here not only are customers assured that this milk is free of hormones, but also states that the use of rBST in dairy farming is safe.

rBGH is practically a non-issue today—most producers no longer use rBGH. In 2007, a government study projected that roughly 17% of US cows were treated with rBST and that number has continued to decline. But understanding this social controversy is very important. Why do we ignore the data? As we have seen with GMOs, consumer perception can negatively affect successful food technology.

What is an Artificial Sweetener?

examples of alternative sweeteners

You have many choices to satisfy your sweet tooth. Last week we wrote about the hazards of consuming too much sugar. This week we are taking the confusion out of the alternative sweetener market. In fact, 84% of Americans are actively trying to limit sugar and 43% are turning to sugar substitutes. There are two kinds of alternative sweeteners: artificial and natural.

First, let’s distinguish between the natural sweetener – Stevia – and the artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, Equal, and Sweet’N Low. Stevia is made directly from the stevia leaf while the others are created in a lab, hence the difference between a natural sweetener and an artificial sweetener. The creation of natural sweeteners, from the Stevia plant, has caused an 8-10% decline in the purchase of artificial sweeteners. But, natural sweeteners are generally more expensive than artificial sweeteners due to their higher ingredient costs. As of 2015, Splenda is still the sweetener of choice in the United States and outsells Truvia, Sweet’N Low, and Equal.

Don’t artificial sweeteners cause cancer? What gives?

The artificial sweeteners, Splenda, Equal and Sweet’N Low, have a very storied past with the public and many people believe some sweeteners to be worse than others. For reference, 39% of consumers think it’s best to avoid food and drinks containing artificial sweeteners, and 38% say that some sweeteners should be avoided more than others. This has been a contributing factor to the recent decline in sales of artificial sweeteners and its associated products, like diet sodas.

Since saccharin has been around the longest, it’s of no surprise that it has had its share of distrust in the market. Saccharin came under a great amount of scrutiny in the 1970s because of a well-known lab test among rats that resulted in an increased incidence of bladder cancer, but the results were later dismissed as it was found that saccharin has an entirely different effect on human bladders. Saccharin remained on a carcinogenic watch list for quite some time until the FDA determined the compound had no proven carcinogenic properties and finally removed it from the list in 2000. However, public opinion of saccharin remains very wary despite a lack of evidence.

Aspartame continues to have its share of the spotlight with similar cancer concerns, mostly of the brain, but in 2006 the National Cancer Institute conducted a 5-year study of data from almost 500,000 individuals and found that higher levels of aspartame were not associated with elevated risk for brain cancer.

However, all artificial and natural sweeteners on the market in the U.S. and Europe are Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA and tested thoroughly by the European Food Safety Authority and the WHO. Any fears of cancer have been dismissed. All artificial and natural sweeteners on the market in the U.S. have undergone rigorous testing by the FDA. When a new food additive is developed, it goes through dozens of toxicity, animal, and human studies before being approved. Because of the meticulous analysis conducted by such governmental organizations as the FDA, WHO and the European Union, we as consumers can feel confident that these sweeteners have undergone substantial scrutiny before consumption of these products is permitted.

“Although there has been a lot of negative press about artificial sweeteners, there is no evidence that artificial sweeteners cause cancer in humans.”

-Christine Zoumas, MS, RD, Program Director at University of California, San Diego, Moores Cancer Center

The Agony and the Irony of Splenda, Equal and Sweet’N Low…

Some of these artificial, no-calorie sweeteners we use to lose or manage our weight are making us bigger, depending on the amount and duration that we use them!

There is a tremendous amount of controversy on whether and how these artificial sweeteners contribute to obesity. It is debated within the scientific community whether regular, long term consumption of artificial sweeteners leads to long-term health benefits or weight loss. In fact, quite the opposite can be true: a 2017 meta-analysis reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that the consumption of sugar substitutes was associated with increases in weight and waist circumference, and a higher incidence of obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular events.

“Based on all of the research done so far, there is no clear evidence for a benefit, but there is evidence of potential harm from the long term consumption of artificial sweeteners”

-Dr. Meghan Azad, PhD, University of Manitoba

So if sweeteners have zero calories, how in the world is this happening? There may be three reasons for the expanding waistlines and associated illnesses…

Artificial sugar begets more sugar

Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity and weight-loss specialist at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital, hypothesizes that those who use artificial sweeteners may end up replacing the lost calories with less nutritious and calorie-dense options, like cake or pizza, thinking that they can “spend” their otherwise consumed 300 calories if they drank two regular sodas.

Another consideration is that hyper-sweetened substances may alter the way we taste our food. Since sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar, our brains become more accustomed to this level of sweetness and eventually we find more natural but lesser sweet things, like fruits, less desirable. And vegetables? Forget it!

Lastly, these artificial sweeteners allow the consumer to disassociate sweet with caloric, which can be dangerous as eating sugar and sugar-like substances signal our brain to consume more sugar (you can blame that on our primate ancestors, as sugar was a scarce commodity way back when!). Since we’re so used to a sugary cup of coffee that has no calories thanks to Splenda, we want more sugar…and quickly! Thankfully there’s that donut over in the corner to fill our needs, but day after day, the sugar intake exceeds what we’d otherwise “save” by using sweeteners. Or, we add more calories to our diet by topping it off with sweeteners, which only makes us crave more…


There are other controversies surrounding artificial sweeteners

Again, while the research has not been peer-reviewed or widely accepted by the scientific community, there are several separate research trials of Splenda, Equal, and Sweet’N Low that have shown causal relationships between artificial sweeteners and negative gut microbiome health, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

One study conducted by a team of Israeli scientists in 2014 found that artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, aspartame and saccharin, significantly altered the intestinal bacteria of mice that, in turn, negatively affected their metabolisms, leading to obesity, diabetes, and other related diseases. (If you are unfamiliar with the gut microbiome, also known as our “second brain”, be sure to read our post on gut microbiota.)

Regarding the link of artificial sweeteners to Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, the American Heart Association reported that daily consumption of diet sodas may substantially increase the risk of these diseases. However, it is important to keep in mind that this finding may be a correlation and not causation— meaning that those who drink diet sodas regularly may be in poorer health than those who don’t drink them due to overall poor diet and lack of exercise.

Do Diet Drinks Count?

image source

Some of us may not think we regularly use artificial sweeteners, but don’t discount all those diet drinks and zero-calorie flavored waters! According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, nearly half of adults and a quarter of children in the U.S. consume artificial sweeteners—and the majority do so on a daily basis, with diet drinks making up the bulk of the intake. Both the American Heart Association and the American Diabetic Association jointly agree that people should use artificial sweeteners cautiously.

The ingredient list on many of these diet drinks show sucralose or aspartame, both of which may be blended with acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), a supplemental sweetener commonly used in the beverage industry. Though aspartame used to be the primary sweetener of choice for the most popular beverages, blends of sucralose, aspartame, and sucralose-only options are entering the marketplace as consumer’s demand what they perceive as a more “natural” artificial sweetener.

And other options are also being added to the grocery store shelves, such as stevia-sweetened sodas and drinks. Because of its taste and its natural origin, stevia sweetened sodas, drinks, and food items are gaining in popularity. From just 2014 to 2017, the market value of stevia has grown 71% to $578 million from $338 million.

Here’s a list of the most popular diet drinks in the market today and their associated sweeteners:

Which is your sweetener of choice?

So we know that Splenda, Equal, Sweet’N Low, and Stevia have no calories, but how is that possible? And how does it affect our bodies? Learn what makes them sweet, how they look under a microscope and how much of the sweetener you can have per day per FDA guidelines (hint: it’s A LOT – but don’t think it’s an open invitation!):

Splenda (sucralose)

The chemical structure of sucralose

Chemical compound: Splenda is an artificial sweetener that is made of sucralose, a synthetically derived compound from sucrose – or table sugar. Chemically speaking, some hydrogen-oxygen groups have been removed from the molecule and chlorine has been added in their place, making sucralose much sweeter than sucrose. For those wary of chlorine being added, in addition to keeping our pools clean, chlorine is an essential nutrient found in many vegetables, including potatoes, broccoli, and tomatoes. Sucralose is extremely sweet – it’s about 600 times sweeter than table sugar and three times sweeter than Equal.

Sucralose in your body: Because your body has no use for it, approximately 85% of sucralose does not get digested or absorbed, thus leaving your body unchanged. Most of what remains gets absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and then leaves the system as urine, but about 5% of the remaining sucralose will metabolize in the body.

Limitation on consumption: As per FDA guidelines, acceptable daily intake of sucralose is 5 milligrams per kilograms of body weight per day. So if you weigh 150 lbs., it is safe for you to consume upwards of 340mg of sucralose per day, which equates to 28 Splenda packets or 9 cans of diet soda. That should leave PLENTY of room for even the sweetest of sweet-tooth’s! 

A more “natural” artificial sweetener? There’s been some backlash against Splenda’s tagline, “made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar”, which leads consumers to believe it’s a natural sweetener when in fact it’s synthetically made by a complex chemical process, just like its artificial counterparts.

Equal (aspartame)

The chemical structure of aspartame

Chemical compound: Equal, or aspartame, is another artificial sweetener, but its components do not mimic any sugar-based molecules. Instead, aspartame is made from aspartic acid and phenylalanine, two amino acids that when combined in a specific structure, yield a very sweet substance that’s 200 times sweeter than table sugar.

Aspartame in your body: Unlike sucralose and saccharine, aspartame is fully absorbed in the body given its composition of amino acids, which your intestinal tract breaks down into digestive enzymes the same way it would after consuming common protein sources, such as meats, fish, eggs and dairy. Aspartame does not enter your blood stream. 

Limitation on consumption: The acceptable daily intake of aspartame as determined by the FDA is 50 milligrams per kilograms of body weight per day. So if you weigh 150 lbs., it is safe for you to consume upwards of 3,400mg of aspartame per day. This equates to 18 cans of diet soda or almost 100 blue packets…per day!! Keep in mind that your body creates trace amounts of methanol when breaking down aspartame. Though small amounts are not considered toxic and are actually naturally-occurring, larger amounts can lead to headaches, weakness, dizziness and nausea.

Aspartame and health conditions: A very important note about aspartame is that it is not to be consumed by those who suffer from phenylketonuria (PKU), a condition in which a person cannot metabolize phenylalanine (one of the components of aspartame) into tyrosine. Instead, they produce phenylpyruvate, which left untreated can cause very serious problems with brain development. Thankfully, in the U.S. and most countries, detection of this condition occurs in the newborn screening panel. Additionally, those treated for schizophrenia should avoid aspartame due to a potential reaction with some medications.

Fun fact: Previously branded as NutraSweet, aspartame swept the nation in the 1980s, replacing over a billion pounds of sugar in the US during this time, and led to the creation of many diet sodas still hugely popular today.

Sweet’N Low (saccharin)

The chemical structure of saccharin

Chemical compound: Sweet’n Low is an artificial sweetener made of saccharin, or benzoic sulfimide, which is a synthesized compound of methyl anthranilate, sodium nitrite, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, chlorine, and ammonia. This yields a very sugary substance that’s 300-400 times sweeter than sucrose. 

Saccharin in your body: Similar to sucralose, saccharin is also not largely stored in the body.

Limitation on consumption: As per FDA guidelines, the acceptable daily intake of saccharin as determined by the FDA is 15 milligrams per kilograms of body weight per day. So if you weigh 150 lbs., it is safe for you to consume upwards of 1,000mg of saccharin per day, which equates to 28 pink packets or 16 cans of Tab (if you’re able to locate the cult fave!)

Fun fact: Saccharin was discovered by accident in 1879 by a chemist at Johns Hopkins University working on coal tar derivatives. He noticed a sweet tasting substance on his hands, and then deduced the compound was benzoic sulfimide, which he quickly patented in several countries. It wasn’t commonly used until World War I, when sugar was being rationed due to scarcity. Since then, saccharin has remained a popular sugar alternative.


Steviol, the basic building block of stevia’s sweet glycosides

Chemical compound:  Stevia is an all-natural sweetener that comes from a shrub called stevia rebaudiana and is primarily grown in South America and Asia. Today, 80% of all stevia comes from China, where they practice strict farming guidelines. The sweetness is from a family of molecules called stevia glycoside, which is stored within the plant’s leaves. There are 10 unique compounds and each one has a different concentration.  The most common one is Rebaudioside A – otherwise known as Reb A.

The sweetness is released from the plant by steeping it in water, then separating out the water from the leaves and stems, and then purifying the plant’s material with either more water or a food-grade ethanol. It is referred to as a natural process because the stevia glycosides are literally pulled out of the plant and are exactly the same as they were when they were inside the plant. It is so sweet that it is actually 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.

Stevia in your body: Stevia has been studied and confirmed that it does not change your glycemic index or glycemic load. Research shows that it is metabolized by the liver, then passes through the body and does not accumulate anywhere. This is true for all forms of glycosides. Stevia is generally recognized as safe and has been approved by the FDA, WHO, ESFA, and Health Canada as a sweetener.

Limitation on consumption: As per FDA guidelines, the acceptable daily intake of stevia is 4 milligrams per kilograms of body weight per day. So if you weigh 150 lbs., it is safe for you to consume up to 40 packets of stevia per day – every day.

Brands and popularity: There are two primary brands sold of stevia, Truvia and PureCircle, which had 2015 sales of $145 million and $119 million, respectively. Sales of stevia sweeteners used in food and beverage manufacturing has more than doubled since 2013 given consumer demand for a more natural product.

A more “natural” artificial sweetener? There has been some conversation about stevia being considered a natural sweetener. Because there is no real definition of ‘natural’ (read our post investigating the ‘natural’ label here), the word is not meaningful. However, it is not synthetically made like other alternative sweeteners; therefore it is referred to as a ‘natural-origin’ sweetener.

Why Is Sugar Bad For You?

colorful candy

Following an indulgent holiday season, the Dirt-to-Dinner team decided to eliminate added sugars from our diet. And more than that, we wanted to understand the risks associated with eating excess sugar. What is sugar doing to us and should we kick the habit all together?

The average American eats between 90 to 110 grams of added sugar a day. This equates to about five cups of sugar a week. This is roughly 50 grams over the recommended daily allowance by the American Heart Association, which advises us to eat no more than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons per day for women and 36 grams or 9 teaspoons per day for men.

What is worse: “high in fat” OR “high in sugar”?

Foods that are “high in fat” have been blamed for many health issues in the United States. When President Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack in 1955 Americans began to investigate the relationship between prevalent diseases and sugar. His doctors divided into two camps over what was to blame: sugar or fat.

Unfortunately for the American public, foods high in fat became the culprit for his health problems and sugar was deemed safe for consumption. The food industry took note and started creating “healthier” foods that were “low fat.” And in order to compensate for the bland taste and ‘mouth feel’ that occurred without  the presence of fats, sugar was added as a substitute.

Today, 31% of Americans are obese. One American dies every 40 seconds of cardiovascular disease, 9.4% have type 2 diabetes, and 34% of Americans are pre-diabetic. Is this a coincidence or is sugar to blame?

Now, sugar has been deemed the new poison. The New York Times, The Guardian, and The New Yorker have all written about the toxicity of sugar. And documentaries, such as That Sugar Film and Fed Up, highlight sugars adverse effect on our health.

However, until it is possible to perform research that incorporates human trials, it is very difficult to state these claims definitively. Of course, it is much easier to feed sugar to rats and see the results than performing the same experiments on humans. In fact, while the National Institutes of Health has several studies that point to the adverse effects of sugar on our health, it also has published studies that indicate the results of fructose consumption are inconclusive.

Added sugar vs. naturally occurring sugar

Many of our readers have asked about the sugars found in fruit and dairy products. Fruit is packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals! Yes, it does contain naturally occurring sugars, but the fiber present will slow down the glucose and insulin peaks. (For more on glucose vs. fructose read our previous post on sugar.)Chewing fruit adds to your satiety and prevents you from overeating. Fruit juice, on the other hand, is packed with sugar and does not have the same fiber content. Even if it doesn’t contain added sugars, we recommend skipping the fruit juice and eating your fruits!

The sugar found in dairy is called lactose. Lactose does not contain fructose. However, dairy products can have added sugars, which do contain fructose— and that sugar counts as added sugar. Be sure to grab the unsweetened yogurt options, drink milk, and eat 2 servings of fruit a day.

The research says…

Too much sugar hurts your brain. Yes, glucose feeds our brain, but the excess consumption negatively affects on our brain signals. Our brain cells need 2x more energy than our other cells, which is roughly 10% of our diet. Too much fructose reduces a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This helps with repairing and protecting brain cells, forming connections and make new memories. A low level of BDNF causes all sorts of issues such as low concentration, limited memory, and even depression.

Fructose is not metabolized by our bodies so it gets stored in our liver as fat. When the liver can’t hold anymore, it will send the fat to the organs in your body and around your belly. A diet high in sugars is strongly associated with metabolic syndrome – which means that everything your body regulates starts to fall apart.  It is the precursor to heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation. The first sign of metabolic syndrome can be something as simple as visceral fat.

Finally, a new study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center showed a link between breast cancer and sugar. Mice on a sucrose diet, containing fructose, were approximately 60% more likely to develop mammary tumors.

Why do we have sugar cravings?

Eating a high sugar diet makes you want to eat even more! Because it doesn’t take as much energy to process sugars as it does protein and fat, so your body processes sugar much faster. So fast, in fact, that your body can’t tell that you are full.  High peaks and lows in both glucose and insulin create a craving for more food 2-3 hours after you ate a high glucose load. The snacking continues – the calories build – and weight gain follows.

Ever had a sugar high? Sugar rushes energy through your body as the insulin enters through your bloodstream. This is often followed by a fast decline because there was so much glucose in your bloodstream that insulin can’t keep up and your cells don’t get the energy they need. This tells your brain to eat more sugar in order to get more energy. It is a never-ending cycle that most people are on throughout the day: up and down and up and down.

The negative effect of sugar is not an overnight phenomenon – it is a slow progression. It could start by eating too many sweets with not enough exercise. Or your LDL (bad cholesterol) could be too high. Keeping a poor diet for a longer period could then cause you to develop a pre-diabetic condition of insulin resistance. This, combined with a high level of triglycerides, will start to take its toll on your health. Continuing this bad diet over a period of several months or years would then begin to deteriorate your health. (Read our post on inflammation for more insight on the link between unhealthy digestion and cancer.)

Quit the sugar

The average caloric consumption per capita in the United States is 3,750 calories per day. That is approximately 1,750 more calories than we need. Additionally, on average, Americans sit 10 hours a day and this doesn’t even include sleep! In order to get healthy, something has to change. The good news is that all the negative effects of sugar can be reversed once you ‘quit the habit’ and start making better choices!

Excess sugar has health consequences, but let’s be honest – there are more factors to blame, as well. No one sits down and eats a plate of plain cane sugar.

If you are not exercising, start. Exercise burns the triglycerides before they turn into visceral fat. Exercise also reduces stress, which makes you happier and helps reduce your cravings. Not to mention, stress and obesity are linked.

If you walk out of the grocery store with a cart filled with overly processed food and no vegetables, start writing and sticking to a shopping list, and stay away from the center aisles. Going to the grocery store is even more fraught with unexpected purchases. 60% of grocery store purchases are unplanned – and most of those are in the center of the grocery store, where all the processed foods are kept. Added sugar is literally everywhere. If you removed all the items from the shelves in the grocery store that have added sugar, you would eliminate 80% of the food in the center aisles.

If you crave sugar-sweetened drinks, then start to wean yourself off them. Sugar-sweetened drinks are a major culprit because they pack so much sugar into one small product. Meta-analysis has shown that drinking two 16 oz sugar-sweetened beverages a day can cause diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. They are a companion to a meal, they don’t fill you up, and you can exceed the recommended allowance sugar. We associate sugar drinks with sodas such as Coke, Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper, yet they are found even in ‘healthy’ drinks such as fruit juice, ice teas, expensive cleanses and sports drinks. Energy drinks are particularly fraught with sugar.


Click here for recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth without added sugar — from the D2D team!

What is Inflammation?

inflamed knee

Inflammation is often the starting point of many diseases. Is it the result of an unhealthy diet? What is the effect of inflammation on your body?

Inflammation is your body’s protective response to injury, disease or irritation of the tissues

Inflammation is your body’s mechanism to protect itself and heal damaged cells or tissue. This damage can be caused by either a wound, toxic substances or pathogens which may be in the form of sickness, excessive alcohol, chemicals, stress, unhealthy diet or lack of sleep. When your cells are in distress, they call out for help, and your immune system is full of front line soldiers who are programmed to attack and dispose of them. Inflammation is classified as either acute or chronic.

Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation

Acute inflammation occurs in the short-term. It is responsible for getting rid of an infection, helping clean a wound, and repairing your tissue. Examples include cutting yourself while shaving or spraining your ankle. The inflammation that occurs is a healthy reaction to repair the injured tissue. An army of white blood cells are the first responders that ingest and dispose of the damaged cells, pathogens, or irritants that may have entered your body.

On average, as long as you don’t re-injure yourself, an acute inflammatory response should only last a few days or weeks. Your body knows to trigger acute inflammation in order to get rid of things that are harming you.

If you don’t take care of that wound, or if your body is inundated with a constant invasion of pathogens or toxins, your cells continually call for help from your immune system, and your body is on high alert at all times. This prolonged “state of emergency” can cause lasting damage and is called chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation can last from several months to several years. The onset of chronic inflammation can be delayed, and signs of chronic inflammation are difficult to detect. It can also be incredibly difficult to identify the part of your body that becomes inflamed when the problem is chronic.

If our body is using energy to unnecessarily fight a perceived “invasion”, then it has less energy for normal functions. More importantly, with less energy available, our bodies cannot produce anti-inflammatory compounds such as glutathione, one of our bodies’ major antioxidant. In addition, adenosine triphosphate (ATP)— the energy molecule used by our cells is being used to fight a threat that isn’t real. At the end of the day, we have less energy and lower levels of antioxidants creating vulnerability for potentially diseased states.

How do you know if you are chronically inflamed?

You may not always be able to visually see the effects of inflammation, but there are signs that indicate its presence. These include fatigue, weight gain, skin outbreaks, gastrointestinal issues, and even depression or anxiety.

The best way to fight inflammation is with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and sleep

You can avoid certain foods that trigger inflammation. These include sugars and overly-processed foods. Additionally, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption should be eliminated.

A healthy diet helps fight inflammation

Foods to eat include plenty of colorful vegetables and greens, and foods containing healthy fatty acids, such as those found in nuts and avocados. Additionally, drink plenty of clean water so your cells stay hydrated and can perform at their optimal level!

Regular exercise is also an important part of fighting inflammation. A recent study performed by Mark Hamer, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University College London, examined the long-term effects of exercise with regard to inflammation. The study lasted for 10 years and included 4,000 middle-aged men and women.

Ultimately, Dr. Hamer found that subjects who completed approximately 2.5 hours of “moderate” exercise per week – or at least 30 minutes a day – reduced their inflammation markers by a minimum of 12%. Additionally, some study participants began exercising midway through the study period and were able to lower their inflammation levels as well— meaning it is never too late for the benefit of working out!

Get enough sleep and reduce stress. Poor sleep and stress trigger inflammation. According to a study performed by Emory University and presented at the 2010 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, getting less than six hours of sleep per night is associated with higher levels of inflammation. This is also linked with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Reducing stress and getting enough sleep helps fight inflammation

In addition to lack of sleep, excessive levels of long-term stress can negatively affect your gut and compromise the production of enzymes that aid in the digestive process. For your best performance, it is optimal to get eight hours of sleep each night, with at least five of those hours being continuous or uninterrupted.