Discussion 6 Counting Calories
Using the information that you have learned in the video, the NYT article, current chapter, and earlier in Chapter 3, address the following in your main post (~500 words):
1. What class of biological molecules does sugar belong to?
2. What are the most common types of sugars in our diet?
3. How do sugar molecules provide us with energy? What is the role of sugar in human evolution?
4. What are the dangers of consuming excess sugar?
5. In terms of sugar consumption, what are potential dangers of processed foods and low-fat foods?
6. What other molecules (besides sugars) serve as a source of energy for our bodies?
7. Research suggests that obtaining (or keeping) a healthy weight is much more complex than just reducing caloric intake and exercising. Based on the information presented in the article, categorize different factors in three groups:
a. Factors contributing to weight gain
b. Factors contributing to weight loss
c. Factors not associated with either with weight loss or weight gain
8. Analyze your diet and life-style and make specific recommendations for yourself on how to achieve (or maintain) healthy weight.
Respond with 3-5 sentence to 2 of your fellow classmates and post your comments and reactions as appropriate.
I have one student post, I will post the other student post once they post.
Student 1 Post Adam
Sugar belongs to the carbohydrate class of biological molecules.
The most common sugars in our diet are simple sugars, and more specifically glucose.
When food is ingested, digestive enzymes break down sugars for our bodies to use. After this initial breakdown, sugars are broken down even further, through a process called glycolysis. After glycolysis, sugars are taken to the mitochondria inside cells. Once inside the mitochondria, sugars, along with other foods, are converted into ATP which is the power our cells use to operate (Alberts, Johnson, Lewis, et al., 2002). Humans evolved to like sugar because of its two-fold nature in our bodies: sugar can be used immediately or stored for later use. This aspect of sugar can be very important in times when food is scarce, which during the time of early humans (and in some cases, now) was not uncommon. Instead of just eating for whatever their current needs were, early humans could eat more food than necessary and effectively store the excess as fat for later (Lieberman, 2012).
There are many negative health effects associated with the overconsumption of sugar. Firstly, the body’s ability to store excess sugar as fat can lead to obesity when taken to high levels. The paradox of the body’s relationship with sugar is that the human ability to store excess energy can go too far. Our evolved bodies are not adapted to modern excesses of food that exist for many, so the body continues to store fat from excess sugar and calories, even when it is not in our best interest. Another very common issue with the consumption of excess sugar is type 2 diabetes. Individuals who develop type 2 diabetes have an inability to normally regulate their blood sugar via insulin (National Institutes of Health, n.d.). Type 2 diabetes is a deadly disease that claims many lives, and unfortunately, excess sugar consumption is one of its primary causes. Excess sugar consumption can also lead to dental issues. Sugar molecules are the main source of food for bacteria, so when sugar builds up in the mouth, a warm and moist environment, bacteria have everything they need to thrive (Gupta et al., 2013).
Processed foods and low-fat foods are notorious for having added sugar. Many food producers add sugar to these products to make them palatable while still having a relatively low-calorie count. This can be deceiving, especially regarding low-fat foods. Consumers often look to these foods as a healthier option, however, they can be packed with sugar to offset the loss of taste from having little to no fat.
In addition to sugar, the body can also use proteins and lipids for energy. While sugar is the body’s preferred source of fuel, proteins and lipids will also provide energy under the right circumstances. If sugar is not available but protein is, protein can be converted into glucose via a process called gluconeogenesis. Certain amino acids from proteins can be converted into glucose when they are in abundance, or if the body has no glucose to burn (Berg, Tymoczko, & Stryer, 2002). Lipids can also be used for fuel in the right conditions. When cells are experiencing aerobic cellular respiration, they can use lipids as a source of energy (Bartee, 2016).
Despite the commonly repeated narrative of “calories in versus calories out”, there are many factors that contribute to one’s weight. Caloric intake and expenditure certainly play a major role in weight, but the type of calories matter as well. A major reason for this is how the body responds to certain calories with insulin. Insulin, which is sometimes referred to as the “storage hormone”, acts as a funnel to the body’s fat stores. When insulin is high, the funnel is wide at the bottom and more energy goes into storage (fat cells). When insulin is low, the funnel is much more narrow and not as much goes through. One of the most significant influencers to insulin levels is sugar and carbohydrate intake. Person A and person B can take in the same amount of calories each day, but if person A has a higher percentage of foods that spike insulin, they will likely store more fat than person B (Hardy, Czech, & Corvera, 2012). Genetics plays a role in body weight as well. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to store more fat than others. This may seem like luck of the draw, but it is actually evolutionarily based. People whose ancestors are from cold environments or places where food was scarce will likely store more energy as fat than those whose ancestors are from warm environments with plentiful food. This may not seem useful to modern people with access to heating, air conditioning, etc., however, it is a massive evolutionary advantage (Malomo & Ntlholang, 2018). Physical activity and age also play a significant role in weight. More active people are more likely to burn calories, and younger people will likely burn more calories than older people.
Although I used to be overweight, I have been able to obtain and maintain a healthy weight for the past five years. I do this through a balanced diet and regular exercise. I try to keep my carbohydrate intake reasonable (under 200 grams per day) and I avoid simple sugars unless I am treating myself. I try to eat complex, fibrous carbohydrates such as green vegetables daily, and I also have a regular intake of healthy fats and proteins. I exercise three to four days per week, and I also have a job that keeps me on