Dr Arun K Chopra, Director Cardiology (Fortis Amritsar) is a DM from AIIMS where he also served as an Associate Professor. He's a passionate student and practitioner of nutrition and fitness, having lost over 100kg (10kg, 10 times) of weight in his lifetime while developing an almost encyclopediac knowledge on the subject. Our chat touches upon something so harmful when taken out of control, but unfortunately also so ubiquitous, that we hardly notice it: sugar.
Dr Chopra deconstructs man's biggest rival in his battle against obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In this hour-long conversation, we touch upon the following subjects:
1. Why is Sugar So Popular?
We start off by trying to understand why sugar is so popular in the first place. Dr Chopra tells us how traditionally sugar was thought to be good from an evolutionary perspective because of its taste. However, with the many advancements in the field of medical science, functional MRI scans of the brain have shown that when sugar is given to a person the blood supply to the reward centers of the brain increases. These are the same areas that are highlighted when pleasure drugs like cocaine, heroin and cigarettes are consumed. Moreover, our tolerance level toward sugar increases over time. These, and multiple other factors, have led to sugar becoming such a popular part of our diet.
2. What Does Sugar Actually Do Once Ingested?
We move on to talk about how excessive sugar intake can be harmful. Dr Chopra explains how every time we consume sugar the body releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin makes tissues absorb sugar in order to bring down the blood sugar level to normal. Repetitive consumption of sugar and release of insulin exhausts the pancreas. This in the long run leads to diabetes.
Insulin prohibits the breakdown of fat and protein in our body in order to produce energy, which ultimately causes obesity. Insulin also increases the tendency to hold water and salt in our kidney and liver, leading to high blood pressure.
3. Sugar Lobbies vs the Fight for Legitimacy
After discussing the dangers of sugar, we talk about how alcohol and cigarettes are heavily regulated but sugar, which is equally harmful, has no restrictions. Dr Chopra tells us how strong sugar lobbies from Maharashtra and UP in India and globally from several sugar-producing countries like the US, where sugar helped people overcome the Great Depression, have prevented sugar from being regulated.
4. Lifestyle vs. Genetic Predisposition
Dr Chopra tells us how a person who has a history of diabetes in their family can avoid it by following a healthy lifestyle and keep their sugar under control. He also talks about how someone who does not have any history of diabetes in their family but consumes high amounts of sugar on a daily basis is more prone to diabetes when compared to someone who has a family history of diabetes but keeps their sugar consumption under control and maintains a healthy lifestyle.
5. How Human Evolution has a Geography
In this podcast Dr Chopra also helps us understand how tolerance varies with geography. People in Western countries experienced a gradual infiltration of refined and packaged food over several generations. Hence, they were able to tolerate it better as opposed to people from India, China and other Asian countries, where refined and packaged food was introduced all of a sudden within a span of two or three generations. This left us prone to diseases like diabetes and heart attacks.
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