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Health & Fitness: Giving up Sugar for Lent

By Kim Duke NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer

Lent — a Christian season of preparation before Easter. In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the first day, or the start of the season of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter (Sundays are not included in the count).

Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. Many Christians manifest this in the form of “giving up” something that will reflect a sacrifice or suffering. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.

Which brings me to my topic … many of my Christian friends and clients have decided to give up sugar for lent. Sounds simple, but it is not.

Sugar looks innocent, but it’s an inflammation bomb. That’s why the American Heart Association set new recommendations for maximum daily added sugar: 24 grams for women and 36 grams for men.

Here are just a few examples of what sugar can do the human body.

Kidneys: Sugar overload can damage the delicate filtration system and, over time, you could develop end-stage renal disease and have to go on dialysis or even require a transplant. No surprise — diabetes is one of the main causes of kidney failure.

Joints: High-sugar diets pump inflammatory cytokines into your bloodstream, which can exacerbate arthritis. And the more fat you carry, the more wear and tear your joints endure.

Brain: Sugar can rewire the brain’s reward pathways. People with very processed sugary diets had a 58 percent higher risk of being depressed, found in a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Heart: Sugar inflames the linings of the arteries to the heart, increasing the risk of coronary artery disease. High sugar levels impair the arteries’ ability to respond to the heart’s need for more blood flow and makes both arteries and platelets “stickier,” increasing the risk of stroke or heart attack, says Jennifer Berman, M.D.

Skin: When sugar bombards the body, proteins incorporate it as part of their structure. This process — glycation — ages and weakens your skin, causing sagging and wrinkles.

So, giving up sugar may feel like a sacrifice, and for sure you will suffer withdrawal, but if you are one of the folks who has chosen to remove it to honor your beliefs, then I say, “Good for you.” Your body and loved ones will be eternally grateful.

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