Category Archives: fatty liver

But aren’t they natural sugars?

Mince pies? Christmas cake? Christmas pudding? Tis the season to be jolly – and of dried fruits!

And fruit is healthy, right?

So if you find some of these lovely seasonal foods with no added sugar, it necessarily follows they are, if not actually good for you, OK at least doesn’t it?

Sadly it doesn’t necessarily follow.

There is ongoing debate about fructose – the sugar naturally occurring in fruit.  We know now that fructose is processed differently in the body compared with other sugars. Almost ALL the fructose we eat ends up being stored directly as body fat. Belly fat. The kind that settles in and around the internal organs. Visceral fat. Linked with type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, strokes etc.

If you want the scientific explanation – here it is.

The issue with these Christmas delicacies, is that, even without added sugars, they contain whopping amounts of fructose because it’s so concentrated in dried fruits compared to fresh fruits. One small portion of Christmas pudding might deliver 50 or more grams of sugar. Add to that the sugar in a mince pie or two, a piece of Christmas cake at tea time, nibbling on the occasional seasonal date, and you might be racking up a considerable amount of sugar – just from naturally occurring fructose found in dried fruits.

All things in moderation, so they say. When it comes to Christmas fayre the crux is knowing how little actually constitutes moderation.

I wish you the happiest festive season, but most of all good health!

Elaine x




The Truth About Sugar – was it useful for people living with diabetes?

fiona phillipsSo, did you see The Truth About Sugar on BBC 1 last night at 9pm?

If you did watch, and you’ve been following RebalanceDiabetes closely, you’ll have recognised a lot of the messages! So much of what I have shared with you via FaceBook, Twitter, in newsletters and in this blog over the past 2 years was covered in the programme. It was great to see those messages finally being addressed on TV. There was one huge message, however, that I whole-heartedly disagree with – but I’ll come on to that!

The way in which the messages were covered was simple, straightforward, and graphic. Some of the experiments they used to illustrate the points brought them home powerfully, I thought.

Here are some of the useful facts to keep reminding yourself of:

  • Sugar leads to body fat – quickly AND easily!
  • Sugar leads to disease!
  • There are huge quantities of sugar hidden in processed foods – even savory dishes.
  • The food industry go to great lengths to work out exactly how much sugar will make you eat more of their products – regardless of it’s effect on your health!
  • More onus should be put on the food industry to make it clear how much sugar is hidden in their products! Never mind the food industry representative saying everyone knows that a gram means – actually I don’t believe they do! I think everyone understands what a teaspoon of sugar looks like though!
  • The ONLY way to know what’s in your food is to cook it yourself and from scratch.
  • The sugars we drink cause us to eat more because they interfere with your hunger mechanism, and your body can’t tell you to stop taking in calories.
  • Drinking fruit juices means you take in massively more sugar than eating whole fruits. What I would add here though is that fruit contains the same type of sugar, and it’s just as harmful, as in juices, so fruit consumption shouldn’t be unlimited! 

So here’s the point I absolutely disagree with: Sadly The Truth About Sugar promoted the idea of artificial sweeteners. NO! There is enough research to show that artificial sweeteners still cause problems. Some of the articles I’ve shared with you over the months show that people are actually MORE likely to be obese using artificially-sweetened drinks compared with the full-sugar varieties. And research has shown that artificial sweeteners disrupt insulin – making them just as dangerous for people living with diabetes. Switching to artificial sweeteners is the one message I would love you to ignore from last night’s programme.

Otherwise, The Truth About Sugar gets my thumbs up, and I can’t wait for next week’s episode!

Your starter for 10-a-day!

Grill VegetableTwo simple questions for you this week:

  • How long would you like to live?
  • How healthy would you like to be as time goes by?

The latest research about the number of portions of vegetables and fruit we should be eating every day gives us this choice, as the good doctor advises in this video.

We benefit from eating good quality plant foods: fruit and vegetables.  We get reasonable benefits from eating 5 portions each day.  We get better benefits if we up that (as the Aussies already recommend) to 7-a-day.  We get even better benefits if we up it to 10-a-day.

Great!  It should be a simple choice shouldn’t it?

So why are some journalists grumbling about the new findings?  I simply don’t get it.  If you don’t want to eat 7 or 10-a-day that’s your choice.  But why do you feel it’s a good use of print space to inhibit good practice and encourage readers to stick to just 5-a-day?

I get that some people already don’t even manage 5-a-day.  I do.  And I want them to be encouraged to get up to the 5-a-day too. That may or may not mean subsidising the cost of fresh produce, but taxation is a separate argument.

The issue today is about those people who do care enough to want to make more effort to look after themselves and go on to enjoy a long and healthy life filled with the energy and vitality to make the most of those extra years.  Telegraph – you have done those readers a great disservice.  I note the date on the article entitled “10 portions of fruit and veg a day – are they having a laugh?”   I seriously hope this is the Telegraph’s idea of an April Fool’s joke?

The idea that we can’t pack in 10-a-day is simply ludicrous!  So here goes: This is your starter for 10!!


Eggs, served with tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans (choose a good brand without sugar – yes they are out there!!)

Mid-morning snack:

How about an apple with a handful of almonds or walnuts?


Vegetable soup or a home-made vegetable juice – can’t begin to tell you how many portions you would squeeze in there!

Followed by a salad with your choice of protein (fish, chicken, meat, tofu)

Mid afternoon snack:

Vegetable crudites with half a tub of hummus (better still if that’s homemade too!)

Evening meal:

Chilli con (or sin) carne made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, possibly some aubergine – served with guacamole and fresh tomato salsa, with rice or better still quinoa


Guess what?  You’ve had more than 10-a-day easily, and you haven’t been a slave in the kitchen because none of these things are difficult or take hours to make.  Do it all in batches one day each week and you’re really laughing!



Scandal of sugar as the norm!

“Being overweight is increasingly seen as the norm, England’s chief medical officer says…Dame Sally blamed the way weight was being portrayed by the media and clothes industry.”  says the BBC this week.

The statistical facts speak for themselves do they not?  Overweight is not simply being seen as the norm: overweight is fast becoming the actual norm!  According to the same BBC report 75% of adults and 33% of children may now be overweight or obese, at a cost of over £5 billion per. year to the NHS.

Just 2 days earlier the BBC reported the scandal of liver disease inaction.   The report declares:

  • Deaths rose by 40% in England between 2001-2012, from 7,841 to 10,948
  • In the past decade there has been a five-fold increase in cirrhosis among people aged 35-55
  • Deaths from liver disease are rising in the UK, but falling in most other European countries.
  • One in five people in the UK is at risk of serious liver damage

One of the biggest contributors to liver disease in the UK is obesity.  Yes – the new “norm” itself is also responsible for a high proportion of liver disease: specifically non-alcoholic fatty liver syndrome.

We increasingly know now that excessive sugar consumption is the root cause.  Dame Sally is right to point to the media as having some culpability here: not by how it portrays weight itself, but by the way it turns a blind eye to the way the food industry promotes sugar-laden foods as healthy!

With all the knowledge out there as a result of recent clinical research:

  • why is the food industry still allowed to advertise sugary, refined carbohydrate-rich foods as the healthy option?
  • why is the food industry still allowed to promote low-fat (aka sugar laden) foods as the healthy option?

It beggars belief that the food industry, the media, and the government are creating the problems of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and now, to add to the list, liver disease, whilst at the same time moaning about a lack of action.  A lack of action by whom I would like to ask?

I don’t agree that people are ignorant of their own status as overweight or obese.  I don’t agree at all!  If people were ignorant they wouldn’t be spending a fortune on the so called “healthy options” that make massive profits for the companies that continue to promote and profit from the very products that are causing the problem in the first place!

What people are ignorant of are the true scandals!  The true scandals are that despite all the evidence:

  • the food industry continues to promote sugary, refined-carbohydrate-rich foods.
  • the food industry still claims low-fat to be the healthy option (e.g. a leading brand of low-fat cream cheese contains 50% more sugar than its own full-fat version).
  • the media is happy to profit from advertising revenues from sugar-laden foods.
  • the government continues to collude with its corporate food friends who provide the most harmful foods.
  • the government will not adopt any policy to damage its relationship with the corporate food giants who continue to poison us with addictive sugar – including a suggested sugar tax.
  • the government blames misinformed people – who do try to adopt a healthy diet but fail because food messages are corrupt – for their own failures to take responsible measures to improve available food choices.
  • that obesity is the norm because the food industry, the media and the government are not behaving responsibly.
  • that liver disease is rising in the UK when it is entirely preventable – as evidenced by the falling incidences in other European countries.


Links between diabetes and liver disease

Research at the University of Edinburgh
has shown that people with diabetes are more likely to develop serious liver disease: death from liver disease is a whopping 70% more likely in those with diabetes.

How can this be?  What are the processes that lead to a build up of fat in the liver? Well, it all boils down to how the body processes sugar, and while this might differ depending upon the type of sugar, excess sugar consumption can readily lead to fatty liver syndrome.

First, let’s define “excess” when talking about sugar consumption.  Glucose is the substance the body needs for fuel – to provide the energy for every one of our bodily processes and functions.  We might get this glucose from sugar or from other carbohydrate foods, but as soon as we take more than we can burn as energy our livers have to get involved to remove the extra glucose from our blood streams, and we can say we have consumed excess sugar indeed carbs.

The liver processes different sugars in different ways.

Glucose which isn’t required to meet our immediate energy needs has to be stored.  First the liver stores this as a substance called glycogen in specialist cells sited around the liver and in our muscles.  Once these specialist cells are full – and they do have a finite capacity – then the liver converts the excess into fat, which it deposits in and around its own tissues.  This is one route to the build up of fat within the liver.

New research shows that fructose metabolism is quite different.  Whilst the body has the capacity to convert any carb into glucose, this new research, led by Professor Robert Lustig, shows that very little of the fructose we eat is actually converted into glucose to meet our energy needs.  The rest is converted directly to fat which finds its way into our liver and into our bloodstream directly.  This is a worry for diabetics – because traditionally fructose is equated with low GI and has been thought to affect blood sugar to a lesser degree.  However, the association with fatty liver syndrome is 2-fold: first it causes disease in the liver itself, and secondly this type of body fay is associated with higher levels of inflammation. Molecules called cytokines are produced by the fat cells and released into the blood stream, carrying the potential for inflammation around the body, and being linked with insulin resistance.  The double whammy for diabetics – i.e. liver disease and further insulin resistance, is therefore more inked with fructose than glucose consumption.  Of course it is fructose that finds its way into many low-fat food products.  The fat may not be present in the food itself, but your body will convert it to fat nonetheless – and the most dangerous kind of body fat!

Ordinary table sugar is a combination of glucose and fructose – so both routes to fatty liver syndrome and further liver disease will apply.  The recent bad press for sugar is more than warranted – and it doesn’t impact just on those living with diabetes!