Essential Sugars

Essential Sugars

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Sugar is pretty interesting stuff. It is also misunderstood. For one thing, we all love how “sugar” tastes, but we don’t necessarily love its effects. And that presents a problem. Despite it’s well-documented health hazards, because we love the stuff, no matter how much we try to abstain, when it comes right down to it, turning down that apple pie a la mode or peach gelato, as much as we’d like to, can be pretty difficult, and at times impossible. That’s because our brains (our brainy cells which are fueled by the sweet and sticky substance) are hardwired to love sugar! On the other hand the downside of sugar ingestion, which includes weight gain, diabetes, eye disease, hypertension, jitteriness, and anxiety, well–those we would rather do without. Thus the love-hate relationship we have with what is generally referred to as “sugar”.

Essential Sugars

Sugar cane plantation ready for harvest, São Paulo State, Brazil – By Mariordo , via Wikimedia Commons

But, unbeknownst to many, there’s a whole other side to the subject of sugar! The chemical that most of us know as “sugar” and the substance that is so problematic is actually a special type of sugar called “glucose”. And, as it turns out, glucose is just one version of 8 different sugars that are collectively, if not entirely accurately, referred to as “essential”. These 7 other essential sugars aren’t very tasty or sweet, but importantly, they provide lots of health benefits.

One of these essential sugars is called N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG) from which the arthritis-fighting nutritional supplement glucosamine can be derived. NAG can be especially helpful for skin health. The body can use it as a raw material for the production of the skin’s natural moisturizer hyaluronic acid. It can help prevent and reduce fine line and crow’s feet formation by activating collagen making cells. It may even be used topically to help lighten dark spots and improve other visible signs of skin aging, including thinning and wrinkled skin. And, its digestive system supporting properties can help improve immune system health and reduce the entrance of skin destroying inflammatory factors through the small intestine. In fact under conditions of digestive distress, especially leaky gut syndrome, it’s likely the body will divert NAG away from the skin to help repair the gut lining. That means less NAG available for keeping skin youthful, moisturized, and robust.

Good food sources of NAG include aloe, shitake mushrooms, and cartilage. And, If you’re interested in using N-acetyl glucosamine, it’s available in a supplement form; try a daily dose of 500 or so mg. Or, If you want to use NAG topically, anti-aging skin health benefits can be derived by applying it directly onto the skin. Try making your own skin lightening and tightening toner by putting the contents of one or two 500mg capsules of NAG in a cup or two of distilled water or aloe vera gel. Pour a little on cotton pad and rub it gently on your face 4 or 5 times a week.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition