For many people, caffeine isn’t the end of the dehydration issue because they put sugar in their coffee and often have a sugar-laden snack or dessert (pudding) with it, drink caffeinated soft drinks with lots of sugar, and/or eat chocolate which has caffeine and sugar, etc, etc. This article, therefore, will attempt to explain how the added sugar to caffeinated products increases the dehydrating effect of caffeine, and indeed, how sugar, by itself is dehydrating.
Excess sugar in the blood is often a temporary thing, like the dehydration caused by caffeine consumption. However, like caffeine intake, having a Mars bar or other such thing, creates an unhealthy condition that causes the body to work hard to re-establish homeostasis, including normal hydration. For further information of what I mean by sugar, please see my article called Why No Sugar or Starch, but basically, I’m referring to the disaccharide called sucrose.
Sucrose needs lots of magnesium to be digested, it needs water to be digested, and it causes the kidneys to excrete more water and magnesium, when all the while, magnesium is the energy source for maintaining cellular hydration. Let’s see how this works.
Magnesium and Sucrase
Magnesium activates enzymes to digest food. Sucrose mainly uses the enzyme sucrase to break it down so that it can be absorbed in the body. One molecule of sucrose is the combination of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose. Sucrase breaks the bond between the glucose and galactose molecules in sucrose to make absorption possible. It must take a lot of energy for sucrase to perform this feat because it takes about 56 molecules of magnesium to metabolise one molecule of sucrose. Magnesium is technically an ion because it is electrically charged, but the term molecule is often used casually such as in this case.
In each molecule of sucrose, there are 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, and 11 oxygen atoms. When the sucrose molecule attaches to the sucrase enzyme, it attracts a water molecule (H2O) which attaches to the sucrose molecule on an oxygen atom in the middle and splits while creating two pairs of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. This assists the sucrose to break down into the monosaccharide components. So each molecule of sugar needs a molecule of water in order to be digested. Please see a very good short video showing how this happens here (Animation: Enzyme Action and the Hydrolysis of Sucrose).
Magnesium is generally in short supply in modern man due to his general lack of regard for the way he produces his food. Soils are stripped of magnesium due to modern agricultural and foods are low in nutrients due to high processing techniques. This highlights the problem of substances such as sucrose that decrease an already short supply of magnesium. And the story continues.
A Dysfunctional Gut Leads to Unabsorbed Sugar and Magnesium
Sucrase is found in the small intestine in the brush border of the enterocyte cells of the microvilli, the finger-like surface that aids absorption of nutrients into the blood. I discussed this a bit more in my article called Why No Sugar or Starch with reference to the common problem of what is referred to as a leaky gut. This is when the microvilli are damaged. They become worn down for various reasons and lose the capacity to digest foods, especially starches and disaccharide sugars. This can lead to a host of problems such as sugar being left behind to feed the yeast Candida.
The distinguished researcher and author John Yudkin claimed that sucrose was a cause of diseases in the digestive tract because it contributes to the creation of a high osmotic pressure, especially when large amounts of sugar are consumed. This, in turn, leads to chronic irritation of the gastric and duodenal mucosa. If the intestinal tract is inflamed or diseased, the absorption of magnesium will be diminished.
Magnesium and Cellular Hydration
In my last article, I discussed how sodium (Na+) and potassium (K+) ions are involved in the dehydration process. I mentioned how these ions are moved in and out of cells by means of a transporter called the Na+/K+ ATPase in order to, among other things, maintain the osmotic pressure on cell membranes. This pressure keeps the cells in a proper state of hydration.
The Na+/K+ ATPase pump is reliant on energy from the hydrolysis of Adenosine-5'-triphosphate (ATP). “ATP exists in cells normally as a chelate of ATP and a magnesium ion.” So we see here a direct connection between cellular hydration and magnesium. This is evidence that “many of the same factors that can result in a magnesium deficiency can cause dehydration as well.” But as if that’s not enough, the kidneys react negatively to excessive sugar consumption as well.
Kidneys are triggered to eliminate excess sugar in the blood
It is well known that excessive intake of sugar in a short period of time will lead to a dehydrating effect on the body due to the effect this has on the kidneys. Here are a few quotes that make this point:
“If your kidneys start producing more urine to try to eliminate the sugar and you lose enough fluid, dehydration can result.” (Livestrong)
“Elevated blood sugar causes osmotic diuresis, where the sugar exits through your kidneys and carries water out with it into the urine. As a result, your kidneys are unable to reabsorb the water.” (Body Ecology)
“Excess blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, is directly related to dehydration; the body triggers the kidneys to allow extra urine to flow in order to get rid of the sugar and normalize blood glucose levels. … This is especially true for diabetics, but even people who have not been diagnosed with diabetes can experience this reaction when eating or drinking more sugar than the body can metabolize.” (Dr Martha Rich)
As if this wasn’t enough, sugar causes the kidneys to excrete magnesium. So, the body tries to get rid of the sugar by flushing water through the kidneys with a little help from magnesium. Looks like a clue to me that the body doesn’t like sugar because it sacrifices an element that is vitally important to health (magnesium) as well as upsetting the water balance in order to get rid of it.
1. Digestion of sugar uses up magnesium and water.
2. Sugar contributes to digestive problems that inhibit the absorption of sugar and magnesium.
3. Excess sugar may be urinated out along with magnesium.
These three strands all add up to magnesium deficiency and dehydration.
While doing this research, I noticed that there are lots of magnesium supplements on the market. I don’t think this is the solution. For one thing, it will probably just be excreted due to what I’ve discussed above.
Please remember, readers, that everyone is different. A healthy young male athlete who eats organic whole foods will be much better able to digest sugar and even caffeine than say a twelve year old overweight girl who eats junk foods, drinks lots of Coke and sits in front of the computer most of the day. Generally speaking though, sugar and caffeine are best used in moderation, if at all. This is a far cry from what the norm is today.
Image Credit with thanks: Wiki: Sugar