Avoid Synthetic Food
Part 7: Refined Sugar
“I am confident that Western medicine will admit what has been known in the Orient for years: sugar is without question the number one murderer in the history of humanitymuch more lethal than opium or radioactive fallout.”
~Nyoiti Sakurazawa, Japanese Doctor
“No matter how difficult it is to realize that something so sweet can really be the devil in disguise, we have to start believing it. The hard facts are staring us in the face and telling us in no uncertain terms that our health and lives depend upon it.”
~Ann Louise Gittleman, M.S., C.N.S.
The statements above may seem radical, but refined sugar, so seductive and sweet, is also an addictive toxin. Heavily processed, it lacks nutritional value and saps minerals from the body. It is linked to health problems that go well beyond obesity. My advice: avoid it. We’ll discuss some healthy alternatives after examining some of the facts about refined sugar.
The Addiction Risk
Many holistic healers insist that refined sugar is addictive, a view examined by the mainstream scientific community at a summer 2003 conference, when Princeton University researchers induced lab rats to binge on large amounts of sugar and then abruptly excluded it from the animals’ diets. The rats experienced withdrawal-like symptoms: their teeth chattered, they became anxious and the usual balance of neurochemicals in the parts of their brains pertaining to motive was turned upside-down.[iii]
Natural health advocates who allege that sugar is a poison are largely following in the footsteps of William Coda Martin, a doctor who expressed early support for this view. In a 1957 article published in the Michigan Organic News, he wrote that: “Medically, poison denotes any substance applied to, ingested or developed within the body that causes or may cause disease.” Physically, he defined poison as “any substance that inhibits the activity of chemical or enzymatic catalysts that activate a reaction.” He included refined sugar, which is transformed into pure, refined carbohydrates, as being such a substance. He explained that the body cannot utilize this refined starch and carbohydrate unless proteins, vitamins and minerals are present.
Live Naturally: Improve Your Health Today
Nature supplies these elements in each plant in quantities sufficient to metabolize the carbohydrate in that particular plant. There is no excess for added carbohydrates. Incomplete carbohydrate metabolism results in the formation of ‘toxic metabolites’ such as pyruvic acid and abnormal sugars containing five carbon atoms. Pyruvic acid accumulates in the brain and nervous system, while abnormal sugars accumulate in red blood cells. These toxic metabolites interfere with the respiration of the cells, which cannot get sufficient oxygen to survive and function normally. In time, some of the cells die. This, he concludes, “interferes with the function of a part of the body and is the beginning of degenerative disease.”[iv]
B Vitamin Depletion
When you eat refined sugar, you ingest a substance that not only lacks nutritional value, but also robs your body of minerals (such as chromium, manganese, cobalt, copper, zinc and magnesium), enzymes and vitamins (especially the B vitamins). B vitamins are required to metabolize sugar. Constant sugar consumption can lead to a vitamin B deficiency, which translates into poor metabolism, low energy and mental/nervous disorders. Many B vitamins (which are responsible for proper nerve and brain function) are manufactured by symbiotic bacteria living in our intestines. Too much refined sugar kills these friendly bacteria, resulting in an even greater B vitamin deficiency, which can cause sleepiness, mental fatigue and many other symptoms. Furthermore, a significant loss of friendly bacteria in the gut allows entry of unfriendly bacteria, which can weaken the immune system (and often leads to ear infections, particularly in children).
Daily intake of refined sugar creates an acidic condition that quickly consumes the body’s mineralsespecially calcium, needed to alkalinize the systemcausing a general weakening of the body. The parasympathetic nervous system, which governs our digestive processes, is adversely affected; thus, food cannot be digested or assimilated properly. This leads to a blood sugar imbalance and an intensified craving for sugar. Serious catch 22!
Refined sugar passes quickly into the bloodstream in large amounts, which shocks the pancreas and stomach. The pancreas goes into overdrive to make enough insulin (a hormone that carries sugar to the cells to be metabolized or stored) to normalize blood sugar by taking excess sugar out of the bloodstream and turning it into glycogen for energy or moving it into fat storage. This can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, which then signals the adrenal glands to release high levels of cortisol (the fight or flight hormone), putting the body into high-stress mode. The result is a quick burst of energy that lasts about two hours, followed by an equally fast drop in energy. Picks you up and lets you down!
The Hypoglycemia & Diabetes Connection
Hypoglycemia and adult-onset diabetes are directly linked to sugar consumptionthere are estimates that 98 percent of all adult-onset diabetes is diet-induced. Hypoglycemia occurs when refined sugar and/or other refined foods such as white flour, are consumed on a regular basis. Hypoglycemia is a state of low blood sugar due to an over-reactive pancreas that sends out too much insulin to compensate for the excess processed sugar. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include fatigue, lack of concentration, anxiety, mood swings and irritability. Adult-onset diabetes usually follows hypoglycemia when insulin receptors in the cells no longer respond to the insulin being produced by the pancreas, causing high blood sugar and/or when insulin production has dropped or stopped. These degenerative diseases are virtually always diet-related and are completely avoidable (and reversible)!
Immune System Suppression
Refined sugar also slowly destroys the immune system by:
• Undermining the ability of white blood cells to kill germs for up to five hours after ingestion
• Reducing the production of antibodies
• Interfering with the transport of vitamin C (an important immune builder)
• Causing severe mineral imbalances
• Neutralizing the action of essential fatty acids
Since our immune system is involved in every aspect of maintaining health, the over-consumption of sugar may be linked to virtually every known ailment and degenerative disease.
Joseph Mercola, DO, with Nancy Applegate, author of Lick the Sugar Habit, has compiled an extraordinary list of 78 reasons to avoid sugar, gleaned from an array of scientific and medical literature. The list, with its carefully cited claims, is damning; it indicts sugar for a host of modern ailments, including varicose veins, depression, increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, arthritis, cataracts, etc. And, of course, the two health risks you already knew went hand in hand with sugartooth decay and obesity. For the complete list with citations, see: www.mercola.com/article/sugar/dangers_of_sugar.htm.
Avoiding refined sugar can be tricky, because it’s in nearly everything we eat and drink. The average American consumes 150 pounds of refined sweeteners each year. For example, most soda pop has at least seven teaspoons worth of refined sugar per can. You have to know how to translate the ingredients on labels, because refined sugar has many names, depending on its source. When derived from sugar cane or beets, it’s called sucrose; when derived from corn it’s called dextrose. It’s known as fructose when derived from fruit and as maltose when derived from malt.
I’d like to stress that substituting artificial sweeteners for refined sugar is not the way to go. Many such sweeteners have been associated with serious health problemsso why take the risk, especially when, as you’ll see below, you have plenty of other options? When assessing the hazards of artificial sweeteners, consider aspartame, commonly sold under the trade names NutraSweet and Equal, approved by the FDA in the early 1980s amid controversy. Since its approval, some health organizationseven those that vouch for its safetyhave acknowledged an extraordinary number of public complaints, recorded but largely dismissed by the FDA, about aspartame’s neurotoxic side-effects. Check out the thorough discussion of aspartame earlier in this chapter for more details.
There are several alternative sweeteners that are much healthier than refined sugar. Pure maple syrup contains minerals and vitamins, as do blackstrap molasses, rice syrup and barley malt. All of these sweeteners can be found at natural foods stores. When you have a sweet tooth and want to buy a prepackaged product, look for those that contain one of these natural sweeteners instead of refined sugars or anything ending in “ose.” At a natural foods store, you can even find soda pop with less sugar (or with “better” sweeteners, as listed above) than their conventional counterparts.
Another alternative sweetener that contains no calories, improves digestion (and is about 200 times sweeter than sugar!) is the herb stevia. Unfortunately, the FDA has outlawed manufacturers of stevia from labeling it as an alternative sweetener, so stevia is marketed as a supplement. Although stevia is a completely safe herb that has been used for thousands of years, the FDA, citing a lack of conclusive studies on the herb’s safety, banned its sale in the United States in the early 1990s, until the natural foods industry got it approved as a supplement.
Companies are eager to use stevia as a natural sweetener, but can’t afford the price and hassle of ignoring the FDA’s stance. By 2001, stevia sales reached $10 million in the United States; however, no company marketing the herb is equal to the financial might of G.D. Searle, the pharmaceutical firm that pushed for FDA approval of aspartame. (Interestingly, Searle was later bought out by Monsanto, which in 2000 sold its sweetener business for $440 million cash[v]).
In the late 1990s, Stevita, a Texas-based company that has produced and sold stevia for 15 years, was targeted by the FDA for allegedly marketing its products as sweeteners. FDA agents entered the company’s warehouses, looking for “labeling violations,” books and other material representing stevia as a conventional food product. After sifting through various printed materials, the agency determined the company had violated the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1997. Stevita’s President and Vice-Presidents have said that the FDA ordered the destruction of stevia-related publications, a claim the FDA denies. But the agency does not deny expending substantial time and effort (and consequently, money) to carry out detailed inspections of Stevita’s and other companies’ warehouses, as well as of retail establishmentsa shining example of your tax dollars at work.
Stevia is a threat to both the sugar and artificial sweetening industries, so it’s no wonder the FDA has done all it can to stop the sale of this remarkable herbal sweetener. But don’t let them stop you from trying it. You can get it in packets just like Equal and NutraSweet, or in liquid form. The small bottle seems expensive, but you only need a drop or two. Check out www.cookingwithstevia.com for more stevia facts and recipes, as well as a stevia-to-sugar conversion chart (unlike aspartame, which loses its sweetness at high temperatures, stevia can be used in cooking).
>>> Go To Part 7: Refined Oils and Salt
[i] The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological and Electromagnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness, Val Valerian, p. 127 (www.trufax.org).