Sugar – the disease generator

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On some level most of us know that sugar is not healthy, but I don’t think the majority of us have any idea truly how devastating sugar is. And reducing one’s sugar consumption is challenging as it is highly addictive, causing withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, depression, fatigue, and cravings.

Even as early as the 60s, the research of Alfred Lopez repeatedly pointed to sugar as being a significant player in the development of heart disease, and then Ahrens’ work in the 70s found the same thing. Sugar causes an increase in the adhesiveness of the blood platelets, which may be the reason for its role in heart disease.

Sugar is also implicated as a causative factor in type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, kidney disease, liver disease, obesity, and depression, and is important in the growth of cancerous tumors, as cancer cells love sugar.

Every tablespoon of sugar depresses the immune system for up to 6 hours. If you find that you are constantly sick, sugar may be a large part of the reason.

Sugar also encourages candida albicans overgrowth, a fungus that starts in the digestive tract and can spread to the internal organs and the respiratory system. Common symptoms may include yeast infections, digestive problems, or asthma.

Sugar is far more fattening for most people than fat is. The leading source of calories for kids and teens is from carbonated soft drinks and juice containing high-fructose corn syrup and sugar, and as a result they are becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes at an alarming rate. In liquid form, sugars are very problematic as usually they are consumed as extra calories as opposed to substituting for solid foods.

High fructose corn syrup (often listed as "fructose glucose" on labels in Canada) is a crystalline fructose or hydrolized fructose product that is manufactured in the lab (genetically modified corn) that came onto the market in about 1970, and because it is so inexpensive, it is used as a preservative in all kinds of foods one would not expect.

I have even noticed it as an ingredient in those touted-as-healthy low-calorie frozen dinners! It is now everywhere in processed foods, including crackers, baked goods, salad dressings, ketchup, medications, and obviously, soft drinks.

High-fructose corn syrup is particularly dangerous, because unlike sucrose which raises blood-glucose levels, HFC syrup converts into triglycerides and adipose tissue within an hour of ingestion. Interestingly, the rise in obesity rates correlate very well to the introduction of this destructive product.

When I am feeling particularly cynical, I wonder why the term "sugar diabetes" has all but disappeared from the lexicon. Is it because it is more profitable to treat disease rather than to encourage the removal of HFC syrup and other forms of processed sugar from the marketplace?

So read labels carefully. No form of sugar is healthy, so know that any word that ends in "ose" is a form of sugar, such as glucose, sucrose, fructose, maltose, lactose, dextrose, galactose etc. Also watch for "monosaccharides" or "disaccharides", or various "syrups" which are also fancy names for sugar.

Almost all sugar on the market is highly processed, and as such the nutrient-dense molasses of the sugar-cane plant has been stripped away. The only sugar on the market that is a whole food is from Brazil, and is called Rapadura which literally means, "unseparated sugar". If you must use sugar, this is the only one that can be recommended.

"Sucanat", "turbinado", "raw sugar", "demerara", "muscovado", and "evaporated cane juice", are all examples of separated sugar and should be avoided.

To wean yourself off sugar, you may find it helpful to take a gram or two a day of omega 3 fish oils, to reduce the cravings.

Bray, George et al. Consumption of high fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Vol. 79, no. 4, p. 537-543, April 2004.

Wiley-Rosette, Judith et al: Carbohydrates and Increases in Obesity: Does the type of Carbohydrate make a difference? Obesity Research, 12, Supplement 2, 124S, 2004.

Fallon, Sally and Enig, Mary; Nourishing Traditions, Revised 2nd Edition NewTrends Publishing Inc., Washington, D.C., 2001.

Kaufmann, Doug A.: The Fungus Link Media Trition Inc., Rockwall, Texas, 2000.

Mercola, Joseph, Dr.: Dr. Mercola’s Total Health Program Mercola, Schaumberg, Illinois, 2005.

Chambers, Judy, RNCP: The Effects of Sugar. Online at www.dynamicbynature.com

Wood, Rebecca: Natural Sugar. Online atwww.benourished.com

Yudkin, J. and Roddy J, Levels of Dietary Sucrose in patients with occlusive atherosclerotic disease The Lancet 1964, 2:6

Lopez, A. et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1966, 18:149-153.

Howell, Edward, MD Enzyme Nutrition 1985, Avery Publishing, Wayne, NJ, 88, 104.

Beasley, Joseph MD, and Swift, Jerry MA, The Kellogg Report, 1989, The Institute of Health Policy and Practice, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, 129, 132

Fields, M, Proceedings of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine, 1984, 175:530-537.

Page, Melvin; Degeneration, Regeneration, 1949, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, San Diego, CA.

copyright: Vreni Gurd 2006

www.wellnesstips.ca

22 Comments »

  1. Sideeka Ojar said,

    January 6, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

    Hi What should I do if I get a craving for sugar? Do you recommend another food to take instead? I feel for something sweet especially after a meal. Thank you Sideeka

  2. Vreni said,

    January 6, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

    Hi Sideeka,

    I must say I often want something sweet after dinner too. How about some fresh fruit?

    Sweet cravings, strangely enough, often go away if you eat more good quality fats – particularly fish oils, so fatty fish, and saturated fat like whole milk, raw if possible. Also sweet cravings increase if you eat a lot of sugar and flour products, so by trying to eat more whole foods that have not been processed. Your body will digest them more slowly, so you won’t get that desire for sweets as frequently.

    I hope that helps! Thanks for commenting.

    Vreni :)

  3. Sideeka Ojar said,

    January 9, 2008 @ 8:27 pm

    Hi Vreni,Thanks for the info, I appreciate it. Do you recommend cooking with coconut oil and making smoothies with coconut milk?. I am told it is bad for cholesterol. What do you think. I use olive oil most times and rice milk..

  4. Vreni said,

    January 9, 2008 @ 11:40 pm

    Hi Sideeka,

    Virgin coconut oil is wonderful to cook with and to make smoothies with. It is a stable fat, so it won’t go rancid with cooking, and it has special antibacterial and antiviral properties. Yes, there is a chance it will raise total cholesterol, but it is not likely to worsen your LDL/HDL ratio. I am completely unconvinced of the idea that high cholesterol leads to heart disease. The research actually does not support the notion if you look at it carefully. Read my post on cholesterol (put cholesterol in the search engine – you’ll find it.) Or get the book The Great Cholesterol Con by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, or Gary Taubes’ recent book Good Calories Bad Calories if you need to be convinced. Ufe Ravnkov (sp?) wrote a book called The Cholesterol Myths which is also excellent.

    Make sure the rice milk you use does not have any canola oil in it. Olive oil is good for low temperature cooking.

    Hope that helps!

  5. Jodi said,

    March 25, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

    Hi Vreni!
    I’m doing a nutrition component right now in my dental hygiene program. In the textbook we’re given (The Dental Hygienist’s Guide to Nutritional Care) it states:

    “sugar consumption at typical American levels does not directly contribute to any chronic health or behavioral problems unless excessive sugar consumption results in energy imbalance and weight gain”.

    What do you think of this? Is there more need for concern if a person has a weight issue? Shouldn’t we all be concerned about the detrimental effects of sugar, overweight or not? I am not overweight, but I tend to become hypoglycemic quite easily and I have a family history of Type II Diabetes so I try to avoid refined sugars. From this statement in my textbook, I really shouldn’t have to worry about sugar causing disease in my body at all!? Sigh. Any recommendations on good journal articles to counter this?

  6. Vreni said,

    March 25, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

    Hi Jodi,

    Well, I’m sure you know that I couldn’t disagree with that statement more! Especially after the book I just finished, Good Calories Bad Calories – I think that if anyone seriously looked, they would be overwhelmed with the evidence against sugar with respect to chronic disease. Read the ultimate classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, written by a dentist, (and actually quite a good read) – there simply is no other conclusion to come to, but the fact that sugar, flour, and other nutritionally deplete foods have brought on disease. I’m actually quite shocked that a dental text would state that.

    As for journal articles, check the references for all my tips related to sugar – maybe you can find something you can use. Or go to http://www.mercola.com and search on sugar, and you will find a reference list too.

    Aaurgh! How long is it going to take before the mainstream health establishment sees the obvious??? Clearly what we are currently doing is NOT working!!! So, keep doing the same and expect a different response? Didn’t someone famous say that was the definition of insanity??

    Best of luck, Jodi. I have a feeling your battle may not be an easy one. :)

  7. Thomass said,

    March 26, 2008 @ 1:51 am

    Sugar is not a poison, it’s a nutrient that we get too much of. Improper consumption can be very bad for your health, but most of sugar’s problems can easily be solved:

    Tooth decay: This is caused by sugar staying on teeth for long enough that bacteria ferment it into acids that damage tooth enamel. But since both sugar and acid are water-soluble, just drink water after you eat sugar. Swish it around a bit as you swallow. It’s good practice to do this after a meal anyway.

    Empty calories: Sugar is pure carbohydrate with no other nutrients. like all carbs and protein, it has 4 calories per gram. but when it’s in other foods, then it DOES have other nutrients with it (sweetened tomato sauce still has vitamin C, sweetened peanut butter still has protein, zinc, etc…) Some foods have extra nutrients fortified too which balance things out. Ever heard the old expression “just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”? Adding sugar to healthy foods is the only way to intice the majority of people to eat them.

    High glycemic index: Sugar creates a spike of energy, a spike of insulin, and a crashing low. But once again, this isn’t the case when it’s added to foods. adding sugar to foods with fibre, protein, or complex carbs, will very much dampen the highs and lows.

    Of course, if you fill up on mainly sugar and fat without much protein, fibre, water, vitamins or minerals, then you won’t be healthy. Most studies that link sugar to diseases involve people who eat badly that way. But following the Food Guide and living off of processed, mainstream foods, won’t have the same terrible effects. And if/when you eat sweets, balance it out later on with a big bowl of lentils or beans, cooked fresh (look up recipies). When you depend on legumes for protein, you don’t have to worry as much about bad calories. Plus it costs way less and is much better for the environment. It’s best to eat just a bit of meat.

    Don’t avoid good foods just because they have sugar added, or because they’re processed. Mass-production is the only way we can feed the ever-increasing world population. Dedicated farmers and machines are much more efficient at producing food than small-scale homegrown organic production. Most “health” foods don’t even have recyclable packaging, because it’s too small a business to include that issue. Good foods need to appeal to the majority of people, and sometimes this means adding sugar, salt, preservatives, artificial flavour, etc. Processed foods can be almost as healthy as “natural” foods, but at a fraction of the costs.

    Please care not just about your own health but about the health of the world. Despite the lack of news coverage, it IS the most important issue in the world, affecting far more people than cancer or issues in the middle east. With billions starving on this planet, you don’t need to eat the highest quality food. Just follow the food guide, reduce your meat, stay active, and support ending world poverty! :)

  8. Jeff said,

    June 28, 2008 @ 10:52 am

    Your comments on sugar are good, but stating the obvious isn’t really helpful to anyone who is informed about nutrition. You don’t emphasize the other component: that refined carbohydrates are essentially equivalent to sugar in the body, being nearly instantly converted to sugar the moment they hit the mouth. I think you are mostly preaching to the converted here, and at least where I live there is not really a lack of information available, just a lot of denial, and what is locally referred to as “addictive tendencies” or an “eating disorder” or considered another emotional disorder.
    Many people take a moralistic view, and see it as a problem of self-discipline, lack of impulse control or some other character flaw. As a practicing physician for 30 years, I can assure you that patient education is not the answer. Each patient is an individual challenge, or an enigma to be solved. Ultimately the most effective treatment will be pharmaceutical (in combination with nutritional) which many people also object to, or remain in denial about, despite the accumulating genomic and neurological (brain imaging studies) evidence. The big drug companies know this, and have the economic incentive to pursue this, but have been spectacularly unsuccessful in finding the “magic bullet” they can patent for billions in profits. I agree that natural, unprofitable nutritional supplementation can be helpful, but appears to require intensive individual attention and is only occasionally successful in the long term. I imagine this is the kind of work you are doing, and I completely support it, but in addition I believe that more potent combinations of neuropharmaceutics are often needed as well. This is a very difficult area of practice, not very profitable if at all, and can be considered risky in many ways (potential serious side effects, minor adverse reactions with compliance difficulty, & legal risk due to lack of adhering to established indications and protocols, which is a major problem in California, although I have never been sued for this or any other medical malpractice personally).
    The only solution I can offer is perhaps available through the internet. Every person can now easily do their own nutritional and pharmacological research, and almost everything can be ordered online without a prescription often cheaper than U.S.
    drugstore prices. I believe all humans possess the intelligence to do this, if they are somewhat motivated, and willing to take some small risk (probably less risk than driving a car or even going into the hospital!). I think many people underestimate themselves in their ability to problem solve, which is a major characteristic of our species. The lingering paternalism of the medical profession (despite the recent prevalence of female practitioners) continues to dis-empower patients from pursuing this option. The newer generation, which is not intimidated by computers, may be capable of accomplishing this, although some people who are “right brained” may require a “left brain” assistant- a good friend would be better than a paid professional
    in almost every way.

  9. Vreni said,

    June 28, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

    Hi Jeff,

    I agree that probably I’m preaching to the converted largely (too bad), and I also agree that in this post I did not address the flour /starch issue, but I have dealt extensively with that topic in other posts, like Another health heart guide that got it wrong How we become over-fat”, just to name two. I fully agree that obesity is not a behavioural problem, but rather a hormonal one – usually with insulin being the driver of the problem.

    I’m not convinced that drugging people is the answer. I do agree that people are in denial, but also the food guides are telling people to eat flour and way too many grains, and they are still advocating low fat diets. Well, low fat = high carb = disease. Until the medical establishment and the nutrition establishment tell people to stop eating flour and sugar, they won’t. We actually have decreased our saturated fat consumption a lot, if you look at the food stats, so people in general are trying. But governments/doctors/dietitians are giving them the wrong information. The food guides are promoting a high glycemic diet. No wonder we are such a mess!

    I think the intervention that is needed is not drugs, but rather bans on high fructose corn syrup and transfats to start. Then change the food guides and get bread, pasta, other flour products (corn starch), white rice, and other processed grains out of there. Stop encouraging low fat dairy, as that is simply high sugar dairy. Stop promoting juice. Once the food guides change, food manufacturers will follow suit (although I think people need to get back to eating REAL food, not stuff that a food manufacturer comes up with). Also, coffee shops and restaurants will begin to provide protein options (hard boiled eggs), rather than only muffins, scones and cookies. People often don’t have much choice if they don’t take the time to plan.

    I’m definitely not a promoter of supplements. I think of food as a food complex – isolate a piece out, (like ascorbic acid instead of an orange) and the body then needs to create the whole complex again before it can utilize it. The only supplements I suggest are a probiotic, and cod liver oil, which can be considered a food.

    I also agree with you that people need to take responsibility for their own health, and that they have the capacity to problem solve, if they were to take the time and make the effort. I like to think that is happening more and more with the advent of the internet.

    Thank you so much for giving your opinion! :)

  10. roberta robinson said,

    July 21, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

    wow, sugar is bad? doesn’t it all break down into glucose? is it not possible that the body releases the exact amount of insulin per amount of glucose and that it doesn’t always over shoot causing a crash? where did we all get the idea that the body necessarily overeacts to glucose and over shoots the insulin?

    insulin resistance is not caused in general by over abundant insulin but rather by the cells turning off thei receptors or inabilty for the receptors to transfer the sugar into the cell (since it has to penetrate a lipid and protein membrane) or by the cells just being full and not able to take in anymore.

    I read that the cells can remove their receptors off the surface when the cells are full, everyone’s body has insulin resistance, that is how the body controls where glucose and fat and protein are stored. without the cells ability to remove the receptors and storing them inside the cells the cells who energy wasn’t used up would burst or expand huge. for a runner insulin resistance prevents the arms from getting the glucose and making sure the glucose goes to the muscles that used up their energy. you would have big huge arms and tiny legs muscles with out selective insulin resistance.

    there are still alot of theories as to why obesity is so hard to treat and why high insulin levels are so hard to treat and figure out why they are elevated and staying that way. one theory is the liver is diseased or damaged and cannot remove the spent insulin fast enough, or the alpha cells are over producing glucagon, because it can’t sense the amount of glucose in the blood so the insulin is constantly being released in response to the glucogon causing sugar to be release from the liver. also their is the damaged cell theory where the cells uptake rancid veggie oils since the body is constantly overturning lipids in and out all the time, and incorporated rancid veggies oils into the cell membranes and these cause disease basically and the cell can’t get the sugar through without alot of insulin (I look at insulin as the water for sugar) sugar is very sticky ever handle raw honey? I can’t get that stuff off me unless I use water. and that sugar has to get through the lipid membrane is is greasy, so insulin starts the ball rolling on chemical reactions that allow the sugar to pass through this membrane without sticking to it.

    that is why 1ac is a way to measure how your body is handling sugar as sugar sticks to read blood cells if it stays in the blood to long. my 1ac has improved by 50 percent last time checke. this tells me my body is handling glucose better insulin is working better. but to blame sugar for all these woes is unreasonable. sure cancer feeds on glucose but so do we. after all cancer cells are only body cells that dna didn’t divide right and activly growing cells need more glucose then non active cells. naturally you can starve the cancer cell by not eating any carbs including good carbs but you only end up in ketosis and starve your self to starve the cancer. in order for that to work you would have to maintain the diet a long time as I guess cancer cells can feed on glycerol (which is a sugar) from fat breakdown just like the rest of the body can. by the way your body can breakdown protein to get sugar so either way you feed the cancer cells.

    so to demonize a certain food saying it is the cause of the ills of mankind is silly. I would agree that processed foods with all these additives for long storage life, taste, and no doubt some will add addictive ingredients to get you to buy more of it and keep buying it so they can keep making money. alot of creeps in the world who don’t care about our health, only about profits.

    RR

  11. Vreni said,

    July 21, 2008 @ 5:07 pm

    Hi Roberta,

    While I completely agree with you that our body needs glucose as fuel, it can get adequate amounts from the vegetables we eat. Since about 1900, processed sugar consumption has increased dramatically as it became available to the masses, and since 1970 with the advent of high fructose corn syrup, our diets are full of sugar. The other big issue is the huge rise in flour consumption since 1900, which the body also treats as sugar.

    The body can’t seem to handle the quantity of processed sugar and flour that we are consuming now, and although you are correct about insulin resistance being caused by receptor downgrades, this occurs due to too much insulin in the bloodstream, being caused by too much sugar in the blood stream. So sugar drives insulin, which eventually causes insulin receptor downgrades and insulin resistance.

    If you really want to understand this topic, I would suggest you read the book by Gary Taubes – Good Calories Bad Calories. I did a couple of summary articles on the book which should explain the concept generally ….

    Obesity – a behavioural or metabolic issue?

    Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease – what does history tell us?

    How we become over-fat”

    Hope that helps.

  12. Jennifer said,

    March 11, 2012 @ 8:04 am

    @Thomas – even though glucose is the preferred fuel in the body, fats (especially LCFAs) can be used for fuel as well. I continually explain to clients: there are Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), Essential Amino Acids (9 of them, as the body can manufacture the others) however, there is NO such thing as an Essential Carbohydrate!

    If you look up the definition of “Poison” in the Dictionary, sugar can very well be used interchangeably with the true meaning of the word.

    What I feel your article failed to mention Vreni, is the addition of sugar alcohols into the food supply. These sugars ending in “ol” are used in products and marketed as “Diabetic Friendly” or “No sugar added” products since they are not actually adding sugar. What I feel is a scam, is that it really is just a marketing ploy used to target a group of people suffering from an illness, but if one actually looks up malitol for instance, not only does it have almost the same reaction as glucose on insulin, but it also has negative side effects on the GI tract.

    I emplore readers to really know their product and the effects they have on health and the body. We are in the age of free info at the push of a button. This is a very powerful tool available to everyone – despite the tactics used by marketers and corporate businesses.

    Great article, love your referenced info. Cheers!

  13. David Lenson said,

    March 11, 2012 @ 8:31 am

    I’ve seen this article a couple of times now. Something you don’t discuss is the acolohol relationship to the problem as the body also treats heavy alcolhol usage like it does sugar. You amy want to consider extending the article to cover this as well.

    A book by Jonny Bowden (The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth) discusses alcohol and sugar/carb addictions as treatable by using the amino acid L-Glutamine. I can attest that the urge to have a glass of wine, or eat a donut or a large pile of mashed potatoes is greatly reduced by incorporating this into a regimen. It doesn’t need to be perpetual either. Once the body and brain are under control, the cravings go away and there isn’t any need to continue with the glutamine. I think that people who are aware but can’t deal with the addiction to sugar should know about his as it is an inexpensive and effective way of helping one get these things out of one’s diet.

  14. JJS said,

    March 12, 2012 @ 5:39 am

    I found your comment about which sugars should be avoided, which included sucanat. Currently I seeing a holistic nutritionist, who advocates the use of sucanat, agave, etc. I am definitely going to give her this article and challenge her position.

    Thank you for the information. Enjoy reading all of your articles.

  15. Vreni said,

    March 12, 2012 @ 11:30 am

    Perhaps your holistic nutritionist has found a sucanat which is whole. Perhaps it says something to that effect on the label? Agave however, is mostly fructose, almost like high fructose corn syrup, so I would not recommend that. Perhaps try sweetening with stevia? Or better yet, work on your taste buds. I find now that some foods that I used to like are so sweet to me I have trouble eating them.

  16. Vreni said,

    March 12, 2012 @ 11:35 am

    Hi David, thanks for the tip on glutimate. I have written about alcohol and flour in other posts – this one really is the bare basics, but your point is well taken.

  17. LInda said,

    March 18, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

    Hi Vreni
    How can we ever get this through to our young generation who are so attracted to sweet tastes and to being part of the “sweet sucking group”. I have a daughter aged 11 who’s been brought up on a organic Susan Falloon type diet who is now finding independence and spends her time eating store bought sweets!?? Uugh

  18. chris reuter said,

    June 4, 2013 @ 11:31 am

    What about natural raw honey? Does the body treat honey the same way as other sugars?

  19. Vreni said,

    June 4, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

    Raw honey is more nourishing than processed sugar so is a good option, but I would not suggest going crazy with honey either. It will raise insulin levels. But I use honey to sweeten some things on occasion.

  20. Peter W said,

    February 9, 2014 @ 2:40 pm

    Good Morning….
    Great article on sugar…what about good Quebec Maple Syrup, can we use it as a natural, organic sweetener?

  21. Liz said,

    February 9, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

    Well said, Vreni, lots of great info here.

    Our culture has unwittingly become addicted to sugar and it’s wrecking havoc. I’d be interested in your comments about the information contained in this video (if you can look past the FOX News-style delivery): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9-aleeQ2ho&feature=share, specially the part about our sugar cravings being driven by candida.

    I concur on many points covered including:
    * I’ve used L-Glutamine to curb cravings for sugar and/or carbs when I was dealing with severe candida and parasite infection. I found it very effective.
    * I’ve also lost the need for super-sweet foods that I used to eat. It is very much what our taste buds become accustomed to.
    * I’m very curious about the alcohol/sugar relationship. Alcohol is a lightening fast way to get sugar into the bloodstream, so I’m surprised there isn’t more investigation around that connection.

  22. Vreni said,

    February 10, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

    Yes, Quebec Maple Syrup is fine in low quantities like honey is. But it also raises insulin levels, and eaten in excess would cause the same problems as sugar. It does have some nutrition however. Don’t eat maple sugar from other places – often it contains – my brain wants to say formaldehyde – trying to remember – but something really nasty. Even better if you can get it from someone you know and trust that makes it.

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