by Justina Hurley
Top things to know about refined sugar
- It leeches calcium from the bones and teeth
- It reduces skin elasticity, so causes wrinkles
- A half litre of cola contains the equivalent of approx 16 sugar cubes
- It leads to fat around the tummy
- It can cause liver and heart damage, brain degeneration and diabetes.
- Cancer loves sugar and that is why PET Scans use a sugar based agent to trace cancerous cells.
Writing in the British Medical Journal this week, Professor Simon Capewell, professor of public health at the University of Liverpool, believes there should be health warning labels on sugary drinks. According to him:
Sugar is increasingly being implicated as a specific causal factor for obesity and heart disease and current UK and US obesity policies are failing to reverse obesity trends.
Many other harmful products already carry warnings such as insecticides, other toxic products and cigarettes – the effectiveness of which are now agreed by almost everyone.
A recent BBC survey found that 60% of adults would support health warnings similar to those on cigarette packets on food packaging. Even more, 70%, would support “banning sugary drinks in UK schools, or limiting the amount of sugar allowed in certain foods.
Professor Capewell says the industry is now moving positively and feels that ‘calorie control’ strategies could learn from previous successful lessons in tobacco control and alcohol control. For example, the campaigning group Action on Sugar has recently persuaded several UK supermarkets to support their cause. Tesco agreed to “write to all suppliers asking them to remove all added sugars from children’s soft drinks”, while the Co-op, “also plan to slash added sugar from products” and Asda agreed “that innovation of healthy new products was ‘fundamental’”.
But why is refined sugar so bad?
Sir Frederick Banting, the codiscoverer of insulin, noticed in 1929 in Panama that, among sugar plantation owners who ate large amounts of their refined stuff, diabetes was common. Among native cane-cutters, who only got to chew the raw cane, he saw no diabetes. Source
Refined sugar is in essence an empty food. It is processed in such a way that all the proteins, vitamins and minerals necessary for safe digestion have been removed and so what is left is pure refined carbohydrates.
In the 1950s, Dr. William Coda Martin described refined sugar as a poison. He said:
The body cannot utilize this refined starch and carbohydrate unless the depleted proteins, vitamins and minerals are present. Nature supplies these elements in each plant in quantities sufficient to metabolize the carbohydrate in that particular plant. There is no excess for other added carbohydrates.
Incomplete carbohydrate metabolism results in the formation of ‘toxic metabolite’ such as pyruvic acid and abnormal sugars containing five carbon atoms. Pyruvic acid accumulates in the brain and nervous system and the abnormal sugars in the red blood cells.
These toxic metabolites interfere with the respiration of the cells. They cannot get sufficient oxygen to survive and function normally. In time, some of the cells die. This interferes with the function of a part of the body and is the beginning of degenerative disease.
As an empty food, to process refined sugar the body must use its own reserves to try to digest and eliminate what it ultimately sees as a toxin in the system. Continuous over use of sugar leads to an overly acidic system and a leaching of minerals and vitamins from deep within the body. Calcium is heavily used and so is drawn from the bones and teeth. This is why heavy sugar use leads to tooth decay.
Sugary drinks are particularly bad as Professor Capewell explains:
Many sweetened drinks and fruit juices contain substantial amounts of added sugars.
But sugary calories consumed as liquids simply do not provide the same signals of satiety, or fullness, generated by equal calories from solid foods
At the turn of the century, an American dentist, Weston A Price became alarmed at the rise in tooth decay and general decline in the health of his patients. He set out to study healthy native cultures around the world to see what it was that had so changed the health of those living in so called civilised society.
He studied a wide array of isolated groups; from Eskimo, Aboriginal Australians, African tribes to those living in remote Swiss villages, Scottish and Polynesian Islands, and in the Amazon and northern Canada.
In these health groups he found healthy teeth with no over crowding and good wide set facial features. This was in sharp contrast with the increasing tendency he was seeing in his local Ohio patient where tooth overcrowding, narrowing of the facial structure and tooth decay was becoming common.
What he found was that while all the healthy groups ate different diets, all the diets had in common a high consumption of saturated fats and a low consumption of sweet natural foods and zero consumption of processed foods.
What he also observed was that as the isolated groups came into contact with civilisation and began to change their diets the same dental problems and changes in facial features began to emerge. The newly introduced foods were always the same:
- sugar and sugary drinks and sodas
- white flour
- condensed milk
- canned vegetables
- refined grains
- vegetable oils
What all of these foods have in common is that they are highly processed and so lacking the balance of vitamins and minerals found in the unprocessed source food.
And refined sugar was found to be one of the worst of the newly introduced foods precisely because it was so easy to add it to everything and particularly to soft drinks and juices.
Sugar eaten naturally in low amounts is not the same food as refined sugar. In moderation, natural sugars are not a problem for the body and are best eaten with a saturated fat as this slows down the rate at which the sugar enters the blood stream.
There are plenty of natural sugars that can be used in cooking and more information on these is given below.
In the meantime Professor Capewell’s proposal that there should be health warning labels on sugary drinks could really be extended to a warning on all foods that contain refined sugar. Refined sugar has zero nutritional value and is ultimately harmful to the body.
The video below from the Weston A Price Foundation outlines the correct use of the following whole sweeteners
- Maple Syrup
- Maple Sugar
- Malted Grain Syrups
- Raw Honey
- Date Sugar
- Coconut Sugar and Coconut Nectar