Sweet ‘N Dangerous

Sugar is labeled in more than 50 different ways, so it can be confusing to identify.

by Dr. Larry Wilson — 

Refined sugar is probably the single most important food to avoid, especially for children. It is harmful for everyone, addictive and probably the greatest cause of ill health in America and the world today.

Why is sugar a problem food?

• Provokes a fight-or-flight response. Sugars pass easily from the digestive tract into the blood, where they quickly release their energy, raising the blood sugar level. The body must respond by secreting more insulin from the pancreas and more cortisol from the adrenal glands. This is a classic fight-or-flight stress response. It is as if every time you eat sugar, even fruit, the body responds as though attacked. Eventually, the stress response mechanism wears out, and you are likely to end up exhausted and ill.

• Acidifies the body. Sugar has a powerful acidifying effect because most of it does not contain alkaline-forming minerals. Also, triggering the stress response creates too much acid.

• Depletes minerals and vitamins. Most sugars are highly processed. This means most of the minerals and vitamins have been removed in foods from which the sugar is extracted. These nutrients, however, are required to metabolize the sugar. As a result, the more refined sugar that is eaten, the more nutritionally deficient a person becomes. Among the most important nutrients lost are calcium, zinc, chromium, copper, manganese, selenium and B-complex vitamins.

• Can contain mercury. Mercury toxicity is a hidden problem in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is found in thousands of prepared foods. Sometimes mercury is still used in caustic soda, a chemical used in making fructose.

• Damages DNA and ages the body. Eating sugar has been shown to alter the most basic levels of cell functioning and can induce defects in cellular DNA, leading to many serious health conditions. This, plus all of the above, contributes to premature aging.

• Can lead to stimulants addiction. The rush caused by a higher blood sugar and higher cortisol output is stimulating. This feels good to many people. However, the high is followed by a low, which is the basic setup for an addiction to sugar, and later to other addictive substances.

The New York City school study

From 1979 to 1983, the New York City Public School District, the nation’s largest with more than 800,000 children, removed all refined sugars and some other food additives from its school lunch program. Standardized test scores rose from below to above national average. No other changes were made in the curriculum or other aspects of schooling. The study was controlled since some children did not participate in the school lunch program; their test scores did not change. A second study was conducted in a failed attempt to disprove the original study. Sadly, school administrators did not continue the dietary improvements after the study.

Many smaller studies have shown the same kinds of improvements in school grades, behavior, freedom from infections, and other behavioral and health issues. A host of other studies connect sugar-eating with most of the major illnesses of our time.

The many labels for sugar

Sugar is labeled in more than 50 different ways, so it can be confusing to identify. Pseudonyms range from the obvious, such as brown sugar and cane sugar, to the not so obvious, like galactose, lactose and panocha. A full list is at www.drlwilson.com.

What about using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar? It is best to wean yourself from the sweet habit, altogether. Some artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, Equal and Nutrasweet, are much worse than plain sugar and are slowly being phased out for this reason. Splenda, saccharine and others are not quite as bad, but are still toxic chemicals. The best substitutes are stevia, sorbitol, mannitol or xylitol since they are not well absorbed and thus may cause fewer problems.

The roller coaster

Sugar has become the main gateway drug in modern-day America and Europe. It is inexpensive, readily available, socially acceptable and seems to work well. The high feeling followed by the low becomes familiar. Soon a person’s nervous system is damaged, and the groundwork is laid for the need for more powerful stimulants, depressants, anti-depressants, ADD medication, and medical and recreational drugs.

Most people are on a sugar roller coaster. It often begins in the morning with sweetened cold or hot cereal, a small glass of orange or grapefruit juice, a sweet roll, or sweetened coffee or tea. The sugar high wears off in a few hours, and it is time for a mid-morning sugary snack such as cookies, raisins, a food bar, glass of juice, sweetened tea or coffee. This usually lasts until lunch, when it is time for more sweetened tea, juice, fruit, bread or worse — a fast-food milk shake or other sweet or refined foods.

The next low comes in mid-afternoon. Many people then want a sweetened soft drink, juice, a piece of fruit, a protein or food bar, or more sweetened tea or coffee. This carries them up to happy hour or dinner, at which time many will want something either alcoholic or sugary again, continuing the roller coaster ride into the evening.

Sugar through the life cycle

Childhood. The sugar roller coaster ride often starts early. By the time a child is in grade school, sugar consumption can be an ingrained habit and very hard to break. It directly leads to such problems as ADD and ADHD, reduced school performance and, at times, difficulty remembering and thinking clearly. It directly affects the emotions, causing emotional instability, anxiety, moodiness, irritability and depression, especially in young girls who tend to have higher copper levels than boys. Sugar also contributes to the rampant obesity and type II diabetes in children today and is a likely contributor to childhood epidemics of infections, cancers and other health problems.

The teenage years. As adolescents approach adulthood, sugar cravings usually increase drastically. This occurs because the oxidation or metabolic rate slows down, making the teen feel more tired. Sugar and caffeine provide a temporary boost. Teens need to sleep 10 or more hours every night or they will be tired most of the time, and sugar cravings can become intense.

Adulthood. Upon reaching adulthood, most people are so addicted to sugar that they take it completely for granted, even in staple foods. Bread contains sugar; jams and jellies are filled with it; fruit, juices, sodas, salad dressings, alcoholic beverages, cakes, cookies, ice cream, all desserts and so much more keep the addiction going — without an understanding of what is happening. It is rare to find anyone today over 20 who is not addicted to sugar.

Some handle it well for a while, provided that they eat plenty of nutritious food daily, such as cooked vegetables. Those who do not eat well, and those whose lifestyles are stressful and unhealthy, are even more prone to “the diseases of civilization” that stem directly or indirectly from the sugar habit. These include obesity, diabetes, chronic yeast infections, cancer and heart disease. They also include mental illness such as depression, anxieties and brain fog.

Preventing the sugar addiction

Avoiding the sugar roller coaster and sugar addiction is not easy, but can be done if you start your child off well. Simple ways to do this are:

• Breastfeed for at least two or three years, even if some food is mixed with the breast milk. Ideally, a nutritional balancing program should be done before becoming pregnant to provide your baby with the best breast milk possible. Mothers and mothers-to-be must eat many steamed vegetables, quality meats, eggs and other excellent whole foods.

• Feed children high-quality fats and oils, if possible, with each meal. This will not cause obesity, as eating too many carbohydrates will. Most babies and young children are fast oxidizers and require these daily for brain and nervous system development. Good fats include meats, eggs and preferably certified raw, full-fat dairy such as milk, cheese, butter, and plain yogurts or kefirs. Other good fats come from toasted almond butter, other nut butters, some olive oil and perhaps a little coconut oil. If young children do not get these foods several times a day, they will crave starches and sweets even more.

• Never give children anything sweet or sweetened. This means very little fruit, and no fruit juice, even if diluted. The only exception is carrot juice, which is an excellent source of calcium and other nutrients; a small amount is great for people of all ages. Adults should limit intake to four to six ounces, but children need less.

• Never reward children with sweets of any kind, even fruit. Using sweets as a reward teaches them that to feel good or to be good means to eat sugars.

• Watch that your children’s friends, parties and schools do not entice your child with sweets. Even well-meaning grandparents and friends can easily slip sugar to children. Politely share this article and tell them that if you hear about any violations of your policy, you will limit your child’s time with them — even grandparents. This takes some firmness and is not meant to be mean or harsh, just good common sense.

Getting off the roller coaster

For those who are hooked on sugar and other sweets, quitting may take some work and time. Helpful hints include:

• Start out with four to six small meals every day. These should include vegetables and meat, not snacks. Snacking is not a good idea.

• Make your diet as sweetener-free as possible. Eat mainly lightly cooked vegetables, chicken, turkey, lamb and eggs. You may have a little preferably certified raw dairy or organic cheese, milk and yogurt, some almond butter and perhaps a little natural beef, if you wish. At first, people who love sugar should try to avoid most grains. When healthier, you can add brown rice, basmati white rice, quinoa, millet, oats, buckwheat or rye.

• Avoid wheat and baked goods. Wheat is not a healthy food due to hybridization. Avoid baked goods, as most contain wheat and sweeteners.

• Keep meals simple. Two or three foods per meal are plenty. Avoid three- or four-course meals that tax your digestive system.

• Watch dried bean dishes. They are starchy, and when purchased in cans or eaten in restaurants, they often contain sugar. At home, however, split peas, lentils and other dried beans may be eaten twice or three times weekly.

• Don’t keep sweets and sugars in your home. Make yourself go out if you must have ice cream, a candy bar, fruit smoothies or other sweet treats.

• Avoid most processed and packaged foods. This single dietary change will remove a lot of hidden sugars from your diet.

• Substitute healthier foods and snacks. If you must snack, choose soft-cooked eggs, cheese or almond butter on a rice or rye cracker, or leftover vegetables or chicken. Blue corn chips are an excellent snack.

• Rest more. Rest when tired, instead of eating or snacking. Even a 10-minute nap can often help restore your energy.

• Do not sweeten beverages. Watch for all alcoholic beverages, as most are sweet. Less is best.

• Beware that health food stores may be no better (or even worse) than supermarkets. Health stores sell plenty of sugary cookies, sweetened teas and sodas, for example.

• Eat out less. When eating out, ask that bread not be served. Skip desserts and sweet foods or drinks. Ethnic Chinese, Thai or East Indian restaurants are often the best for avoiding sweets.

• Learn about health by subscribing to an excellent natural health newsletter or two. I like Dr. Whitaker’s newsletter and Dr. Mercola’s e-mail newsletter.

Final thoughts

The sugar habit is spreading to every corner of the planet, and its damage is incalculable. I only hope that many people can begin to understand its importance so that the problem of refined sugar in the food supply can be addressed adequately.


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Dr. Lawrence Wilson has a medical degree, has been in the health field for more than 25 years and is the author of several books. www.drlwilson.com or 928-445-7690.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 4, Aug/Sept 2009.

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