It’s no small secret that Americans eat too much refined sugar, but did you know that the average American eats their own body weight in sugar every year? Just one hundred years ago, that figure was 10-20 pounds per year. When you consider the fact that many use much less than the annual average, that places the real amount of consumption well above one’s own body weight for those who are using it.
All commercially processed sugars are refined. If you think that you’re getting a more natural, raw product in brown sugar, you are mistaken. Sugar cane or sugar beets are refined into the fine white product that we all know. Even brown sugar starts out as white. After it’s processed, manufacturers add in a little bit of the molasses that was stripped from the sugar during processing. In fact, if you need brown sugar for a recipe but are out, you can add a little molasses to regular white sugar to convert it to brown.
Refined white sugar is pure sucrose and other than its sweetness, it has a bland flavor. There is a bit more flavor in the darker sugars because of the molasses that’s added back during processing. Marketers like to imply that darker or “raw” sugars have more health benefits than processed sugar, but that’s not exactly true. Sugar cane and sugar beets don’t start out with measurable nutritional value, so even if you choose a less processed sugar, the nutritional value that you think you’re retaining is almost non-existent. Your body won’t know the difference between the two products as it will break them both down and use them exactly the same way.
Sugar in all its forms is a simple carbohydrate. Refined sugar is made of sucrose, which is about a 50/50 combination of glucose and fructose. The naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables, and dairy are fructose and lactose and while the body treats them as simple carbohydrates, they also provide important nutritional value in the form of proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Refined sugar stresses the liver. If there is already sufficient glycogen in the liver, it will turn the additional fructose to fat. It increases cholesterol and triglycerides, neither of which are necessarily bad for you in absence of too much sugar. Your body breaks down simple sugars very quickly and this causes your blood sugar levels to spike. Because the sugar is broken down so quickly, you don’t feel full after eating it, and it makes you more likely to overeat. Conversely, the fructose found in fruits is metabolized much more slowly due to the fiber content of fruit. The fiber fills your belly while it metabolizes, making you feel sated.
No one wants to admit that sugar is bad for us, least of all the Sugar Association. Their website, https://www.sugar.org/ states “The simple, irrefutable fact is this: Sugar is a healthy part of a diet. Carbohydrates, including sugar, are the preferred sources of the body’s fuel for brain power, muscle energy and every natural process that goes on in every functioning cell.” They further state that it’s an essential food ingredient and since it’s all natural, you can consume it with confidence. Even if you’re a diabetic. Yes, you read that correctly.
The Sugar Association links to the American Diabetes Association’s website at https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-myths, and they say, “The available evidence from clinical studies demonstrates that dietary sucrose does not increase glycemia more than isocaloric amounts of starch. Thus, intake of sucrose and sucrose-containing foods by people with diabetes does not need to be restricted because of concern about aggravating hyperglycemia,” and also, “Sucrose should be substituted for other carbohydrate sources in the food/meal plan or, if added to the food/meal plan, adequately covered with insulin or other glucose-lowering medication.”
Did you do a double-take there? This author is not a physician, a nurse, or a nutritionist, but I have to ask, do either of those statements from professional associations endorsed by the U.S.D.A. make sense to you? Are they suggesting diabetics should consume sugar and then just use their medication to adjust their glucose levels? Do the folks running the American Diabetes Association have some sort of collective brain defect? Or is it possible that they have been influenced in some way by another Association to provide such an astounding opinion? And disseminate that opinion to sway or mislead the public? Hmmmm……
In the 70’s, nutrition experts advised Americans to increase their consumption of so-called complex carbohydrates. These experts claimed that the starches in complex carbs were more slowly absorbed by the body than simple sugars and would therefore not affect blood sugar and insulin levels. They advised eating more whole grains and to avoid fruit juices. To this day, this advice permeates American dietary guidelines, even though there is an outright epidemic of diabetes mellitus, or Type II Diabetes, and obesity in the United States that can be traced back almost directly to the change in dietary advice that was dispensed forty years ago.
Man-made insulin has long been considered imperative to regulate blood sugar, but even that has to be questioned due to the industries that revolve around diabetes and insulin production. Diabetes Warrior, http://www.diabetes-warrior.net/2014/02/05/big-pharma-pays-31-5-million-to-ada-supremely-naive/ shows that Big Pharma paid the American Diabetes Association over $31 billion in 2012 alone. That’s 31 billion reasons to not list sugar as a dangerous food that should be restricted in any way.
Now, I’m not suggesting any impropriety here. I am merely pointing out that it seems bit strange to the average person that the ADA has for years promoted a diet for diabetics that is high carb, grain-based, and low-fat and more people are dying from complications from diabetes than ever before. The number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes increased from 5.5 million in 1980 to 22.0 million in 2014, and with that huge increase in cases we have to understand the need for more pharmaceuticals, including insulin. (https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/prev/national/figpersons.htm)
It’s time to ask ourselves if the conventional wisdom of basing a diet on complex carbohydrates that are full of starch and avoiding fruit and healthy fats needs to be disregarded. It’s a deadly serious matter. There is in fact, growing evidence that starch from pasta and grains contributes to breast cancer risk and also to the risk of other cancer types. Complex carbohydrates and starches may be responsible for an increase in heart disease, too. But we’ll dive more into those stories in future articles, dear readers.
In the meantime, watch your sugar intake. All of you, even if you’re not diabetic. Eat your fruits and vegetables to your heart’s desire. Fill up on them and make sure you add fresh, lean protein to every meal. Drink plenty of pure water with every meal, too. You might not be able to eliminate all your refined sugar intake at once, and that’s not a terrible thing. Your body will rebel like a heroin addict if you remove it all at once, so give yourself time to adjust.
We’ll have more information on the dangers of sugar coming up in future articles.