Dangers of Sugar
by Paulette Millis
Did you know that white sugar is physically addictive? It
is much like a drug and “the difference between sugar
addiction and narcotic addiction is largely one of degree,” writes
William Duffy in his book, Sugar
Sugar is qualified as an addictive substance by the following
two responses: 1) Eating even a small amount of sugar, for
example, one candy or one bit of cake, creates such a desire
in some people that they can’t stop; 2) When one quits
sugar cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms appear, for example,
strong cravings, depression, fatigue, mood swings, and possibly
Humans have demonstrated a strong desire for sweets since
the beginning of time. As early as 327 BC raw sugar was used
in India. The Spaniards brought it to America at the turn
of the 16th century. Refining began 600 years ago. Scientific
studies on both newborns and adults suggests that the craving
for sweets is an instinctive rather than learned response,
although we know sugar is
an acquired taste.
Sugar is a carbohydrate, and we often think of it only
as the white or brown stuff, but sugar is also part of many
other foodstuffs such as lactose in milk, maltose in grain,
fructose in fruit, sucrose (refined sugar), and more. The
simple refined carbohydrate, crystalline table sugar, is
first extracted from sugar cane with the bulk and fibre being
left behind. It is then purified, filtered, concentrated,
and boiled down to sugar crystals produced out of the syrup.
Substances such as sulfur dioxide, milk of lime, carbon dioxide,
charcoal from charred beef bones, and calcium carbonate are
used in this industrial refining process as purifying agents.
Brown sugar is simple white sugar with a bit of molasses
added back in, or coloured with caramel.
Excessive sugar consumption is believed to be involved
in many common health problems: hypoglycemia, diabetes, heart
disease, high cholesterol, obesity, indigestion, myopia,
seborrheic dermatitis, gout, hyperactivity, lack of concentration,
depression, anxiety, and more. Sugar is rapidly converted
in the blood to fat (triglycerides), which increase obesity,
risk of heart disease, and diabetes. Sugar greatly increases
the risk of dental decay. It is devoid of vitamins, minerals,
or fibre; it is an empty food. The lack of fibre in sugar
causes a tendency to overeat.
Saying “Sugar is bad for you!” is an understatement.
The dangers of eating too much refined sugar were lost in
the 1980s amidst the outcries that all fat was bad. Many
today still blame fat for their health problems instead of
sugar. The question is: With all of this “fat” avoidance
have disease states lessened? The answer is, “NO!” In
fact, the opposite is true. Even though the media portrays
fat as the main culprit in the development of several diseases
(e.g., heart disease), sugar appears to be the real villain.
W. D. Ringsdorf, DMD, MS, co-author of Psychodietetics,
says that sugar raises high blood pressure. Sugar mixed with
animal fats leads to atherosclerosis and by increasing the
stickiness (viscosity) of the blood, it increases the possibility
of blood clots.
SUGAR SUPPRESSES THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Sugar steals the ability of your white blood cells to destroy
bacteria. White blood cells are known as “phagocytes” and
phagocytic tests show that a couple of teaspoons of sugar
can sap their strength by 25 percent. A large helping of
pie and ice cream renders your white cells 100 percent helpless.
This effect lasts from 4 to 5 hours. Consider a 900 ml serving
of processed and packaged orange juice or one 683 ml of cola—either
of these will depress the immune system by 50 percent, 30
minutes after ingestion and this will last for 5 hours! Consider
if you have sugar at every meal, which many do by eating
processed foods alone, that the immune system is constantly
ineffectual. This sets us up for anything from colds to cancer!
Remember, instead of having that cinnamon bun or doughnut
on your morning break and returning to work amidst people
who may have a virus, choose raw nuts, a piece of fruit,
or home baking made without sugars and white flours!
Some of the processed foods that we wouldn’t expect
to contain added sugar and which do are: hamburgers—to
reduce shrinkage and add juiciness, breading in deep fried
foods, and on frozen fish to give it a sheen. Of course,
most people know that sugar is added to processed cereals
(see chart below), ketchup, canned fruit and veggies, etc.
FEW OTHER FOOD PRODUCTS AND THEIR SUGAR CONTENT
||1 cup Kool-aid
|| 6 tsp
||2 tbsp ketchup
||1 stick gum
||1/12 of a two-layer chocolate
||1 chocolate chip cookie
||1 3” doughnut, glazed
||6 oz grape juice drink
||1/3 cup Jello
||3 oz ham
||3 sausage links
||1 cup chocolate milk
|| 6 tsp
||2 peach halves, canned in
||1 Pop tart
||12 oz Seven-Up or Cola drink
||1 tbsp French salad dressing
|| 3/4 tsp
||1 cup fruited yogurt
|| 7.5 tsp
||(taken from The
Nutrition Desk Reference)
ALIASES OF SUGAR
Added sugars in processed foods can be found under the following
Sugar (sucrose) - the refined crystallized sugar; a combination
of glucose and fructose.
Dextrose (glucose) - a simple sugar made of only one molecule.
Lactose - a simple sugar from milk.
Maltose - a simple sugar made from starch, usually grains.
Maltodextrin - a manufactured sugar from maltose and dextrose.
Brown sugar - the refined sugar coated with molasses or coloured
Raw sugar - a less refined sugar with a small amount of molasses
Fructose - a simple sugar refined from fruit.
Corn syrup - a manufactured syrup of corn starch, containing
varying proportions of glucose, maltose, and dextrose. (see
High-fructose corn syrup - a highly concentrated syrup of
White grape juice - a highly purified fructose solution;
virtually no other nutrients are present.
Be aware that cornstarch, treated by heat or enzymes to
make dextrose, maltose, corn syrup, corn sugar, and crystalline
dextrose, is used to supplement sucrose in processed foods
in order to: bring costs down, add colour and flavour,
retain bright colours in preserves, ketchup, and cured
meat. This widespread use may be a cause of the increased
Typically, when ingredients are listed on a product, they
must be listed from largest amount down to smallest amount
found in that product. Do not be fooled into thinking there
is very little sugar in an item if it is not listed near
the beginning. Often you will find three or four of the
above aliases in the ingredient listing, meaning that
in the end
the product may be mostly sugar!
TIPS TO CUT DOWN ON SUGAR
- Eat whole unprocessed foods with nothing added, e.g.,
whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables,
and unprocessed meat, poultry, and fish.
- Read all labels! Become familiar with the different
names for sugar and make the decision to leave those with
on the shelf. Beware of those “fat-free” foods,
that may be laden with sugar.
- Eliminate soft drinks, sugared fruit juices, and baked
goods made with sugar.
- Replace refined sugars with brown rice syrup, stevia,
or maple syrup. (See WHOLifE
Journal, March/April 2004 for
an article on natural sweeteners.)
- Do NOT use sugar substitutes, especially aspartame,
or aspartame sweetened foods. Aspartame breaks down into
acid, phenylalanine and methanol, which degrades into formaldehyde—a
well-known toxin. The Medical World News has already reported
in 1978 that the methanol content of aspartame was 1000
times greater than most foods under FDA control. (Alive
March 2000.) For more information about aspartame, a diabetic
specialist and world expert on aspartame poisoning, Dr
H J Roberts, has written a book called, “Defense Against
Alzheimer’s Disease.” He and others have stated
there are 167 documented side affects to aspartame, from “stimulating
neurons of the brain to death, causing brain damage of various
degrees,” to “consuming aspartame at the time
of conception can cause birth defects,” and many
more too numerous to mention here.
- Buy cookbooks without sugar and/or convert your favourite
recipes using the natural sweeteners such as fruit purees,
brown rice syrup, stevia, maple syrup, fruit juice, etc.
- Be sparing with all concentrated sugars, natural
- Let desserts be special, not everyday fare. Serve desserts
alone, away from protein and fat meals. Fruit desserts
- Use unsweetened juice; make you own fresh squeezed
rather than buying processed and sweetened juices.
- If you must use canned fruit, choose no sugar added
or canned in their own juices.
- Do NOT use sweets as a reward!
- Snack on whole foods like nuts and seeds, fruits,
or veggies and dip rather than candy and other sweets.
- Eliminate processed cereals entirely, and make whole
or cracked grain cereals, or make granola using fruits
as a sweetener. Eliminate refined sugar on cereals and
and beverages; use natural sweeteners if necessary.
- Do not put sugar on the table. Use raisins, dates,
- To help reduce cravings, supplement your diet with
a good quality high potency multi-vitamin and mineral,
grams of vitamin C, an anti-oxidant formula, and essential
fatty acids like flax or fish oil. Dr. Hyla Cass suggests
placing the powder from a 500 gram capsule of L-glutamine
under the tongue to reduce cravings. (Alive
- The best way to get sugar out of the diet? DO
NOT HAVE IT IN THE HOUSE!
Great for Christmas dessert!
1-1/4 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
Beat until blended:
1 beaten egg
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup of unsweetened concentrated orange juice
2 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup grated raw carrots
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir just enough
to blend. Pour into a greased 8” diameter baking dish.
Bake at 350º F for 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick
inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with Rum Sauce.
Combine in a saucepan:
4 tsp arrowroot powder
2 tbsp defrosted unsweetened concentrated fruit juice or
fresh orange juice
Stir and cook over medium heat until smooth and clear.
1-1/4 cups unsweetened white grape juice
2 tsp butter
2 tbsp rum or 1 tsp rum flavouring
Serve hot over Carrot Pudding.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup of warmed honey
3 tbsp grated organic lemon peel
1/2 cup of lemon juice
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/8 tsp celtic salt
In the top of a double boiler, combine the listed ingredients
and mix well. Set over boiling water and cook stirring constantly
with a wooden spoon for 15 to 20 minutes or until thick and
smooth. Store in a jar in the fridge. Makes 2-1/2 cups. Great
as a toast spread, filling for cakes or jelly rolls, or as
FRUIT NUT GRANOLA*
Cook 1-1/2 cups of dates in 1-1/2 cups water in a dutch oven
on top of the stove on medium heat until the dates are
soft and can be stirred into a smooth paste. If all else
fails, use a blender to puree.
1 pound 1 oz oat flakes (not oatmeal)
1/4 cup of coconut
1/4 cup of rolled wheat (optional)
1/4 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
Stir until well mixed, very hot and lightly browned, 7
to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
1/2 cup mixed chopped dried fruit, e.g., apples, ginger,
raisins, cranberries, etc.
1/2 cup chopped raw nuts, e.g., almonds, cashews, walnuts,
1/4 cup of flax seeds
1/4 cup of sesame seeds
Stir well, cool, and store in glass containers in the
fridge or freezer for longer term storage.
* taken from Nutrition,
Cooking, and Healing by Paulette Millis, RNC.
References: The Complete
Book of Natural Foods, Fred Rohe; The
Nutrition Desk Reference, Robert H. Garrison, Jr.
and Elizabeth Somer; Food
and Healing, Annemarie Colbin, PhD; High
Performance Nutrition, Susan Kleiner, PhD, RD; Alive
Magazine: March 2000, May 2000, December 2001, November
The above information regarding nutritious food is not
intended to replace any instruction from medical or health
Paulette Millis lives and
works in Saskatoon as a nutritional consultant. Her cookbook, Nutrition,
Cooking, and Healing, is
available in health food stores or by calling (306) 244-8890.