Is sugar killing you?

A verbatim extract from the article: “ A recent report claimed that if current trends continue, by 2050, 60% of men and 50% of women will be clinically obese, placing an intolerable strain on the health service as rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and weight-related cancer spiral. But the report did not examine the role that sugar is playing in this public health scandal. Until now scientists have had difficulty explaining how so many of us have managed to put on so much weight. But new research by a group of experts at Cambridge University suggests that our spiralling consumption of sugar may be to blame….many people are eating almost half a pound of sugar a day…This is not just a case of ignorance and greed: it is because the sugar industry is stealthily shovelling its product into as many foods as possible. What makes this trend even more insidious is that the more sugar we consume, the more we want to consume…

This is an absolutely brilliant and hugely needed article. Lois Rogers has done an excellent job of highlighting one of the most insidious ingredients in our daily diets and some of the dangers contained therein. I devoted a whole chapter to the dangers of sugar in my first book, “Why do you overeat? When all you want is to be slim”. Here it is below to add my voice to that of Lois Rogers…

“PURE, WHITE & DEADLY” : Sugar – the more accessible heroin

The title of this chapter is the title of a ground breaking book written by Professor John Yudkin and published in 1972. Professor Yudkin has written many works on sugar and nutrition and his accounts of how he has been attacked by the sugar industry for this are worthy of a John Grisham novel.

World sugar consumption was approximately 130 million tonnes in 2000/01 and is forecast to be 137 million tonnes by 2005. At 8-9 US cents per pound this equates to a sugar industry worth approximately $25 billion world-wide. 65% of the world’s sugar is consumed by the developed countries. Understandably the industry didn’t like an academic pointing out that their product is “Pure, White & Deadly.

However, there are some things about sugar that we should know:

­ Sugar can upset blood glucose balance. If we ate sugar cane, like pandas do, we would probably find that our pancreas released an appropriate amount of insulin to cope with the whole food that had been eaten. However, all the sugar we eat in cakes, sweets, chocolate, biscuits, soups, sauces etc. is not the whole cane, but the refined part. It can, therefore, upset our pancreas and our blood glucose level as the body tends to release more insulin than it needs to when we consume sugar and sugar laden foods. This in turn leads to our blood glucose level dropping lower than it was before we ate the sugar, which starts us on a roller coaster of sugar cravings and high and low blood glucose.

Sugar has practically no nutritional value whatsoever. It is probably the only food or drink that we consume that has no nutritional value. It has no vitamins and barely detectable traces of minerals. There is a table on the next page that compares two apples with approximately a quarter of a litre of milk and 10 teaspoons of sugar – all providing the same number of calories but with very different nutritional values. There are other vitamins and minerals present in milk and apples, which are not shown in the table but everything contained in sugar is shown. As you can see there is no real nutritional benefit from eating sugar.

Apples (2) Whole milk (0.2725 litre) White sugar (10 teaspoons)


Calories 163 163 163 Kj
Potassium 317.0 402.9 0.8 mg
Sodium 0.0 130.3 0.4 mg
Calcium 19.3 317.6 0.4 mg
Folate 7.1 13.2 µg
Iron 0.5 0.1 mg
Magnesium 13.8 35.8 mg
Phosphorus 19.3 248.4 0.8 mg
Vitamin A 13.8 82.5 µg
Vitamin B6 0.1 0.1 mg
Vitamin C 15.7 2.5 mg
Vitamin E 1.6 0.3 mg
Zinc 0.1 1.0 mg

Source – Encarta Encyclopaedia

­ Sugar’s calories are empty calories. Because sugar has no nutritional value, when you consume calories from sugar you are not giving your body any of the vitamins and minerals that it needs. Our bodies naturally crave nutrients that we are lacking. Hence any ‘empty calories’ that we consume are not contributing to our nutritional quotas – they are simply giving us calories and many of us already get more of these than we need.

­ Sugar is an anti-nutrient. Worse than not giving you vitamins and minerals, sugar actually depletes your vitamin and minerals. As sugar uses vitamins and minerals in its digestion, and gives none back, it actually makes you worse off than before eating it.

­ Sugar is the worst carbohydrate to eat. One carbohydrate is not the same as every other. The sugar manufacturers and confectionery companies like you to think that a carbohydrate is a carbohydrate. They try to tell us that we need calories to survive and for energy and fuel and that carbohydrates play an important part in our diet. Carbohydrates are important as part of our food intake but there is a huge difference between carbohydrates. Take 100g of brown rice and 100g of sugar for example. One provides vitamins and minerals and fibre as well as energy (calories). The other just provides calories. We do need carbohydrates, we do need fuel, we do need energy but there is always a better way to consume carbohydrates, fuel and energy than by eating sugar. There is no substance that we eat or drink, which provides fewer nutrients than sugar for the same energy.

­ Sugar can make you fat. The sugar manufacturers will tell you that sugar has only 15-20 calories per teaspoon. What they don’t tell you is:

­ – that your blood glucose level will be affected by the consumption of sugar.

­ – that insulin will be released to try to return your blood glucose level to normal and that insulin will affect your weight control.

­ – that your pancreas will almost certainly not release the correct amount of insulin to cope with the ‘foreign’ substance of sugar and, therefore, your blood glucose level may actually end up lower than before you ate the sugar. This can lead to increased cravings for more sugar or anything sweet you can get your hands on.

­ Sugar tastes sweet. What’s the problem here you may wonder? Well, sugar tastes so sweet that it affects our taste buds for naturally sweet foods such as fruit and vegetables. We get to the point where only a confectionery bar will do – apples and carrots just seem bland in comparison. This then leads us to eat more sugar as we get to like the taste.

So many people say, “Oh I hardly eat sugar” but they are so wrong. If you think that you don’t put sugar in your drinks and, therefore, you don’t consume that much, try going through your larder and check each label for sugar (other key words to look for are sucrose, treacle, glucose syrup, dextrose, corn syrup, maltose, anything ending in “ose”). Try going round a supermarket one day and seeing exactly which foods contain sugar or other derivatives. The ingredients are listed in order of their presence so you can also see how much sugar is in each food. You will find that most cereals are at least 20% sugar. Almost all sauces, salad dressings and prepared foods contain sugar. Try buying a loaf of bread that doesn’t contain sugar, treacle or glucose syrup.

Articles in the national press in the UK in April 2002 reported that the British are eating 1.25lb of sugar per person per week – an increase of 31% in two decades. Over the same period, the number of bags of sugar sold has continually fallen so people are eating more sugar in processed foods they consume rather than using bought sugar in drinks and baking.

The average can of cola contains seven teaspoons of sugar, a leading brand of low fat biscuits was 46% sugar and Slim-Fast is 62% sugar – the articles reported. The Sugar Bureau, the sugar industry’s trade association in the UK, counter-claimed “there is no evidence that high sugar consumption is related to obesity.” Why then are the Americans, who substitute sugar for fat in every processed food imaginable, one of the fattest nations on earth?

I spoke to a Nutritional Advisor at Slim-Fast, in an attempt to understand the high concentration of sugar in a ‘diet’ food. She explained that as Slim-Fast is a meal replacement product there are strict government guidelines about the content of the product. It must be between 25% and 50% protein, have a maximum of 30% fat and the rest must be carbohydrate. As most slimmers would not want anywhere near 30% fat, even if the maximum protein of 50% is put into a meal replacement, this still leaves up to 50% of the product to be filled up and the only substance left to put in is carbohydrate. (Remember – all foods fall into the categories of carbohydrate, fat and protein). Hence Slim-Fast has no option but to have a high proportion of their product as carbohydrate. They could hardly put potatoes, rice or pasta in a Slim-Fast shake drink so about the only option they have, to make up the 100% with carbohydrate, is sugar. There are three different kinds of sugar in the milk shake meal replacements – sucrose (sugar as we know it), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose.

This is a really key point worth noting in relation to low fat diets – as the only things that we eat are carbohydrate, fat and protein, if you put yourself on a low fat diet and reduce fat as a percentage of your diet, by definition the percentage of one, or both, of the other two needs to go up to compensate. If you eat less fat as a percentage of your diet the percentage of protein and/or carbohydrate in your diet must rise. Add to this the fact that most people on low fat diets also cut back on protein because this often has high fat levels (eggs, meat, oily fish etc) and you can see that people on low fat diets make the primary part of their diet carbohydrates. Think about it – the low calorie (low fat) slimmers’ staple foods are fruit, salads, low fat cereal, crisp-breads, rice cakes, sometimes bread or baked potatoes – all high carbohydrate foods. With processed foods, when fat is taken out to make the food ‘low fat’, one of the most common substances used to replace the fat is sugar. As the Slim-Fast advisor said “We have to use sugar to fill up the product and to make it palatable!”

The single best change that you could make to your health and eating, as a result of reading this book, would be to never eat sugar again. It has no nutritional value. You will lose nothing nutritionally by giving it up (in fact you will gain by eating any food in its place as anything else will be more nutritious). Your blood glucose level will be given the chance to stabilise and your cravings will be greatly eased by this. You probably eat sugar currently because it is almost impossible to avoid as it is in so many products. Also you may well crave sugar as it is in the most commonly craved foods – chocolate, ice cream, sweets, biscuits, cakes, muffins – as well as in almost every processed food you can possibly buy.

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