The Dangers of Sugar

The 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 Blues.

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 headaches.

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 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, ketchup, canned fruit and veggies, etc.


Added sugars in processed foods can be found under the following names:
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 with caramel.
Raw sugar – a less refined sugar with a small amount of molasses remaining.
Fructose – a simple sugar refined from fruit.
Corn syrup – a manufactured syrup of corn starch, containing varying proportions of glucose, maltose, and dextrose. (see note below).
High-fructose corn syrup – a highly concentrated syrup of predominantly fructose.
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, and retain bright colours in preserves, ketchup, and cured meat. This widespread use may be a cause of the increased allergies to corn.

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!


1.       Eat whole unprocessed foods with nothing added, e.g., whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables.

2.       Read all labels! Become familiar with the different names for sugar and make the decision to leave those with sugars on the shelf. Beware of those “fat-free” foods, that may be laden with sugar.

3.       Eliminate soft drinks, sugared fruit juices, and baked goods made with sugar.

4.       Replace refined sugars with brown rice syrup, stevia, or maple syrup. (See WHOLifE Journal, March/April 2004 for an article on natural sweeteners.)

5.       Do NOT use sugar substitutes, especially aspartame, or aspartame sweetened foods. Aspartame breaks down into aspartic 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 Magazine, 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.

6.       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.

7.       Be sparing with all concentrated sugars, natural or not.

8.       Let desserts be special, not everyday fare. Serve desserts alone, away from protein and fat meals. Fruit desserts are best.

9.       Use unsweetened juice; make you own fresh squeezed rather than buying processed and sweetened juices.

10.    If you must use canned fruit, choose no sugar added or canned in their own juices.

11.    Do NOT use sweets as a reward!

12.    Snack on whole foods like nuts and seeds, fruits, or veggies and dip rather than candy and other sweets.

13.    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 fruits and beverages; use natural sweeteners if necessary.

14.    Do not put sugar on the table. Use raisins, dates, etc.

15.    To help reduce cravings, supplement your diet with a good quality high potency multi-vitamin and mineral, 2–3 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 Magazine, November 2003.)

16.    The best way to get sugar out of the diet? DO NOT HAVE IT IN THE HOUSE!



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