Why Is Sugar A Problem?
- Dear Friends,
Stay away from all processed sugars -simple carbs. Eat whole wheat products...
Love and Light.
WHY IS SUGAR A PROBLEM?
I am often asked by people, What is the right diet? I have a short answer. I tell them that God-made food is the only food that the human body was designed to eat. But, in the next breath, I tell my patients, particularly children brought to our clinic with various behavioral symptoms, to discontinue sugar. Well, it is obvious what the next comment is. The parent of the child, or the adult patient, will point out that God made sugar.
This is absolutely true, so it demands an explanation. The first part of the explanation is to state that sugar is never found in a free form in nature. The sugar cane, the major source of our sugar, contains a great deal of fiber as well as many other nutrients. The fiber is an extremely important component that modifies the way in which the sugar from the cane is absorbed into the blood stream from the intestine. In essence, it slows down and regulates that absorption. The result is that the concentration of sugar in the blood rises relatively slowly. It gives time for the natural machinery for its metabolism to go into action. Beetroot, another source of sugar, contains about two teaspoons of sugar in 2 pounds of the root. Thus, the amount of sugar ingested when we take the root, the stem, the fruit or the leaf that is the source of the sugar, is dosed by Mother Nature. Our ingestion of sugar was intended to be taken from all these naturally occurring foods.
Yes, it is quite true that glucose is the end-point product derived from all simple sugars that include fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (for example, honey) and lactose (milk sugar). Glucose is the fuel that is consumed in all our cells to produce the chemical energy that enables each of our cells to function. This is particularly true of the brain and nervous system. Many readers will know that a quick ingestion of sugar by athletes give them an energy load before a race. This is only partially true as we shall see shortly.
The body is a marvelous machine. It has been designed and modified over thousands of years, so let us see what happens when we take sugar in the form of a sweet crystal that we put into tea, coffee, soft drinks, beer, chocolate bars, cookies and all the other sweet-tasting material that we consume today in huge amounts.
First, let me say that the only real reason that we take sugar in all its different forms is because we derive from it a taste stimulation that gives us great pleasure. I often ask my patients where they taste sugar, or anything else that we eat. The invariable answer is- with my tongue. That is not the true answer. The tongue is fitted with cells that have the ability to react by sending a signal to the brain. It is specialized cells in the brain that gives us that sense of taste and the pleasure derived from it.
This sensory mechanism is quite complex as we should expect. Some of the brain cells react to sweet, others to sour and yet others to salt and there are, in fact, six different types of cell reacting to six different components of this taste mechanism. All God-made food contributes combinations of these different taste stimuli that provide us with the sense that we call flavor. This gives us a harmonious taste input that is balanced and normal. For example, an orange may be sweet but it is accompanied by some aspects of bitterness or astringency, sourness etc. If we consume a substance that gives only one kind of taste stimulus, the common ones being sugar and salt, the sense of pleasure is exaggerated and often leads to an addictive result. Under such circumstances the item is being taken as a drug..
The term flavor, as a combination of different sensory stimuli, should be compared with our reaction to light. Sunlight is what is known as full spectrum white light, and the spectrum consists of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, the colors of the rainbow. If we are exposed to a single color of light such as red or blue, our internal brain reactions are different from those that we experience with full spectrum white light. We were designed to live in sunlight and have become adapted to the full spectrum of colors that make up that spectrum. For example, one color will slow down our perception of time. Another one will cause that perception to give us the impression that time has accelerated.
You can think of these highly specialized cells in the brain as being like a small person living there. When this little person receives the sweet or salt signal from the tongue, he says Wow! Thats great! Give me more! That is how we become addicted and I have seen people addicted to sugar, some to salt and others to both. I remember seeing a boy who was so addicted to salt that he developed iodine poisoning from the iodine added to the salt. What often happens then is that these brain cells become increasingly dependent on the taste exposure and the craving begins to be all-consuming. We then call it addiction. It is true that it is an addiction that is easier to break than is that of cocaine or other drugs, but the mechanism is much the same.
We get a similar kick from coffee and I do not need to emphasize the consumption of this particular beverage. It is quite simple to see that there is an overall prescription here. When we take the active principle out of a plant, and use it in its pure form, it becomes a drug. Sugar and coffee are the two commonest drugs in our civilization. Many people are deluded into believing that they need coffee in order to get to work in the morning because they get a headache if their fix is missed. The headache is clearly a withdrawal symptom that is cured by taking more coffee. That is exactly why a cocaine addict takes more cocaine, because the withdrawal symptoms are intolerable.
Years ago, a letter from a physician in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that he had become aware that the sweetener, aspartame, was causing migraine headaches in some of his patients. The company that made this sweetener did a study. They provided the aspartame in gelatin capsules that were swallowed by the study subjects and they reported that there were no migraines or any other side effects in these subjects. Obviously, they had missed the point. Aspartame causes the same taste signal to the brain as sugar. The fact that they had ingested the sweetener in the form of a swallowed capsule bypassed the taste mechanism. Sugar is a needed food, but it is prepared by Mother Nature in natural packages. Sweeteners are even worse because they have absolutely no food value at all but will cause the same symptom complex as sugar.
Let us see how sugar exerts its drug action. A false concept has arisen about this effect. It is very comparable to alcohol addiction and many people addicted to sugar have a family history of alcoholism. It is a very similar mechanism. It is the sensitivity of the brain cells that is the clue to understanding. In some children the parents have noticed that their child becomes hyperactive or aggressive after sugar ingestion, but that is certainly not always true. In the usual situation, the child is taken to a physician with one or the many diagnostic clichés: attention deficit (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome (ADHS), learning disability (LD), Tourette syndrome, enuresis (bed wetting) or variable sleep disturbances. The parents will often deny, quite correctly, that sugar has any immediate observable effect on the child at all. In many cases it is as though the childs brain has become irritable over sometimes several years of sugar ingestion and reacts to virtually
any environmental exposure that might be loosely called a stress effect. I urge the reader also to read my earlier post on the brain/body relationship for a better understanding.
I believe that one of the most important lessons of my medical career is understanding that the lower, more primitive part of the brain becomes more irritable when its metabolism is inefficient. The easiest way to do that is to eat a lot of junk food that may be defined as calorie bearing food that has insufficient vitamin/mineral content to enable that metabolism to run efficiently. This is sometimes referred to as empty calories. You can actually compare the human body to a car or any other fuel-burning machine. You have to have the fuel (gasoline versus protein, fat, carbohydrate), oxygen (that is why we inhale air to extract oxygen and deliver it to the tissues) and a catalyst (spark plug versus vitamins and minerals). If the mixture of gasoline and air in an automobile cylinder is too rich (the ratio of gasoline to oxygen is too high), the gas is burned imperfectly and unburned hydrocarbons are emitted from the exhaust pipe, giving rise to the characteristic black smoke. The
same thing happens in the human body, only we do not have an exhaust pipe. We have kidneys and other methods of getting rid of waste products resulting from this inefficient combustion. We find things called organic acids and keto acids in the urine, the markers of this inefficiency. Look for a moment at this simple equation:
Fuel + Oxygen + Catalyst = Energy.
Remove the catalysts(vitamins and minerals) and we suffer from malnutrition. Remove the oxygen and we suffocate. Remove the protein, fat and carbohydrate and we die of starvation. I call the gradual onset of disease from vitamin/mineral deficiency high calorie malnutrition. Since victims have a full stomach, the pangs of hunger do not remind them of their condition. Starvation produces an entirely different clinical situation that is represented in many parts of the world, not because of too much food, but too little. Many of us, in the so-called developed part of the world, suffer unknowingly from the effects of high calorie malnutrition. The primitive part of the brain becomes irritable and the victim becomes more inappropriately emotional. Children have temper tantrums and may become violent and destructive. Adults become angry too easily and their emotional reactions are exaggerated. In short, we become more primitive in our reactions to the outside world. The lower brain
governs all our most primitive survival reflexes including hunger, thirst and sexual drive. These reflexes are modified by the upper brain under appropriate conditions and that is why the old adage We are what we eat can be replaced by We behave according to what we eat. The two parts of the brain have to talk to each other and we call that self control.
This is usually treated as a form of neurosis and treated with drugs, whereas the patient only needs to be informed of his dietary indiscretions. The trouble with that is that our culture has become so saturated with the basic idea that all these goodies (the name speaks volumes) are innocuous and give us quick energy. This brings me back to the statement that I made earlier about athletes loading up on carbohydrates before an event.
The normal way in which a load of glucose is handled in the body is by turning it into a storage sugar called glycogen. This is stored in liver and muscles and is a way of ensuring that glucose fuel is available in an emergency. It is turned back into glucose as required. There is a disease in which glycogen is stored but the mechanism for its retrieval to glucose is impaired. Such an individual suffers from severe and life-threatening hypoglycemia. Excess sugar, taken very quickly as in the example of the athlete above, will act as a drug and may well give the athlete a feeling of power. True, the glucose will indeed provide energy, but it is not quite like fuel injection as is used in a car. Some of it may well be used for the athletic event, but the storage mechanism is very rapid.
Lastly, let me point out another important factor in the way Mother Nature has provided for us. There is no storage in the body for water soluble vitamins which most of them are. Only the fat soluble vitamins are stored. We have to draw the conclusion that our early ancestors were surrounded by the natural foods that provided every component of needed nutrition. They did not need to store vitamin C and the B complex because they were present in the daily fare. Thus, if we consume a high dose of any one of these water soluble vitamins, the body uses that which is needed for the day. The rest are discarded through the urine. We may have what might be called expensive urine but we are taking an excess to be sure that we have enough. The modern food supply is chronically lacking in these vital nutrients and the artificial enrichment that is touted on almost everything is insufficient to meet the normal demands of an active lifestyle. When I see patients that have succumbed to this high
calorie malnutrition, I tell them that they have to do two things. They have to remove the hair from the dog that bit them in the first place and take supplemental vitamin/ mineral supplements to restore the changes in their body machinery that has deteriorated over time. If the high empty calorie element is not removed, the supplements will not work.
Every day, I see people, particularly children, who are suffering the family disasters associated with this. Many are severely suspicious that all this is merely a figment of my imagination and, however hard I work to give them an adequate explanation, they resist the self responsibility required. I must end by saying that most of the diseases that we are dealing with today are based on poor nutrition. The paradox is that this form of nutrition is extremely satisfying and enjoyable. I mention the fact that I did not invent the rules. Mother Nature did that. We obey the rules or we have to accept the consequences. She is a hard task master and there are no exceptions to her rules.
Derrick Lonsdale M.D.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]