This is the fifth in a series of articles on this topic.
The Many Guises of Sugar
For now we will leave the subject of statins and continue our story of the consequences of running such a misguided campaign, over such a long period of time, in the face of substantive lack of evidence against saturated fats and cholesterol, and how this has directly led to the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, and further the hidden epidemic of metabolic syndrome.
One of the most disastrous consequences of the blind acceptance of the cholesterol theory has led not just to the obesity epidemic, but to the virtual abandonment of looking into the problem of sugar and over-processed carbohydrate. Whilst vast sums of money have been wasted on studies that failed to provide evidence that saturated fat was dangerous, and supposedly led to heart disease, virtually nothing has been spent on researching the effects of sugar on our health. During this period there has been a massive increase in the use of over-processed carbohydrates and sugar, greatly in response to government eating guidelines. Sugar has been allowed into such a vast range of foods, there is very little processed food that does not contain sugar in one of its various guises.
To further illustrate the extent of this problem, is an article written by Susie Mesure, a UK mother, discussing her experience with her son. She was trying to limit her son’s sugar intake, because she was coming to the conclusion that too much sugar was harmful. With the help of a paediatric specialist dietician, she discovered her seven year old son was consuming the equivalent sugar intake of 85 sugar cubes a month, and this was after she carefully checked food labels to limit his sugar exposure. Dominic Green, a food industry consultant informs us that 10-year-olds are consuming on average 52.2 grams a day (approximately 1.84 ounces). Susie draws our attention to the government report by Public Health England which revealed that children in the UK are exceeding the recommended sugar intake of an 18-year-old by the time they reach the age of ten. According to this report children are consuming the equivalent to around 2,800 excess sugar cubes per year. [i] In a further article they report that the rate of severe obesity among year 6 children (aged 10 to 11) has increased by more than a third since 2006 to 2007 to 4.2%, its highest rate ever. They also reveal that severe obesity is 4 times higher in deprived areas. [ii]
You have to have sympathy with parents trying to navigate their way around this growing problem that is creating a health disaster in our society. I have copied below a list of some of the various names given for what is effectively sugar in processed foods. Some may be new to you, the fact that fruit juice is included may come as a surprise, many people do not realise that due to the fact that most of the fruit juices are developed specifically for their high sugar content that is considered undertaken to make it more marketable to children. It nevertheless illustrates the challenge facing parents dealing with the processed food industry.
|Agave Nectar||Barbados Sugar||Barley malt||Beet Sugar|
|Blackstrap Molasses||Brown Sugar||Buttered Syrup||Cane Juice Crystals|
|Cane sugar||Caramel||Carob Syrup||Castor sugar|
|Confectioner’s syrup||Corn Syrup||Corn syrup-solids||Crystalline fructose|
|Date sugar||Demerara Sugar||Dextran||Dextrose|
|Diastatic Malt||Diatase||Ethyl Maltol||Evaporated cane juice|
|Florida crystals||Fructose||Fruit juice||Fruit juice concentrate|
|Galactose||Glucose||Glucose solids||Golden Sugar|
|Golden syrup||Grape sugar||High-fructose corn syrup||Honey|
|Icing sugar||Invert sugar||lactose||Malt syrup|
|Muscovado sugar||Organic raw sugar||Panocha||Raw sugar|
|Refiner’s syrup||Rice syrup||Sorghum syrup||Sucrose|
|Sugar||Treacle||Turbinado sugar||Yellow sugar|
Table II: Various Names for Sugar Added to processed Food. Lustig 2013.
In the previous chapter we briefly discussed some of the factors associated with Metabolic Syndrome, the link with Advanced Glycated End Products (AGEs) that caused rapid aging of the cells, high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides etc. One of the further problems we have here is that many of the people with this condition go undiagnosed, as is often the case with type two diabetes. So the actual dimension of this problem is much larger than statistics currently show. Dr Robert Lustig, is Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at University of California, and has written extensively on the effects of sugar, he believes that as many as 7/8s of diabetics do not know they have diabetes. He also reports that 29 percent of diabetes is directly contributable to sugar.[iii]
The Insidious Effects of Sugar
Being undiagnosed or unaware that you may have diabetes or metabolic syndrome can mean that many people can move quite quickly from a diagnosis to some serious and often irreversible health conditions. An added complication is that these AGE products, which are essentially damaged proteins, can have altered functions, meaning in some cases simply no longer working (which is still dangerous even though it may sound quite benign) to much more serious problems, where they can
damage a cells functioning and even bind with the mitochondria (the cell’s energy powerhouses) and compromise their function. There is, of course no way of determining which cells will be compromised, nor where in the body the damage will occur, which further complicates diagnosis without adequate diagnostic tests.
To inform you just why sugar is so dangerous to your health, necessitates understanding some of the biological processes involved with excess sugar metabolism. Dr Richard Jacoby, is one of America’s leading peripheral nerve surgeons, and specializes in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy. He used to be the person you went to if you had to have foot surgery, including having your foot or leg amputated due to gangrene following diabetes. After spending 30 years of undertaking tens of thousands of foot surgeries he eventually found what he feels was the underlying cause of most of the complications of not just the feet, but hands, and problems that he found were due to damaged nerves and damaged blood supply. What did he believe was the cause of this damage—excess glucose in the body. When the body is exposed to excess levels of glucose, due to excess sugar consumption, the body has to find a way of eliminating it, and limiting its capacity to do damage. One of the ways that it does this is to convert it via the enzyme aldose reductase to sorbitol and via another reaction with sorbitol dehydrogenase into fructose which mostly would be converted to fat. The problem that arises, however, when there is excess glucose throughout the body, is the conversion process can happen anywhere and be incomplete, allowing excess sorbitol to build up in areas that can be damaging. One of the problems with sorbitol, is it is hydroscopic (it likes water) and when it absorbs water it expands. This in itself is not such an issue, the problem can arise because sorbitol cannot pass through cell membranes, which means it can be stuck wherever it is created in the body. This can be a problem when it swells up inside a cell, and makes the cell swell up, it can reduce blood flow to the nerves, starving it of nutrients, it can cause nerve compression which can result in pain, numbness, and all the other symptoms of neuropathy (nerve degeneration). According to Dr Jacoby, the problem is most easily noticed in the peripheral nerves in the hands and feet, where the blood supply is via very small blood vessels, where blockages can occur more readily, and also where there are a number of vessels clumped together travelling through tight spaces such as in the wrist, via the carpal tunnel. This can be readily identified by the symptoms of pain, numbness and tingling sensations. Other places can be impacted, such as the very tight tunnel that runs through the ethmoid bone that separates the nasal cavity from the brain, which carries the olfactory nerve, the first cranial nerve, and connects with the hippocampus, the brain’s memory centre. The olfactory centre and hippocampus centres are intertwined—resulting damage according to Dr Jacoby means ‘First you lose your sense of smell and then you lose your memory.’[iv]
Jacoby informs us that neuropathy is a slow and insidious process that he believes is due to years on a diet high in sugar (including grain-based carbohydrates and alcohol). He identifies five distinct phases of neuropathy:
- Phase one where you experience intermittent pain and numbness, and your blood sugar can read normal. As the numbness in the feet progresses you will have difficulty keeping your balance when you walk.
- Phase two is when the pain and numbness becomes more frequent and intense.
- By the time you reach phase three you will most likely have received a formal diagnosis of type II diabetes. The numbness will have progressed, and you will be much less steady on your feet, and you are much more likely to develop a diabetic ulcer on the bottom of your foot. At this stage such a minor injury can lead to a hard to heal, large painful injury which could lead to gangrene. People with foot ulcers risk of premature death will have doubled. The risk of sepsis, or severe blood infection has greatly increased which can lead to organ failure and death.
- Paradoxically by the time you reach stage four, the pain can diminish and you might feel better because of it. According to Dr Jacoby this is generally due to numbness increasing due to further nerve damage. In this phase most will experience at least one other complication associated with diabetes, such as vision problems from diabetic neuropathy, kidney problems, heart disease of other problems associated with autonomic neuropathy.
- Phase five is when all sensation is lost, the pain is no longer experienced, but the risk of dangerous infection, having bad falls, and amputation is now higher than ever.[v]
Places such as the eyes kidneys and nerves are mostly supplied with smaller blood vessels which makes these areas particularly vulnerable to damage, which is why diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, amputations, dementia, infertility and nerve damage. Dr Jason Fung, a practicing nephrologist (kidney specialist), and author, has written on his success in reversing type II diabetes in his book The Diabetes Code—Prevent and Reverse Diabetes Naturally. He believes that trying to treat diabetes with drugs is only a palliative it will not reverse the disease process, it will not reverse what he views as the rot:
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN excessive glucose piles up in the body over ten or twenty years? Every cell in the body starts to rot, which is precisely why type 2 diabetes, unlike virtually any other disease, affects every single organ. Your eyes rot, and you go blind. Your kidneys rot, and you need dialysis. Your heart rots, and you get heart attacks and heart failure. Your brain rots, and you get Alzheimer’s disease. Your liver rots, and you get fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. Your legs rot, and you get diabetic foot ulcers. Your nerves rot, and you get diabetic neuropathy. No part of your body is spared.
He found in his experience and from the information available that another approach was needed to control and reverse the effects of diabetes:
Standard medications do not prevent the progression of organ failure because they do not help excrete the toxic sugar load. No less than seven multinational, multicentre, randomized, placebo-controlled trials have proved that standard medications that lower blood glucose do not reduce heart disease, the major killer of diabetic patients. We have pretended that these glucose-lowering medications make people healthier, but it has been a lie. We have overlooked a singular truth: you can’t use drugs to cure a dietary disease. [vi]
Diabetes is Reversible
He uses a strict dietary regime that includes dumping sugar in all its forms, also all over-processed carbohydrates, and he uses intermittent fasting, amongst other measures, to successfully reverse type II diabetes. Another reason that sugar is such a disaster metabolically for us, is its ability to disrupt the way the body produces and utilizes energy. This may not seem like a huge issue, but I assure you that it can be. How is your energy? One of the first questions, as a nutritionist, we may ask clients, is ‘How are your energy levels?’ Are they are generally fatigued, feel constantly tired, suffer from lethargy etc., this gives us an idea of how well their bodies are performing on a cellular level. This can have a serious impact on their long-term health that many people might not be aware of. Nancy Appleton, PhD, informs us that people who were considered obese (those with a BMI of 30 or higher) were 74 percent more likely to contract some form of dementia in their later years, compared to those who had a normal BMI. Even those who were simply overweight (with a BMI between 25 and 29.9) had a 35 percent greater risk of developing dementia. One of the markers used to discover whether our insulin levels were higher than normal, the C-Peptide marker, was found to also reveal the likelihood of future mental decline. The top 25 percent of the people with elevated C-Peptide levels in their blood tests were very likely to have developed a form of dementia a decade after giving blood [my emphasis]. Tests of cognitive performance on diabetics generally show that 38 percent of test subjects show mental impairment and cognitive decline. Tests on the general population reveal that 22 percent of us exhibit signs of cognitive decline by age seventy. [vii]
There is much more that can be said about the harm our love affair with sugar and over-processed carbohydrates is having on our bodies. One of the problems we are faced with is that the effects of what we consume are not immediately apparent. If we get dementia ten tears after getting a warning in our blood test, how do we link this to our diets? Further, there is a great range of symptoms we can experience from consuming sugar that will vary from person to person depending on a great number of factors, including the type of sugar we ingest. The only thing we can say for sure, is that we were never biologically designed to handle such a continuous exposure, and the effects on the body can prove devastating. It the next section we will look at some of the more devastating effects, the link with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and such ailments as chronic fatigue syndrome.
[i] Susie Mesure, “Just a Spoonful”, The Independent, Weds 6th February, 2019. See also: “10 year olds in the UK have consumed 18 years’ worth of sugar”. PHE launches new Change4Life campaign to help families cut back on sugar. Published 2 January 2019 From: Public Health England. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/10-year-olds-in-the-uk-have-consumed-18-years-worth-of-sugar
[ii] “Record high levels of severe obesity found in year 6 children” New national child measurement programme (NCMP) data provides the most comprehensive picture of the state of childhood obesity in England.
Published 11 October 2018 From: Public Health England. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/record-high-levels-of-severe-obesity-found-in-year-6-children
[iii] “Sugar the Elephant in The Kitchen” Dr Robert Lustig TED talks, 2013.
[iv] Dr Richard Jacoby, & Raquel Baldelomar, Sugar Crush—How to Reduce Inflammation, Reverse Nerve Damage, and Reclaim Good Health, Harper Collins, 2015.
[vi] Dr Jason Fung, The Diabetes Code—Prevent and Reverse Diabetes Naturally. Greystone Books Ltd, 2018.pxix
[vii] Nancy Appleton, PhD, & G N Jacobs,Suicide by Sugar—A Startling Look at Our #1 National Addiction, Square One Publishers, 2009