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Sweets and Sweeteners: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Uglier

I recently saw a lady in her 70s who said she did not eat much sugar.  By the time we were done with the conversation, she realized that she eats one or two small chocolates, drinks one soda pop and consumes a small amount of fruit juice on a daily basis.  This is equivalent to between 10 to 15 teaspoons of sugar daily (she did not mention any breads, potatoes, or similar starchy foods that break down quickly into sugar in the body).

Not much sugar?  Actually, she was correct, comparatively speaking, because her consumption is much less than the average intake of a whopping 26 teaspoons per person, per day, in America.

The Good

Is there any good that comes from sugar?  It sure makes things taste good!  And it often is needed for baking, but we can do better.  There is no minimum RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for sugar, or any minimum level of carbohydrate needed to sustain life.  We get plenty of ‘sugar’ in complex carbohydrates as we eat nutritious food.

The Bad

Beyond the fact that there is no nutritional value in sugar (no vitamins, minerals, fiber), what else is bad about it?  We’ll review the various types of sweetener that are available, and discuss each one.

  •  table sugar
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • corn syrup
  • agave
  • fruits
  • raw honey
  • processed honey
  • maple syrup
  • succanat
  • rapadura
  • molasses
  • turbinado sugar
  • aspartame
  • NutraSweet
  • xylitol
  • Splenda
  • Saccharin

First, let’s talk about table sugar, that bleached–yes, bleached–white stuff we put on our cereal or in whipped cream.

Table sugar is composed of two molecules in equal amounts:  50% glucose and 50% fructose.  Glucose gives a rise in ‘sugar’ in the bloodstream.  The rise is reduced by insulin, created in the body for just the purpose of moving the sugar into the cell for energy use.  Part of glucose is also stored as glycogen, the immediate-access form of glucose for times of need (such as meeting a saber-toothed tiger in the jungle).  The rest  (lucky us!) is stored as fat.  Fructose is metabolized in the liver, which also immediately converts that fructose into fat for storage.  Fructose shuts down the satiety (makes you feel full) center so you will eat more.

Excessive fructose is toxic to the liver.  Fructose is actually more toxic to the body than glucose, although it does not raise the blood sugar and it is lower on the glycemic index.

Corn syrup is 100% glucose, while high fructose corn syrup is 45% glucose and 55% fructose.  Agave is 55% to 95% fructose, making it the most dangerous of the four common sugars.

The best source of sweetness is found in fruits.  When we use fruits as our sweetener, we also take in fiber, vitamins, minerals and enzymes to help digest the fruit.  Raw honey contains B vitamins, obviously from a natural source without toxicity.

Although sugar is sugar, there are less refined sources of sugar that may be slightly better than table sugar, although considerably more expensive.  Sucanat and rapadura come from sugar cane and contain 10% to 13% molasses.  Molasses is a strong sweetener that contains excellent trace elements, making its digestion and utilization more effective than white sugar.  Turbinado sugar is also less processed and slightly more nutritious than white sugar.

There are two sweeteners that appeal to the sweet taste in the mouth but have no glucose or fructose in them.  They are Stevia and xylitol, both of which I recommend for those who desire something to use in place of all sugars.  They may not do as well in baked goods as other sugar, but many have had success experimenting with these two ingredient options.

The Ugly

Finally, let’s talk about the ugly side of sugar and sweeteners.  When sugar is taken in excess, the following things have been well documented:

  • high blood sugar and high insulin, followed eventually by diabetes mellitus II
  • immune system suppression
  • hyperactivity,
  • anxiety,
  • concentration difficulties and crankiness in children (which is why Halloween candy is given to children at the end of the school day)
  • rise in blood triglycerides
  • contributes to and feeds cancer
  • promotes tooth decay
  • contributes to weight gain and obesity
  • is pro-inflammatory (so it contributes to all inflammatory conditions—asthma, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, gastric ulcers, arthritis, vascular (heart) disease, headaches, migraines)
  • accelerates aging
  • causes and contributes to ongoing Candida (yeast) infections
  • leads to formation of gallstones and kidney stones
  • causes constipation and hemorrhoids
  • the list goes on, and on, and on…

The food industry knows that sugar sells, but wants to hide the fact that it may be the highest ingredient in a processed food.  So how do they “hide” the sugar content?  Simply by listing it in a number of different forms.  For example:

The ingredient list will show sugar as the 5th ingredient, but list 4 other sugars (evaporated cane sugar, invert sugar, corn syrup, barley malt syrup) further down on the ingredient list.

If you add all those sugars together, the total quantity would move ‘sugar’ up to be the highest ingredient.

I recently looked at a list of 257 different ways to name sugar.  You can identify most of them by knowing that words ending in -ose are sugars, and descriptions ending in syrup and sugar are also sugars.

The sugar industry has effectively discredited scientists and solid science that speak out against sugar.  Dr. Yudkin in the 1970s presented excellent research on the dangers of sugar, which was discredited by Keyes, who, it was later discovered, was funded by the sugar industry.  Legislation to place a recommended cap on the amount of sugar consumed by an individual per day has been subverted.  In fact, the tactics used by the sugar industry correlate well with the tactics used by the tobacco industry for so long to deny or downplay the true effects of their products on the human body.

Even Uglier

There are sweeteners worse than sugar on the body.  Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) cleared the FDA as a ‘diet’ product.  The data submitted to the FDA showed that this ‘diet’ product actually caused weight gain in the test groups.  The basic chemistry of aspartame is that it is wood alcohol, with an aspartate group and phenylalanine group hooked to it.  We might not have been so excited about it if it had been called “Wood Alcohol-ame.”  Wood alcohol is a toxic substance in the body, so the body breaks it down into formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen (it causes cancer) and a toxic preserving agent.  It is so toxic that some medical students taking anatomy cannot be in the room with formaldehyde-preserved cadavers.

The body then breaks formaldehyde down into formic acid, which is the source of the sting of the fire ant.  All these chemicals are toxic to the body and are considered pro-inflammatory.  Many so-called “diet” sodas are sweetened with aspartame.  Soda, anyone?

Splenda (sucralose) is a chlorinated artificial sweetener that looks chemically more like DDT than sugar.  Chlorine is a toxic substance, whether it’s a gas (which was used to kill soldiers in WWI), placed in herbicides and pesticides, put in water, or added to sweet chemicals and sold as artificial sweeteners.  Of the 110 studies submitted to the FDA for approval in 1998, 2 were done on humans—and the longest one was for 4 days.  A review of all literature on this product reveals the following findings regarding Splenda:

1. it reduces good bacteria in the intestinal tract by 50%

2. it increases the pH in the intestines (viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells like a higher pH)

3. it impairs appetite regulation, which leads to weight gain (diet cola, anyone?)

4. it causes a myriad of symptoms that have been reported by sucralose users, affecting skin, lungs, nose, eyes, stomach, heart, joints, and neurological systems.

Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low) has not had the extremely negative health effects that aspartame and sucralose have had.  The study on animals, showing it caused tumors, was designed with insanely high doses of saccharin.  The tested levels could never by ingested by humans as a sweetener.  However, it is still a chemically manufactured product, with potentially unknown long-term side effects.

 Addiction and Sweeteners

Lastly, sugar causes cravings, which lead to sugar addiction, every bit as real as addictions to alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

 Studies in animals have documented release of pleasure substances in the brain upon ingestion of sugar.  Food Addicts Anonymous follows a program similar to the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program to support people who are addicted to carbohydrates, sugar or food.

If you or a loved one are addicted to sugar and need some help changing your life, our Sweet Freedom from Sugar Training Course will be offered again soon.  To receive information about the course, just go to  http://sweetfreedomforme.com/

 Dr. Gardner believes every person has a mission to perform on this earth.  He is passionate about giving his patients the energized health that makes dreams possible.  He consults with corporations about providing healthy alternatives to employees, and has a private practice in Riverton, UT. (801-254-4600)