History of sugar isn’t very sweet

A friend of mine recently presented me with the August, 2013, issue of National Geographic Magazine that has, as its cover article, “Sugar Love – A Not So Sweet Story.”

My sincere thanks to Paul Hein of Marquette for getting this to me. With regard to sugar, this current issue of the great National Geographic Magazine is very enlightening. I would encourage those of you who might be interested to take a look at this in-depth presentation of not only the world-wide history of sugar, but the article also reviews and comments on the many negative health effects of refined sugar in one’s diet.

Dr. Richard Johnson, a nephrologist (kidney specialist) at the University of Colorado, is quoted numerous times in this article. The following are direct quotes from Dr. Johnson.

“Why is it that one third of adults world-wide have high blood pressure, when in 1900 only 5 percent had high blood pressure? Why did 153 million people have diabetes in 1980, and now we’re up to 347 million? Why are more and more Americans obese? Sugar, we believe is one of the culprits, if not the major culprit.”

This is not a new problem and, in my judgment, we need to face this high refined sugar diet problem head-on. As pointed out in this National Geographic issue, reports of sugar causing health problems have been around for many decades.

Here are several more quotes from this August, 2013, article: “Haven Emerson at Columbia University pointed out that a remarkable increase in deaths from diabetes between 1900 and 1920 corresponded with an increase in sugar consumption.”

“In the 1960’s British nutrition expert John Yudkin conducted a series of experiments on animals and people showing that a high amount of sugar in the diet led to major risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.”

Further, this National Geographic article asks, and responds to this question. “If sugar is so bad for us, why do we crave it? The short answer is that an injection of sugar into the bloodstream stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain that respond to heroin and cocaine. In this sense, sugar is literally an addictive drug.”

However, in my professional experience with literally thousands of patients, colleagues, and others, this craving for sugar dramatically decreases in a very short time when an individual makes the choice to limit the amount of refined sugar in their diet. I now hear a variation of the following statement nearly every day. “With my sweet tooth, I never, ever thought I could give up sugar, but after only about two weeks of making better diet choices with much less sugar, I don’t miss the sugar at all.”

As noted in this National Geographic article, sugar is the major culprit in our diet causing significant health issues, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes and others. Recall that all the cells in our body use glucose (biochemical sugar) as their fuel, or energy source.

Because of this, your body will always store any excess sugar in the diet and never let it pass out of the body as waste. By the action of insulin released from your pancreas, any and all excess sugar is stored in our sugar warehouse (body fat). However, when we decrease the amount of sugar in our diet, the body now has to burn body fat to get glucose for cellular energy. With low sugar, you burn body fat, you lose weight and you decrease your risk for diabetes.

It is no more complicated than that.

Editor’s note: Dr. Jim Surrell, author of “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet,” has his practice at the Digestive Health Clinic at Marquette General Health System. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged.