A simple sugar that is used by living cells as a source of energy.
A hormone that causes body tissues to take up sugar from the blood to use for energy, rather than using existing fat for energy.
Winter 2001 Newsletter: Sugar
Author: Jean Handwerk
Publish date:

Refined sugar is considered one of the most harmful foods consumed today.

In 2006, Americans devoured 7.7 billion pounds of candy.i Consumption of processed foods, which are laced with sugar, costs the American public more than $54 billion in dental bills each year. The dental industry reaps huge profits from our addictions to sugar products.

In 1915, the national average of sugar consumption per year was 15 to 20 pounds per person. On average, we now consume our weight in sugar each year, plus over 20 pounds of corn syrup. Some people consume much less than the average figure, which means that there is a percentage of the population that consumes a great deal more refined sugar than their body weight each year. This large amount of refined carbohydrates causes considerable damage in the body.

A Damaging Ingredient

Refined sugar contains no fiber, no minerals, no proteins, no fats, and no enzymes—only empty calories. When we eat refined sugar, our bodies must borrow nutrients from healthy cells to metabolize the incomplete food. Calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium are used up in making the sugar useable. Many times, so much calcium is used to neutralize the effects of sugar that we can get osteoporosis. Decay also occurs in our teeth.

If our bodies lack the nutrients used to metabolize sugar, we cannot properly deal with poisonous waste. These wastes accumulate in our brains and nervous systems, which causes our cells to die faster. Our bloodstreams become overloaded with waste products, which often makes us sick.

Sugar also makes our blood very thick and sticky, inhibiting blood flow into the tiny capillaries that supply our gums and teeth with vital nutrients. Therefore, we wind up with diseased gums and starving teeth. America and England, the two largest sugar consumers, have horrendous dental problems.

GreenFacts Digest, an independent, non-profit organization that summarizes scientific reports on various topics for the general public and reports the consensus, says this about sugar:

Sugars are the most important dietary factor in the development of dental caries. Worldwide studies on human populations show an association between sugar consumption and level of dental caries. Isolated communities that consume a small amount of sugar have a very low level of this disease. Groups of people with a high exposure to sugars have a higher level. A strong correlation exists between both the amount and frequency of sugar consumption and the development of caries, even in countries that use preventative measures such as water fluoridation. In addition to solid foods, consumption of sugary drinks also increases the risk of developing dental cavities. Studies have shown that starches are generally a much lower risk factor in developing dental caries than sugars. However, when starches are cooked or combined with sugars, the risk is greater. As part of a normal mixed diet, there is little evidence that fruit causes caries or diabetes. Animal studies have shown that when fruit is consumed in very high frequencies (e.g. 17 times a day) it may induce caries. The link between dietary sugars and dental caries is supported by a large body of evidence.ii

Diabetes is caused when our pancreases can’t produce enough insulin when our blood sugar rises. We can literally wear out our pancreases by poor dietary choices, and diabetes will set in. Diets high in processed foods have high refined sugar and saturated or hydrolyzed fat content, and they usually are high in high glycemic foods. The latter are those which quickly are converted by the body into glucose, a form of sugar. Almost always, those foods are processed foods. A concentrated amount of high glycemic index foods introduced into the system shocks our bodies and overwhelms their capacity to deal with the influx. Over time, breakdown and disease results.

Hypoglycemia, another pancreatic problem, occurs when our pancreases overreact to all the sugar in our blood and release too much insulin. This leaves us feeling tired.

Refined sugar may also be a major factor in gallstone disease. The body’s efforts to digest or eliminate such an unnatural product can result in the upsetting of the mineral balance in our bodies. In an effort to rebalance itself, some minerals either form deposits somewhere in the body or are drawn from body parts where they’re needed. Calcium can deposit itself in our gallbladders and become toxic.iii Gallstones may be the result; they are composed of fats and calcium.

The Sweet Drug
Some call refined sugar a drug, because in the refining process everything of food value has been removed except the carbohydrates. Refined sugar has no elements that make up food. Many nutrition experts say that white sugar is extremely harmful, possibly as harmful as drugs, especially in the quantities currently consumed in North American.

One of the keys to orderly brain function is glutamic acid, a compound is found in many vegetables. When sugar is consumed, the good bacteria in the intestines that manufacture B vitamin complexes begin to die. When the B vitamin complex level declines, the glutamic acid is not processed and sleepiness occurs. This also causes a decreased ability for short-term memory function and problem solving.

Dr. David Reuben, author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Nutrition, says, “White refined sugar is not a food. It is pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways. Its true name is sucrose and its chemical formula is C12H22O11. It has 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, 11 oxygen atoms, and absolutely nothing else to offer.”

Compare sugar’s formula with cocaine’s: C17H21NO4. For all practical purposes, the difference between the two is that sugar is missing the nitrogen atom.

Mental problems may also be caused by high sugar intake. Our brains are very sensitive and react to quick chemical changes in our bodies. As we consume sugar, our cells are robbed of their vitamins, and insulin production is inhibited. Low insulin production means a high sugar level in our bloodstreams, which can lead to a confused mental state. This has also been linked with juvenile criminal behavior. Many mental ward and prison inmates are “sugarholics.” Erratic emotional outbreaks often follow a sugar binge.

Where Does Refined Sugar Come From?
Refining means to make pure by a process of extraction or separation. Sugar is commonly made from sugar cane or sugar beets. Through heating and mechanical and chemical processing, every nutrient is removed until only the sugar remains. The sugar cane and sugar beets are first harvested and then chopped into small pieces. Then the juice is squeezing out and mixed with water. This liquid is then heated, and lime is added. Moisture is boiled away, and the remaining fluid is pumped into vacuum pans to concentrate the juice. By this time, the liquid is starting to crystallize and is ready to be placed into a centrifuge machine where any remaining residues or byproducts, like molasses, are spun away. The crystals are then boiled and passed through charcoal filters. After the crystals condense, they are bleached—usually by the use of pork or cattle bones.

During the refining process, 64 food elements are destroyed. All the potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, phosphate, and sulfate are removed. The A, D, and B vitamins are destroyed. Amino acids, vital enzymes, unsaturated fats, and all fiber are gone.

All refined sweeteners such as syrups undergo similar destructive process. Corn syrup has even been found to contain mercury residues from processing.

Sugar manufacturers are aggressive in defending their product. They have a strong political lobby, allowing them to sell a deadly food item that, by all reason, should not be allowed in the American diet.

The Final Word
Studies show that sugar is just as habit-forming as any narcotic. The average healthy digestive system can digest and eliminate from two to four teaspoons of sugar daily without noticeable problems. However, one can of cola contains 11 teaspoons of sugar. Sugar gives us brief increases in energy due to the rise of the blood sugar level, but the body quickly releases a rush of insulin, which rapidly lowers the blood sugar and causes a significant drop in energy and endurance.

If you have any doubts about the harmful nature of refined sugar, take it out of your diet for several weeks and see if it makes a difference! You may also notice you have acquired an addiction and experience some withdrawal symptoms.


iii Nancy Appleton, Lick The Sugar Habit (New York: Warner Books, 1985): 73-74.

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