Sugar: A Silenced Epidemic?

Jan 29, 2014 | Nutrition


Today I start a new mini series on a topic I have been wanting to write about for ages.


It is quite a large subject, wrapped up in controversy with lots of differing opinions that are not all so sweet, so warning, these next few post could be long. Also I may get a bit soap boxy on you, I will try to rain myself in, but in case you haven’t noticed I am pretty passionate about all things health and food. Consider yourself fully warned…

It’s also quite ‘in vogue’ right now, with several TV documentaries on the subject and more books being published about this  sweet stuff.
Now as you can probably already tell from my previous of blog posts I am not the biggest advocate of refined white sugar, but over the next few weeks I hope to show you why.
Also is worth noting that when i sue the word sugar I mean the refined, processed sugar from sugar cane that became widely available in ‘western’ countries in 19th century, although obviously people had access to natural sugars found in fruits, honey before this point.

Horrible History 

I love a bit of history so let’s begin here. 
Sugar has been around for a long while. The Arabs used it to make marzipan into sculptors and once even an entire mosque, and it seemed that sugar followed the Koran through its spread across the world. 
In Europe it began with the French and British on their holy land crusades where they came across the sugary goodness of the holy lands but was only accessible to the elite. Then fast forward in time it was Columbus  who planted the first New Worlds sugarcane in Hispaniola  and here marks the start of all the industry, mills and businesses being set up in Cuba, Jamaica, Brazil – anywhere suitable for sugar cane growth .
Synonymous  with this growing industry is slavery. This whole sugar trade was intrinsically linked to the slave trade with thousands of lives being lost at the expense of the sweet stuff. Account of slavery during this time are pretty horrendous, shameful and hard reading. But demand kept on growing in Europe and sugar slowly became an expected and  essential part of our diets .

Not a great start. The need for sugar was so great that it was produced at any cost. Families, bodies and minds were broken by this need for the sweet stuff. Fast forward to now, even with the abolition of slavery (well that specific form of slavery) sugar is by no means an angel. Here is what some experts say:

It seems like every time I study an illness and trace a path to the first cause , I find my way back to sugar… Why is it that one third of adults have high blood pressure when in 1900 only 5 % had high blood pressure? Why did 153 million people have diabetes in 1980 and now we are up to 347 million? Richard Johnson Nephrologist at University of Colorado 

Haven Emerson at Columbia university pointed  an remarkable link at the increase of death in diabetes between 1900-1920 corresponded with an increase sugar consumption.

Plus the fact that research now shows that the brain responds to sugar being consumed into the body much like it would respond to dangerous and addictive drugs (see documentary below) Source

Surely sugar can not be that harmful for you otherwise the food standard agency, the government  would stop sugar being in our diet? Surely this is all hype and a bit of  ‘hippy health’ gone mad? 

Firstly lets look at the government and food standard agency defence.
Watch this documentary  on channel four as it is a fascinating and easy to watch documentary that shed light on this issues. But basically the board of experts and nutritional experts that  inform government policy on food and nutrition are funded by the world top food companies. Coke cola, Unilever ( who makes load of sweets etc) , Mars, and more give a large amount of funding to these professors to allow them to carry out research. Can you imagine them funding any research that would highlight the dangers of sugar? Would they continue to fund research that showed their biggest money-maker  in a bad light? Of course not! So I am afraid to say that you can not relinquish your ability to eat health foods  to the government – we have to think for ourselves people! The food on supermarket shelves in our nation is not always harmless. (Also  as  a side note I don’t think that this mean that you can judge these professors integrity for this ,as the hard to come by money they receive may fund other non sugar/nutrition based studies that are extremely valuable. So love to all you professor out there!)

Also these food companies are enormous. They are the companies that are expanding and growing in the midst of recession, and food is a billion dollar industry that spreads across the world. 

So just as it began with slavery, blood and exploitation, sugar production in modern times is not without its negative impact .

Now I love our government, the fact that I love in a free country, nor do I desire to be a ’embittered conspiracy finding government hater’ activist. I simply want people to be healthy and happy.

Also as the quote below states (in relation to heart disease and diabetes but there are many studies to show sugar wider negative remit), some times it really is about who shouts the loudest. Sugar companies shout pretty loud, so even though studies have been done they are not accepted ,
 And in the 1960s the British nutrition expert John Yudkin conducted a series of experiments on animals and people showing that high amounts of sugar in the diet led to high levels of fat and insulin in the blood—risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. But Yudkin’s message was drowned out by a chorus of other scientists blaming the rising rates of obesity and heart disease instead on cholesterol caused by too much saturated fat in the diet. Source

Just like the fat myth, that saturated fats give you cholesterol  and heart problems ( it really is a myth, please eat fat and read here for more information) so too have we been fed the lie that high sugar consumption is harmless.

I don’t eat that much sugar!

 The average person consumes 160-200lb or 72-90kg of sugar per year! Which is not surprising as it is in everything! 

  • Did you know the average oven pizza has about 6 tsp of sugar in it?
  • A slice of wholemeal bread has 1.4g of sugar in it. Working out as roughly 1/2 tsp of sugar ? Meaning a cheese sandwich has about 1 tsp sugar! 
  • Baked beans have about 15g of sugar per tin, which is roughly 3 tsp sugar!

It is easy to see how we can consume that much in a year.

I personally see the increase of processed foods and sugar as one of the KEY reasons for the obesity, diabetes , heart disease, behavioural and mental health epidemics going on.

So where from here? Well over the next few week I will look at what sugar actually does to your body. What sugar alternatives and sweeteners do to your body and how to break the sugar addiction! But here are a few Naturally Healthy Tips to get you free from your sugar trap or aware you are even in one !

  • Begin to read you labels. Just for a few days read the label of anything you can find, look at how much sugar there is per 100 g and remember about 5 g is a sugar cubes worth.
  • Become aware of how much sugar a you eat a day. Include fruit, naturally sugars says well as any other sweet tasting foods.
  • Make your snacks savoury. Go for vegetables, nuts, plain yogurt, seeds, soups, nut butters or a few slices of organic cheese etc. 
  • Ditch sweetened drinks. We all know fizzy juice is a disaster for your health ( yes that includes so-called ‘diet’ drinks there only use in my house is cleaning the toilet!)) but this includes orange juice, shop bought smoothies, sugar flavoured lattes etc. Go for herbal tea, fruit tea, fresh juices or smoothies and water flavoured with lemon, lime, cucumber. 

Now remember that making small sustainable changes are the main and best thing. We are going for life long health and healing here not some one week fad! So maybe reduce you sugar in tea/ coffee by 1 tsp every week, treat yourself to only flavoured coffee only once a week not every day and think about dramatically reducing your sugar intake over time .
As the weeks go on I will get more practical but hopefully today your eyes have been opened to the white and deadly world that it sugar! 

Please let me know you thoughts questions and comments below ? Think I am too extreme ? Then please let me know 🙂

Further Research

If you really keen why not listen/watch these interesting talks from the experts:
A short TED talk about sugar.

The calories myth.


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