Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sugar Kills

Anybody who has had a conversation with me in the last month knows that I am on a crusade to vilify refined sugar and flour.  I am working on eliminating these elements from my own diet, and I am telling anyone who will listen to do the same.

The basic idea is this:  Refined sugar (and thus diets that are absurdly high in sugar) is a simple carbohydrate.  It metabolizes so quickly that our system reacts almost violently to it.  Our blood glucose shoots up, and our insulin levels shoot up in response.  Doing this once in a while is not a problem, the body is equipped for small bouts of hyperglucosemia, and Hyperinsulinemia, for that matter.  The problem is that rich european and american culture has been doing it way too much.  Up to 200 lbs per year per American.  200 lbs.  Every year.  Of sugar.  Diabetes and Obesity are increasing in incidence, as is Hypertension, Cancer, Chronic Bowell Diseases, the hallmarks of Western Medical disrepair. 

How do we know sugar is the crucial element?  In countless reports over the last 200 years we have seen the same pattern repeat itself.  Non-european isolated culture group eats diet that is devoid of refined products.  (Masai, Zulu, Pima, Inuit, and many others)  They are healthy, without incidence of Obesity, Diabetes, Heart disease, Cancer.  Yet within one generation of commerce with western countries, the diseases of the west catch and take hold.  The one factor that is ALWAYS present is the introduction of refined grains and sugar.  No other factor (change in environment, environmental stressors;  change in other dietetic elements) is consistent throughout.  So how does sugar do it?

Sugar consumption diverts insulin from the myriad roles it must perform in the body, the body is neglected, chronic illness results.  How can we see this?  Look at Ovarian Cancer, for example.  The major controllable risk factor for Ovarian cancer is Obesity.  Upon diagnosing cancer, many woman will go on insulin therapy to help their conditions, as these will reduce the glucose in their bloodstream, which seems to help.  The ovaries are very delicate endocrine organs.  They are guided each month by the dramatic work of various hormones.  Insulin seems to be somewhat regulatory in the overall work of the ovaries.  

So the picture is:  a woman consumes too much sugar for her system, her insulin is diminished system wide, as it is constantly at work lowering the blood sugar level, and the Ovaries, for this reason, suffer.  More insulin is introduced to the system to help, but this has other problems, as the body can in turn become insulin resistant.  This in fact occurs, as many women who suffer from Ovarian Cancer will become Diabetic in time.  

There are so many more awful elements to the story, but the bottom line is:  wipe it out of your diet.

However, if you don't want/need a nutritional reason, let me appeal to your humanity.

It seems that our friends at Imperial Sugar have had a little accident. A deadly explosion in one of the company's refineries left 13 dead and over 50 injured.  In a sugar refinery a by-product of the process of refining is a fine dust.  If not dealt with properly, the highly combustible dust can explode, which is precisely what occurred at the company's refinery in Port Wentworth, GA in february.  

The Company has been fined over $5 Million by OSHA, as the factory was found to be severely under code, and this was judged to have laid the groundwork for such a terrible and explosive fire.

After the explosion, 5 weeks after, when OSHA went to inspect another of the Sugar Giant's factories, this time in Louisiana, they found that it was similarly under code, and they placed "Imminent Danger" signs at the factory and fined the company another $3.7 Million.  

This is the true face of factory food production.  Each year, thousands of workers are maimed or injured in the american workplace, many of them in food factories.  According to this article the beef industry alone is responsible for 40,000 injuries every year. (this was as of 1999)  

The sad part is that refined sugar is not even a useful or necessary part of the human diet.  We would live longer lives, with less incidence of chronic illness if we eliminated this nefarious simple carbohydrate, and yet we hold onto it like a cross in a sinner's hand.

So what are we to do?  I say, just drop this shit, get rid of it.  Slowly reduce the amount of sugar you use, and you will find, in time, that it gets easier and easier.  I have spent the last 15 years reducing sugar.  First in tea, then in Coffee, then in cold drinks, and finally in eating less of my beloved cookies.  I have found that a slow reduction works tremendously well.  After a while food that is too sweet becomes sickening.  

Additionally, you can use the natural sweeteners, which seem to have far less troublesome effects as refined sugars.  Honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, fruits (eaten in small amounts).  
But the first step is drop the refined.  And no substitutes either, but that is for another time.


ChrisC said...

what about the carbs in beer? is that a different story?

Luke Weiss said...

same story. hence "beer belly".
beer has some nice bits in it. but wine and whiskey are much better